Friday, March 27, 2015

Daily Carry: It's In the Bag

My Daily Carry.  

My keys (car, bike lock, house, office, parents house, utili-key, fob for car autolock, fob for office garage, dog tag with ID info). All of this goes on a long tough lanyard left over from a  conference -- making the keys both an instant weapon and a bit harder to lose. It's been 15 years since I lost my keys.

I generally have at least one book with me. Here there are two. I swear I am actually trying to actually read them, but time...

My wallet, which includes credit card, business cards, a few dollars cash, some receipts, AAA, health insurance, and other service and membership cards.

A small zip micro bag which contains a few 4X5 cards, several plug-in cords for electronics (I am on a permanent quest for electric power). a pen,
several safety pins, and a small knife tool (Gerber Curve) with bottle opener, screw driver, etc. On the other side of the micro bag is an extra AA battery wrapped in thread with two needles slipped in, a wall-wart charging block, a small flashlight (with batteries turned around so it cannot be drained accidentally), a lighter, and a #8 Opinel knife with locking blade.

The big bag itself is a Patagonia Minimass. I bought two for family members for Christmas about 16 months ago, and I bought this one for myself three months ago to replace an ancient (and smaller) canvas map bag. Lots of useful pockets in this bag, and it's very light and strong. On the shoulder strap is a terrier dog collar with slide dog tag for ID purposes, and also a carabiner.  I am always ready to rodeo a stray dog.

My Kindle. This is my television set (mostly Netflix and Amazon these days), and my electronic book depository (lots of books on there that I have not yet read). It is a back up email and web surfing system, as well as a backup music box.

The pocket organizer (aka "pocket briefcase"), with pen on top, holds 4X5 cards and is very useful. I have carried these for 30 years.

Moleskin blank book.
 Useful to draw out things, and to keep my spatial senses clicking.
Ball for the dogs, and a roll of plastic poop bags.

My Iphone is my camera, my email, my phone and messaging system (office and home), my Facebook connection, my picture storage and editing system, my stereo, my turn-by-turn direction and mapping software, my automated research assistant, my dictation secretary, and my voice activated source of answers for the 101 questions that I have every day.

A USB memory stick on lanyard.

A small case with head phonesand a small bag with even more head phones.

A Jackery external battery to power either my iPhone or Kindle.

Another bag with another wall wart and more power cables for iPhone and Kindle.

Going through this, I realize I have a lot of electrical cords for power and sound. My electronic gadgets are not just redundant; they also come with a backup power source. This is necessary for the life I have and want (they are the same thing), but perhaps not for yours.

Coffee and Provocation

New Shelter Law Is Insufficient for Change
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has signed SB 1381 which requires Virginia shelters to be “operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes.” In other words, at least in theory, PETA's Norfolk shelter will no longer be allowed to be run as an unlicensed slaughter house. The question remains to be seen whether the State will actually do its job, actually regulate, and actually shut this thing down. Don't hold your breath. The state has already said it might take two years to issue rules. Yes, the McAuliffe administration is already a basket case.

The End of Seeing Eye Dogs?
"Robots on reigns" could replace seeing eye dogs.

The Robots of Amazon.  
This is how they gets your stuff to you in two days, and how they make those cool boxes too.  Robots actually seem to make work better for the people.

It's a Nutty Beer
Roadkill squirrels and stoats are being taxidermied into decanters for "the strongest beer in the world" which sells for $750 a bottle.  A publicity gimmick?  Pretty much.

The Coffin Was Made of Solid Irony
Jimi Heselden, owner of the Segway company, was killed when he and his Segway went  over an 80-foot cliff.  He was worth over $500 million dollars.

A Real "Paleo Diet" Would Require a Fecal Transplant
Ancient hunter-gatherers did not just eat a different diet; they also had different bacteria in their gut.

A Time for Tools
One man for every 17 women?  Apparently, the rise of agriculture and tools resulted in a genetic choke point.

GMO Apples and Potatoes Are Just About Here
Non-browning GMO apples and potatoes have officially passed FDA inspection.

Fish on Friday

A few watercolors
taken with the iPhone at the local fishmarket.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Dog Man Made from Solid Wood

Sometