Category: tourism

Back to Coyotes!

Hunting, and not for food!

We hate hunting. Period.

It’s sort of alright when the person needs to hunt to stay alive. But in the Western world the incidence of that is pretty remote.

So when author Jim wrote about coyotes and hunting I had to share it with you (and, for the record, both Jean and I are atheists).  Published with Jim’s permission.

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The Incredible Coyote and Western Morality

How killing for fun is not only a Christian Right, but a value

By Jim, August 5th 2018.

Christian vulgarity has reigned it’s bullets down on the North American coyote for over 100 years. The longest standing extermination order in history has killed millions of coyotes and continues its bounty program in most states. Competitive hunts sponsored throughout the nation each year with cash prizes and trophies instill to our kids the right obligation to kill for fun.

“One morning in the late 1930s, the biologist Adolph Murie stood near a game trail in Yellowstone National Park and watched a passing coyote joyously toss a sprig of sagebrush in the air with its mouth, adroitly catch it, and repeat the act every few yards. At the time, Mr. Murie was conducting a federal study intended to prove, definitively, that the coyote was “the archpredator of our time.” But Mr. Murie, whose work ultimately exonerated the animals, was more impressed by that sprig-tossing — proof, he believed, of the joy a wild coyote took in being alive in the world” (1)

The majority of politicians have failed to address this with any passion, and being the good, high moral standard western value Christians that they are, continue the killing spree. A useless torture that drives the coyote without mercy and without effect. “Under persecution, the biologists argued, evolved colonizing mechanisms kicked in for coyotes. They have larger litters. If alpha females die, beta females breed. Pressured, they engage an adaptation called fission-fusion, with packs breaking up and pairs and individuals scattering to the winds and colonizing new areas. In full colonization mode, the scientists found, coyotes could withstand as much as a 70 percent yearly kill rate without suffering any decline in their total population”.

Hunters have their ultimate victim to hunt—one that can outbreed the continued onslaught. How fun is it? While the coyote is hunted for sport, they die in earnest. Leave them to experience their joy, and populations will mitigate in their own necessary way.

Christian values and morals once again are superior delayed in common decency and way off the mark—unless your talking killing for sport.

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I want to add a couple of comments that were left on the post:

Not many christians are bothered by this. Why should they, when you hear them quote from their holy book, that god commanded them to subdue the earth.

It is for this very reason that many christians are nonchalant when we talk about climate change

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The price paid for pointlessly killing predators is a dear one. Moreover, all needless killing of animals is wrong, says the immoral, convinced atheist.

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(to which Jim replied)

Part of the doctrine is to subdue and have dominion. To hell with inferior, soulless life. The ripple effect of what was once naturally flowing is tragic and painful.

Enough said!

We go back a very long time

The ancient history of man and dog!

And when I say ‘man’ I am of course referring to the species.

For a couple of weeks ago Meilan Solly of The Smithsonian wrote about the relationship 4,500 years ago of man and dog.

In Neolithic times there was an important relationship, as there is today. Maybe our dogs have become more of the ‘pet’ rather than the working dog that they are assumed to be then.

But here’s the article.

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Thanks to Facial Reconstruction, You Can Now Look Into the Eyes of a Neolithic Dog

The collie-sized canine was buried in a cavernous tomb on Scotland’s Orkney Islands around 2,500 B.C.

Experts believe the Neolithic dog is the first canine to undergo forensic facial reconstruction (Santiago Arribas/Historic Environment Scotland)
By Meilan Solly
SMITHSONIAN.COM, 

Some 4,500 years ago, a collie-sized dog with pointed ears and a long snout comparable to that of the European grey wolf roamed Scotland’s Orkney Islands. A valued member of the local Neolithic community, the canine was eventually buried alongside 23 other dogs and at least eight humans in a cavernous tomb known as the Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn.

Now, 118 years after archaeologists first chanced upon its resting place, the prized pup’s image is being reimagined. As Esther Addley reports for the Guardian, experts believe the dog is the first canine to undergo forensic facial reconstruction. Its likeness, commissioned by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and the National Museum of Scotland, is set to go on view in Orkney later this year.

“Just as they’re treasured pets today, dogs clearly had an important place in Neolithic Orkney, as they were kept and trained as pets and guards and perhaps used by farmers to help tend sheep,” Steve Farrar, interpretation manager at HES, explains in a statement. “But the remains discovered at Cuween Hill suggest that dogs had a particularly special significance for the farmers who lived around and used the tomb about 4,500 years ago.”

It’s possible, Farrar adds, that the Neolithic group viewed dogs as their “symbol or totem,” perhaps even dubbing themselves the “dog people.”

Cuween Hill dates to around 3,000 B.C., Sky News reports, but radiocarbon dating places the dog’s actual interment some 500 years later. It remains unclear why the animal was buried so many centuries after the tomb’s creation, but archaeologists posit the timing may point toward the ceremony’s ritual value within the community. As HES observes, the fact that the Orkney residents placed canine remains alongside those of humans could also speak to their belief in an afterlife for both parties.

According to the Scotsman, forensic artist Amy Thornton drew on a CT scan to create a 3-D print of the animal’s skull. After layering clay approximations of muscle, skin and hair onto this base, she cast the model in silicone and added a fur coat designed to mimic that of the European grey wolf. Interestingly, Thornton notes, the process played out much as it would for a human facial reconstruction, although “there is much less existing data” detailing average tissue depth in canine versus human skulls.

The model is the latest in a series of technologically focused initiatives centered on Orkney’s Neolithic residents. Last year, HES published 3-D digital renderings of the chambered cairn on Sketchfab, enabling users to explore the tomb’s four side cells, tall central chamber and entrance passage. First discovered in 1888 but only fully excavated in 1901, the impressive stone structure held 24 canine skulls and the remains of at least eight humans.

In an interview with the Guardian’s Addley, Farrar explains that the reconstruction aims “to bring us closer to who [the dog’s owners] were and perhaps give a little hint of what they believed.”

“When you look at a Neolithic dog, it somehow communicates human relationships,” Farrar concludes. “… I can empathise with the people whose ingenuity made Orkney such an enormously important place. When this dog was around, north-west Europe looked to Orkney.”

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“When you look at a Neolithic dog, it somehow communicates human relationships,” Farrar concludes.

That’s a powerful statement.

Now if one goes across to the website for Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn one reads this:

History

An ancient site for burials

Built between 3000 and 2400 BC, this is an excellent example of a Neolithic chambered tomb. It has four cells opening off a central chamber, which is accessed down a passage. Entrance into the tomb today is through the original passage.

Secondary burials at the Cuween Hill could reflect a continued reverence for the site. A recently discovered settlement nearby is probably contemporary with the cairn, and would likely have been connected.

Tomb of the dogs

Exploration at the tomb in 1901 found:

  • Remains of at least eight humans – five skulls on the floor of the chamber, one at the entrance and two in side cells
  • The skulls of 24 dogs on the chamber floor

The dog remains suggest the local tribe or family perhaps had a dog as their symbol or totem, or there may have been a belief in an afterlife for animals.

The tomb is completely unlit, which serves to both add to the atmosphere and discourage vandalism and graffiti. It also means the tomb is largely free of green algal growth.

The stonework at Cuween Hill is of particularly high quality. The roof of one of the cells is likely to be original, elsewhere the walls and corbelled roofs have survived to a considerable height.

As I said, we go back a very long time!

A restart!

Back to the delight of blogging with this republished post.

I’m having to be much more concerned about copyright, for obvious reasons. I am only going to republished items that I know to be free circulation or that I have specifically asked if is OK.

So I’m delighted to offer this post, and can confirm that it is republished with the kind permission of the author. Thank you!

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Wanderlust Wolves

A girl, 2 dogs and a quest for SNOW in Southern California.

March 14th, 2019

For the past 9 years, I have wanted nothing more than to take Beowolf to the snow. He’s a Wolfdog for crying out loud, the snow is where he thrives! Over the years as every opportunity that arisen to take Beowolf up to the snow something always came up. Car trouble, work obligation, lack of money, etc. Not to mention driving up to the snow alone is not ideal, I never felt like risking it, the Jeep although durable was no young buck and the heat was out! So I often tried to rely on friends, who all pretty much had the same excuses as me.

For the past 4 years since moving back down to SoCal, and living in view of mountains, I haven’t wanted to take a trip to the snow so badly! Every winter after a good rain at home, the next morning I look out my windshield on my way to work and can see the beautiful snow-capped mountains that surrounded my valley. I kept planning trips to go but again the same old excuses, on repeat.

As of recent (6 months or so) I have adopted a new attitude… a F*** It attitude, no longer being too cautious to say or do something and that includes solo adventure trips. After all, the one thing I envy is travel and getting out of the everyday scene. Coming from someone who moves on faster than a butterfly migration, since childhood, staying in one place too long gives me an itch only I can scratch. I soon realized I can no longer rely on someone else to take me on an adventure. So I threw away the excuses and said, F*** it, pack your boots Beowolf and Valentine we’re going to the snow!

The first trip: Mountain High Resort, Wrightwood, CA.

I heard of this place from a co-worker and when I asked around I got pretty good feedback. It’s only 38 miles from where I live, and GPS said it was a 1.5-hour drive. DEAL! A friend was even going with me, so it was gonna be a great day trip! I rush ordered a jacket for Valentine and gathered up all my snow gear and awaited the weekend, I have a new (to me) Rav4 and just got a fresh oil change with a full tank so I felt good about the drive.

Saturday morning arrives and I jump out of bed blasting music as I get showered and ready for the day, hinting to Beowolf about what awaits him! Just as I finish my makeup and load everything into the Rav4, my phone dings. It’s my friend giving me the same excuse she always gives me but in the end, she cancels. The old me would be pissed, the old me would cancel the day and try and salvage doing something here, but that was the old me. The new me already knew my friend was going to flake because it was her habit, so I told myself no matter what I was making that drive. I text a few family members where I was going and loaded the dogs up. I stopped for snacks and then we were on our way, Mountain High here we come!

The first leg was mostly the 14 North going along Palmdale and it was a drive I made many times before, so I was used to it. Then it took me up toward Devil’s Punch Bowl, another place I’ve taken the dogs a few times. Then it took me down a new road, which after the recent rains it was flooded and so I got detoured only to find out that was Private Property. So I speed off hoping to force GPS to link me to one of the alternate routes I saw earlier, of course, it works.

So I’m back on track, the Rav4 is feeling good, I’m excellent on gas and my music is on MAX! The rest of the drive was not only fun at some points, but beautiful, the dry desert suddenly became green lush mountains. The redwoods grew brighter the deeper we drove, it was breathtaking. As we entered the tourist housing section I rolled down the windows letting the crisp air in and the dogs stuck their heads out, Beowolf is so excited he can’t decide where to look. He’s used to hikes and trips, but he doesn’t really know what I have in store for him.

I pass through the small town and head into the mountain, as I start seeing large areas of snow we start easing into traffic. Blah. But you know what I didn’t care about it; the dogs were happy with their heads out the window, my tank is still almost full and I had my music on so I was fine. Eventually, we crawled by the resort that was packed and so it was time to find a parking spot further up the mountain. I drive maybe a mile from the resort and find a secluded area with loads of space to park and play, so I pull in and park it.

As I finish getting ready like 5 cars pull in behind me, really? Just as I was about to pull out the dogs and let them run, but no, so I leash them up and get them out. Beowolf doesn’t even know what to do! He’s so excited and poor Valentine is like whoa WTF. With nowhere for them to play safely, we must walk back down where the designated area is, the walk to the park was no picnic at all. Beowolf pulled as much as he could and Valentine pulled in the opposite way, I decided against putting on their pinchers, they had been doing so good with training I didn’t think I needed them. Big mistake, I hadn’t had to walk in the snow for years and the edge of the road was so crowded with people. I already had too much to carry and thanks to Beowolf I had a big bag of doo-doo dangling from me as well, I eventually led us along the crest of the hill where I can relax and give Beowolf some slack, I could finally walk and eventually fell into a groove.

When we got to the area to play there was a nice big space where nobody was, so I decided that was the perfect place to let the dogs off leash, well not Valentine.

She was not having a good time at all, she was shivering despite the coat and I never factored in the way people would look to her in their big coats, not to mention the snow was deep and it was hard for her to move so she felt trapped. I kept her with me by my side while Beowolf ran around and sniffed and played.

He was so happy and so was I, it was so fulfilling getting over my own anxieties going places alone and driving in the snow to reach that place. Beowolf is already a sight when he runs loose, but against the beautiful backdrop, it made my heart so warm! I decided, in the end, it was worth going alone and I was going to take them out more. The walk back to the car was so much better, I decided to walk in the street, there was little traffic and my dogs have the training to heel alongside me so when a car came we just moved over and waited for them to pass. Took us 5 minutes to get back to the car.

Upon our arrival, every car that was parked around us before was gone! So I put Valentine away and let Beowolf run some more. Then we packed in the car and headed down the mountain, stopping once more to take some more pictures.

The drive home was even more spectacular. A very winding road leads Big Pine down the mountain which gives you captivating views with each turn, I don’t know about you, but I always loved driving and wanted to be a stunt driver for commercials. I felt like I was in a Rav4 commercial, listening to soothing music driving down the mountain and at sunset no less! All in all, it was a great day, I would totally go up for more trips, I saw more isolated areas that would be great places to stop next time too! I got amazing photos and Beowolf got to finally experience snow! We made it home at 5pm.

Overall I would rate my experience a 4.5/5.

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This author is relatively new to the game but if she continues like this then she will soon have plenty of followers.

Meantime, I’m thinking of how to feature a Picture Parade for Sunday!

Mera, a peak dog!

This is an astounding story of bonding.

This is an amazing story. Utterly amazing! Taken from Mother Nature Network.

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This stray tagged along with mountain climbers and set an elevation record for dogs

Mera, a street dog, climbed 23,389 feet to the top of Baruntse in Nepal.

By MARY JO DILONARDO

March 6, 2019

Mera seemed to have little trouble in the snow and ice. (Photo: Don Wargowsky)

When Seattle-based mountain guide Don Wargowsky was leading an expedition to Mera Peak and Baruntse in Nepal’s Himalayas last November, he picked up an extra member on his team. A stray dog noticed the climbers somewhere around 17,500 feet and decided to stick around with the group.

The climbers had just summited Mera Peak, and when they were coming down around Mera La pass, they saw the pup going up.

“What struck me was to get to that pass, there were a few hundred feet of fixed rope which means the terrain was so difficult that most climbers need rope to help themselves up,” Wargowsky tells MNN. “To see a dog up there just running by all these climbers in their $2,000 down suits and crampons was very unusual. When she came up to me, I gave her a bit of beef jerky and she didn’t leave for 3 1/2 weeks.”

The team dubbed their newest four-legged member “Mera” and she tagged along on the way back down the mountain. Wargowsky realized he had seen her in the town of Kare a few days earlier, but she had made no effort then to get close. He thinks that’s because street dogs aren’t treated very well in Nepal due to the fear of rabies.

“Dogs are shooed away pretty aggressively,” he says. “So, she was naturally pretty shy.”

A new climbing partner

Climbing is hard work. (Photo: Don Wargowsky)

But once Mera decided to join the expedition, she gradually lowered her guard. The first night, Wargowsky tried to encourage her to sleep in his tent, but she wouldn’t come inside. The next morning, he found her curled up outside the flaps covered in a layer of snow. After that, he was able to coax her inside. He gave her one of his sleeping pads and a coat to keep her warm.

Wargowsky was in a difficult position with his uninvited guest. The elements were unforgiving, and he was worried about the dog who had no protection for her paws or her body in conditions that likely reached minus 20 or minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit at times. But he had no luck getting her to leave … and where would she go?

“Obviously my responsibility was to the group, but I was super happy to have her with us. I didn’t encourage her to come along, but I wasn’t going to have her starve, so I would feed her,” he says. “I really tried to persuade her to stay at camp as we got into steeper and more dangerous terrain. Where we were was a more remote part of Nepal. If we didn’t feed her, she was going to starve.”

Mera stuck with the expedition the entire time, never venturing far from Wargowsky’s side. Or technically, his knee.

“She would walk with her nose almost in the back of my knee when we would walk,” he says. “But she wanted to be up front. If I would drop back to hang out with a slower client, she would go up and walk with whoever was up front. She didn’t get out of sight pretty much the entire time we were there.”

‘No clue what her motivation was’

Mera celebrates with her fellow climbers. (Photo: Don Wargowsky)

There was only one time when Mera was gone for several days.

While Wargowsky was working on training with some members of the expedition, showing them how to climb the ice with rope, Mera followed the team’s sherpas instead. They were working to set up ropes to “camp one” at around 20,000 feet. She scrambled up the steep terrain but seemed afraid to go back down and wouldn’t return with them to base camp.

“She ended up spending two nights alone on a glacier at 20,000 feet. I really thought she was going to freeze to death,” Wargowsky says. The sherpas went up to continue working and she was there. But instead of going back down right away, she followed them to 22,000 feet as they continued working before going back to base camp.

The next day when the entire team went to make the climb, Wargowsky tried to keep her at base camp because he didn’t want her to make the steep climb again. He tied her up but she got out of her rope and quickly caught up with them. Wargowsky couldn’t leave his human clients to take her back, so Mera was allowed to stay with the group.

“I have no clue what her motivation was,” he says. “We were feeding her at base camp, so it wasn’t the food. It’s not like there was anything up there for her, but it was amazing to see.”

Tackling the ice and snow

Mera often trotted ahead of the climbers, waiting for them to catch up. The temperatures didn’t seem to faze her. (Photo: Don Wargowsky)

Early on, Mera started to slide and Wargowsky was able to catch her and save her from what could’ve been a dangerous fall. When the team moved to camp two at around 21,000 feet, they were sidelined there for four days because of bad weather. Mera stayed with Wargowsky, who shared his tent and his food with the pup.

“I split all my meals with her 50/50 so we both lost weight,” he says. He guesses the scruffy brown-and-tan stray weighed probably 45 pounds to start with but lost maybe five or 10 pounds during the trip. Wargowsky says Mera looked like a combination of a Tibetan mastiff and a Nepali sheepdog.

Wargowsky was impressed with how well Mera navigated the snow and ice and handled the cold.

“She did very very well like 98 percent of the time. There were certain slopes very early in the morning or late at night when the snow was very crusty and icy when it was very slippery and you could see her kind of struggle with it,” he says. “Her paws got beat up and it was hard to see her paws bleeding a little. But everything healed up that evening and it was all superficial.”

He says it was also hard to believe she didn’t go snow-blind. The humans were all wearing expensive glacier goggles while she trotted along with no protection.

The highest a dog has ever climbed

In one particularly harrowing descent, Mera was clipped to a rope to keep her safe. (Photo: Don Wargowsky)

There was only one part of the descent where she was assisted by a rope. Somehow, she had climbed the vertical 15-foot-tall section without incident but when it was time to go back down, she didn’t want to do it. The humans were rappelling, so to coax the dog down safely, they tied a rope harness to her so she could half-run, half tumble. You can see it in the photo above, but Wargowsky points out that the truly harrowing part of the mountain isn’t even visible in the shot.

In the end, when the team — along with their canine mascot — had come down from their completed 23,389-foot climb of Baruntse, Mera was hailed as a bit of a hero. Word had spread about her alleged feat and Wargowsky had to show off photos from his phone to prove she had been with them.

“She was the first dog to ever have climbed that mountain,” he says. “We can’t find anything that says a dog has ever been that high. I believe that is the highest that a dog has ever climbed ever at any point in the world.”

“I am not aware of a dog actually summiting an expedition peak in Nepal,” Billi Bierling of the Himalayan Database, an organization that documents climbing expeditions in Nepal, told Outside. “I just hope that she won’t get into trouble for having climbed Baruntse without a permit.” Bierling told Outside that there have been a few reported cases of dogs at Everest Base Camp (17,600 feet) and some who’ve trailed teams through the Khumbu Icefall up to Camp II (21,300 feet) on Mount Everest, but Mera’s adventure is perhaps the highest-recorded elevation by a dog anywhere in the world.

‘This dog wants to climb mountains’

Wargowsky shares his food with his climbing buddy. (Photo: Don Wargowsky)

After all that climbing and bonding, Wargowsky was tempted to bring his new friend home with him to the U.S.

“I really would’ve loved to adopt her. But I live in a 700-square-foot unit in Seattle and this dog wants to climb mountains. I gave it a lot of consideration. I didn’t care what it cost. Despite how much I loved this dog, I thought it would’ve been a very selfish thing to do to bring her to such a small space.”

But he didn’t want to leave what he calls “this hero of a dog” out on the streets. Fortunately, the expedition’s base camp manager was also smitten with the adventurous dog. Because dogs can’t fly, NirKaji Tamang paid someone $100 to walk three days to pick her up until they could get her on a bus and get her to his home in Kathmandu.

After what she had accomplished on Baruntse, Tamang changed the athletic dog’s name to Baru. He took her to the vet to make sure she was healthy. Her injuries quickly healed, and she gained weight.

Wargowsky, who told his remarkable Mera story online, was thrilled recently to receive photos of her. He will be back in Nepal several times this year for expeditions, and he plans on visiting his canine climbing partner.

“With what we had available, I don’t know what more I could’ve done to prevent her from climbing. She was definitely there of her own free will,” he says. “I truly loved that dog.”

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This is such a wonderful account of a stray dog coming into contact with a group of such loving people. Plus, the photographs are wonderful especially the fourth one; just following the Tackling the Ice and Snow sub-heading. I could look at that photograph for ever!

Dogs are the most amazing creatures ever!

The NYC Subway

A very unlikely venue for some dog art.

In my travels around for items about dogs I came across this one.  It’s not your usual item. For it features dog art at the 23rd Street station on the IND Sixth Avenue Line in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood.

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This NYC subway station has gone to the dogs

With more than a little help from William Wegman’s Weimaraners
By MATT HICKMAN
December 24, 2018.

William Wegman’s iconic Weimaraner portraits have been rendered into stunning mosaic art in a somewhat unlikely Manhattan venue. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

Dogs aren’t that unusual of a sight in the bowels of the New York City subway system.

There are service dogs and law enforcement dogs; dogs being transported in tote bags, baskets, backpacks and baby carriages; dogs swaddled beneath heavy winter jackets; very small dogs that come scurrying from the darkest corners of the platform towards … oh wait.
What you don’t see beneath the streets of New York are dogs depicted in public art. This has all changed with the unveiling of “Stationary Figures,” a collection of 11 glass mosaic pooch portraits now on permanent display at the 23rd Street station on the IND Sixth Avenue Line in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

No doubt a number of straphangers passing through 23rd Street station, which services the F and M trains and was closed for several months earlier this year while undergoing a major revamping, will find that the pooches in question look familiar — maybe a bit like the average New York commuter: stoic, alert, borderline restless. But it’s mostly because the mosaics, fabricated in stunning detail by Mayer of Munich, are based on images created by none other than Mr. Weimaraner himself, William Wegman.

That’s one nattily attired Weimaraner. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

Although Wegman’s subjects have varied over his lauded career as a photographer, painter and video artist, he’s best known for whimsical compositions that depict his beloved pet Weimaraners in humanlike poses (and sometimes donning wigs and costumes). It all began in the 1970s with Wegman’s first true four-legged muse, the leggy and camera-loving Man Ray. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s, however, that Wegman’s second Weimaraner, Fay Ray, achieved true art world stardom. Fay’s descendants — they include Battina, Crooky, Chundo, Chip, Bobbin, Candy and Penny — have all also modeled for their human.

Wegman’s pet Weimaraners — a German hunting breed dating back to the early 19th century — have the distinction of appearing in the permanent collections of numerous top art museums and being a regular feature on “Sesame Street.” That’s no small feat for an extended family of very good boys and girls.

The dogs depicted in “Stationary Figures” are Flo and her brother, Topper — Wegman’s ninth and 10th Weimaraners, respectively. As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which commissioned the portraits as part of its MTA Arts & Design program, explains: “The portraits highlight Wegman’s deadpan humor by juxtaposing Flo and Topper in poses that suggest the way customers group themselves with waiting for a train at the platform. In some portraits, they’re dressed in human clothes and others they’re in their natural state.”

The floppy-eared Grey Ghosts of 23rd Street. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

In addition to showcasing the work of a world-renowned artist (and local Chelsea resident) in an unexpected venue, “Stationary Figures” is meant to bring joy to — and lower the blood pressure of — harried commuters passing through 23rd Street station, which ranks amongst the 50th busiest in the Big Apple. After all, who wouldn’t crack a smile when chancing across a mosaic portrait of a handsome pooch, especially when said handsome pooch is gussied up in a bright red rain slicker and matching cap?

As Mark Byrnes points out for CityLab, this isn’t the first time Wegman’s dogs have brightened up an American subway station. In 2005, two Weimaraners, both outfitted in NASA spacesuits, became permanent fixtures as circular murals above exits at L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D.C.

Very good dogs, very poor service

It goes without saying that New York City subway stations, while teeming with various forms of microbial life, have never exactly been known as hotbeds of contemporary art and design.

That, however, began to change with the long-anticipated January 2017 opening of the first phase of the Second Avenue subway line, which features eye-catching new works by Chuck Close, Vik Muniz, Sarah Sze and Jean Shin spread out across four different stations on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Gov. Andrew Cuomo heralded the Second Avenue line’s secondary function as subterranean contemporary gallery (price tag: $4.5 million) as the “the largest permanent public art installation in New York history.”

A very good boy in plaId. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

And this is all fine and good — great in fact. The more public art in the subways, the better — especially when it involves local artists of international renown, dapper-looking dogs and an ample dose of wit. Flo and Topper are the best thing to hit the 23rd Station since, well, forever.

Critics, however, have been left wondering as to when significant, tangible improvements to the MTA’s declining service will finally be instituted. And this is especially true with new fare hikes on the horizon.

As is the case with the 23rd Street station, which also received new benches, lighting, tile work, countdown clocks and digital screens as part of its extensive overhaul, what does it matter if the platforms and other public areas look fantastic but the trains aren’t running efficiently? (Byrnes points out that accessibility, or a lack thereof, also remains a major issue at 23rd Street station.)

Next stop Herald Square. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

The MTA needs to do more than outfit stations with delightful distractions to keep straphangers — who mainly just want to get from point A to point B in a minimal amount of time with minimal headache — happy. While mosaics, murals and the like do act as a sort of soothing balm and improve the user experience, public art is ultimately best enjoyed while also not on the verges of tears because three completely packed F trains have gone by and you’re running 30 minutes late.

As for Wegman, described by the New York Post as a “frequent subway commuter,” he doesn’t offer any specific thoughts as to how the MTA can also improve its service.

“I really like what they’re doing as far as making it look better,” he tells the Post. “But how to make them run better, that’s out of my area.”

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Now I can’t really comment any more as the odds of me being on the New York Subway are slim to none. Plus, it’s many years since I travelled on the British Underground.

But that doesn’t stop me from applauding this. Both the authorities for permitting it to happen and especially to William Wegman for such beautiful and outstanding work.

Support the Orcas

If you can, please support this PDX event coming up on the 5th.

In my post that was my letter to Mr. Neptune, Colette left a reply that was a ‘heads up’ to an event being held in Portland, Oregon on October 5th. Ergo, this coming Friday.

Now the odds are that very few of you dear readers will be within reach of that event.

But that doesn’t stop me from promoting the event so that the details may be shared as far and wide as possible.

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PDX ACTIVIST

activism and resistance events in Portland

Save Our Orcas

Holladay Park Portland, OR

NE 11th Street & Hollady Street

Description

Join us October 5th for a peaceful Demonstration to help endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. There are only 74 left after the loss of 2 baby Orcas this Summer. You may have seen the dead newborn Orca carried “Save our Orcas”. Meet promptly at Holladay Park at 3:00pm.

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Here’s a news item taken from CBS News.

Then for those that would like more background on the Orca whale, let me republish the opening paragraphs of an item from Wikipedia.

The killer whale or orca (Orcinus orca) is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family, of which it is the largest member. Killer whales have a diverse diet, although individual populations often specialize in particular types of prey. Some feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt marine mammals such as seals and dolphins. They have been known to attack baleen whale calves, and even adult whales. Killer whales are apex predators, as no animal preys on them. A cosmopolitan species, they can be found in each of the world’s oceans in a variety of marine environments, from Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas, absent only from the Baltic and Black seas, and some areas of the Arctic Ocean.

Killer whales are highly social; some populations are composed of matrilineal family groups (pods) which are the most stable of any animal species. Their sophisticated hunting techniques and vocal behaviours, which are often specific to a particular group and passed across generations, have been described as manifestations of animal culture.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature assesses the orca’s conservation status as data deficient because of the likelihood that two or more killer whale types are separate species. Some local populations are considered threatened or endangered due to prey depletion, habitat loss, pollution (by PCBs), capture for marine mammal parks, and conflicts with human fisheries. In late 2005, the southern resident killer whales, which swim in British Columbia and Washington statewaters, were placed on the U.S. Endangered Species list.

Wild killer whales are not considered a threat to humans,[6] but there have been cases of captive orcas killing or injuring their handlers at marine theme parks. Killer whales feature strongly in the mythologies of indigenous cultures, with their reputation ranging from being the souls of humans to merciless killers.

Orcas leaping. Picture from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) website.

A Letter to Mr. Cosmos, Page One

The last in this recent series on me examining my navel!

Dear Mr. Cosmos,

Clearly, I have no idea how many letters you receive from us funny inhabitants on Planet Earth. Can’t imagine you get floods of them but then neither can I imagine that this is the first one you have ever received.

Why can I not imagine this is to be your first? Simply, because us funny folk on this incredible planet of yours have been around for quite a while. I mean that over in that country we folk call Israel there has been found evidence of “control of fire by humans nearly 790,000 years ago.

Whoops!

Just realised that me saying “quite a while” and writing of “790,000 years ago” will be utterly meaningless, in terms of scale, to how you describe your past. Just as it is utterly meaningless for me to contemplate that in cosmological terms the ‘Big Bang”, generally recognised as the start of your Universe, was, give or take, some 13.8 billion years ago.

I wish I could really get an idea of what a million years feels like, let alone a billion years. Ah well!

Let me stay with this notion of stuff being meaningless.

My dear, long-time friend Dan Gomez sent me a link to an item that had been published on the Science Alert website. It was about how the NASA Hubble space telescope had recently embarked on a new mission. Or in the words of that article:

Hubble Just Revealed Thousands of Hidden Galaxies in This Jaw-Dropping Photo

By Michelle Starr, September 13th, 2018

Hubble has embarked on a new observation mission: to study the farthest reaches of the Universe, using some of the most massive objects in the Universe – galaxy clusters.

And this newly released picture shows how.

At the centre is Abell 370, a cluster of a few hundred galaxies located around 4 billion light-years from Earth. And arrayed around it, never seen before, are thousands of galaxies, out even farther in the depths of space.

The reason we can see them now is because of Abell 370. All those hundreds of galaxies, clustered so close together, and the associated dark matter, create an immense field of gravity.

When the light behind that field passes through it, the gravitational force is so strong that it bends the path of the light. This creates a magnifying effect called gravitational lensing, allowing us to see objects we usually can’t.

Abell 370 is the first of these clusters.

Here is one of those photographs,

(NASA, ESA, A. Koekemoer, M. Jauzac, C. Steinhardt, and the BUFFALO team)

And an explanation of what we are looking at:

In the image, you can see the galaxies in Abell 370. The brightest yellowish white ones are huge, containing hundreds of billions of stars. The bluer ones are smaller, spiral galaxies, like the Milky Way, with younger populations of stars. And the dimmer, yellower galaxies are older, with ageing star populations.

The galaxies behind Abell 370 appear as smeared lines of light. The most spectacular, to the lower left of the centre, is nicknamed the Dragon (possibly for its resemblance to a Chinese dragon), with its head to the left. It’s made up of five images of the same spiral galaxy, magnified and stretched by the gravitational lens.

Mr. Cosmos, you know a little earlier I was remarking about how it is impossible to comprehend the age of the Universe. Well, dear Sir, it’s just as impossible to comprehend your distances.

Take Abell 370 out there some 4 billion light years from Planet Earth! I really wanted to have a go at understanding that distance.

First, I looked up the distance in miles that is represented by one light-year. Answer: one light year is a tad under six trillion miles.

Just one, let alone some 4 billion of them!

Next, I looked up the distance of our very familiar Big Dipper constellation. You must have heard of it? This one!

The Big Dipper. Image Credit & Copyright: Jerry Lodriguss

Turns out that even this very familiar sight in our night sky ranges from 78 to 123 light years away. Average that as 100 light years and, bingo, you are looking at this familiar cluster of stars that is 590 trillion miles away!

So, dear Mr. Cosmos, that puts your Abell 370 constellation about a distance that is 10 million times more distant than our Big Dipper!

I wrote above that “I really wanted to understand that distance.” In reference to how far that Abell 370 constellation truly was.  My conclusion is that I will never, ever understand that distance.

Anyone able to help?

Tomorrow, Mr. Cosmos, the closing page two of my letter to you.

 

Local history

The Grave Creek Covered Bridge

Jeannie and I decided to take a few hours away from the house and go and do some local exploring.

Just 10 miles North of us, indeed the next exit (71) from Highway I-5, is the famous Grave Creek Covered Bridge.

We parked up and soaked it all in.

While there was an information board next to the bridge it was very easy to find the details online on the Southern Oregon travel site.

The Grave Creek Covered Bridge is one of the few covered bridges that remain in southern Oregon. From Vancouver B.C. to the Mexican border, it is the only one visible from the I-5 freeway. Be sure to visit the Applegate Trail Interpretive Center while in Sunny Valley. It provides a first hand look into the local area, history, fabulous displays, theatre & more.

In the fall of 1846, the first emigrant train from Fort Hall, Idaho, to travel the southern route to the Willamette Valley camped on the north side of this creek, then Woodpile Creek. Martha Leland Crowley, 16 years old died of typhoid fever during this encampment and was buried 150 feet north of the creek on the east side or a white oak tree that was later removed for the present roadway, Thus the name “Grave Creek”.

When James H. Twogood laid out his land claim in the fall of 1851 and filed it on May 1st 1852, he named it the Grave Creek Ranch in memory of that unfortunate incident.

McDonough Harkness, his partner, was the first postmaster of Josephine County in the newly named town of Leland on March 28,1855. Harkness was killed by the Indians in April 1856 while riding dispatch for the Army during the second Indian War of southern Oregon which started in October of 1855.

The bridge was built in 1920 and is 105 feet long.

Unsurprisingly, the creek had very little water in it.

 

But that didn’t diminish in the slightest the magic of this place out in the vast Oregon countryside.

WikiPedia has a nice entry explaining the rationale behind building a covered bridge.

A covered bridge is a timber-truss bridge with a roof and siding which, in most covered bridges, create an almost complete enclosure. The purpose of the covering is to protect the wooden structural members from the weather. Uncovered wooden bridges typically have a lifespan of only 10 to 15 years because of the effects of rain and sun. The brief moment of relative privacy while crossing the bridges earned them the name “Kissing Bridges”.

Back to dogs tomorrow!

 

The burning of our forests!

But it is not a total wall-to-wall disaster.

The latest news is that our Klondike Fire is now burning an area larger than 100,000 acres. Or to use the words from the incident webpage(my emphasis):

The Taylor Creek and Klondike Fires were split into zones on Saturday, Aug. 18. The fires are now referred to as “Taylor Creek Fire” and “Klondike Fire East,” managed by the Northwest Incident Management Team 12 out of Lake Selmac, and “Klondike Fire West” managed by California Interagency Incident Management Team 4 out of Gold Beach. A transfer of command of the Klondike West Zone will occur at 6:00 AM Friday when the Southern Area Red Team who arrived on Wednesday will take over.

As of the morning of Aug. 30, the Taylor Creek Fire is estimated 52,839 acres and is 95 percent contained. The Klondike Fire is estimated at 100,996 acres and is 40 percent contained. There are 1,214 personnel working on the Klondike Fire and 126 personnel assigned to the Taylor Creek Fire.

Courtesy Jeffersen Public Radio

Then just over a week ago, The Conversation blogsite published a reminder that I wanted to share  with you today, under the permissions offered by The Conversation site.

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Many native animals and birds thrive in burned forests, research shows

By

Associate Research Professor of Biology, Pennsylvania State University

August 22nd, 2018

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is blaming this summer’s large-scale wildfires on environmentalists, who he contends oppose “active management” in forests.

But the idea that wildfires should be suppressed by logging the forest is far too simplistic. Most scientists agree that large hot wildfires produce many benefits for North American forests. Notably, they create essential habitat for many native species.

Fifteen years of research on Spotted Owls – a species that has played an oversized role in shaping U.S. forest management policies and practices for the past several decades – directly contradicts the argument that logging is needed to protect wildlife from fires. Wildlife biologists, including me, have shown in a string of peer-reviewed studies, that wildfires have little to no effect on Spotted Owls’ occupancy, reproduction or foraging, and even provide benefits to the owls.

Nonetheless, despite this steadily accumulating evidence, the U.S. Forest Service advocates logging in old-growth forest reserves and Spotted Owl critical habitat in the name of protecting Spotted Owls from forest fires. Zinke’s recent statements are just the latest and broadest iteration of the false viewpoint that logging benefits wildlife and their forest habitats.

Protecting Spotted Owl habitat

Spotted Owls are birds of prey that range from the Pacific Northwest to central Mexico. Because they nest in large old-growth trees and are sensitive to logging, in the 1980s they became symbols of the exceptional biodiversity found in old-growth forests.

The Northern Spotted Owl in the Pacific Northwest was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990. At that point, about 90 percent of U.S. old-growth forest had already been lost to logging. Every year in the 1980s the U.S. Forest Service sold about 7 to 12 billion board feet of public lands timber.

Figure 1. National forest timber sales (1905–2017). FY 1905-2017 National Summary Cut and Sold Data USDA Forest Service

Listing the owl drew attention to the dramatic decline of old-growth forest ecosystems due to 50 years of unsustainable logging practices. In response the U.S. Forest Service adopted new regulations that included fewer clearcuts, less cutting of trees over 30 inches in diameter and fewer cuts that opened up too much of the forest canopy. These policies, along with vast depletion of old-growth forests, reduced logging on Forest Service lands to about 2 billion board feet per year.

During the 1990s, national forest management policy for the Northern Spotted Owl included creating old-growth reserves and designating critical habitat where logging was restricted – mostly within half a mile of a Spotted Owl nest. In spite of these protections, populations of Northern Spotted Owls, as well as California and Mexican Spotted Owls, continued to decline on forest lands outside national parks. This was most likely due to ongoing logging outside of their protected nesting areas in the owls’ much larger year-round home ranges.

Fire and owls

Over the years the Forest Service shifted away from treating Spotted Owls as symbols of old-

Historical range (burgundy) of the Northern Spotted Owl, which also extended north into British Columbia. One hundred fifty years of logging, agriculture and urbanization have reduced the amount of old growth forest (potential Spotted Owl habitat) in this zone by 85-90 percent. NASA Earth Observatory

growth forest biodiversity, and instead started to cite them as an excuse for more logging. The idea that forest fires were a threat to Spotted Owls was first proposed in 1992 by agency biologists and contract researchers. In a status assessment of the California Spotted Owl, these scientists speculated that fires might be as damaging as clearcuts to the owls.

This perspective gained popularity within the Forest Service over the next 10 years and led to increased logging on public lands that degraded old-growth habitat for Spotted Owls.

Academic scientists, including some with Forest Service funding, published peer-reviewed studies of Spotted Owls and fire in 2002, 2009, 2011 and 2012. All four studies showed either no effects from fire or positive benefits from fire for Spotted Owls. Subsequent research on Spotted Owls in fire-affected forests has showed repeatedly that the owls can persist and thrive in burned landscapes.

 

 

(The U.S. Forest Service says wildfires harm wildlife habitat, but wildfires actually create rare and important habitat.)

Many wild species thrive in burned landscapes

I recently conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis that summarized all available scientific research on the effects of wildfires on Spotted Owl ecology. It found that Spotted Owls are usually not significantly affected by mixed-severity forest fire. Mixed-severity forest fire, which includes large patches with 100 percent tree mortality, is how wildfires in western forests naturally burn. The preponderance of evidence indicated that mixed-severity wildfire has more benefits than costs for Spotted Owls.

In 2017 I submitted an early version of this analysis with the same conclusions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the agency’s peer-review process for its Conservation Objectives Report for the California Spotted Owl. My conclusions were not included in the final report.

Decades of science have shown that forest fires – including large hot fires – are an essential part of western U.S. forest ecosystems and create highly biodiverse wildlife habitat. Many native animals thrive in the years and decades after large intense fires, including deer, bats, woodpeckers and songbirds as well as Spotted Owls. Additionally, many native species are only found in the snag forest habitat of dead and dying trees created by high-severity wildfire.

Pileated woodpeckers excavate nests within snags, bringing life to charred forests in Oregon. NASA/S. Russell, CC BY-ND

Wildfires threaten homes, but wildlife and water supplies benefit

Studies have shown that wildfires are strongly influenced by a warming climate, and that logging to reduce fuels doesn’t stop the biggest, hottest fires. In my view, federal and state agencies that manage wildfires should devote significant resources towards making structures ignition-resistant and creating defensible space around homes to protect communities, rather than promoting ecologically damaging logging.

It is also time to reform Forest Service management goals to emphasize carbon capture, biodiversity, outdoor recreation and water supply as the most important ecosystem services provided by national forest lands. These services are enhanced by wildfires, not by logging.

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These last two paragraphs are key lessons: 1. Logging does not stop the biggest, hottest fires, and, 2. It is time to change the goals under which our forests are managed emphasising carbon capture, biodiversity, recreation and water supplies!

I won’t hold my breath!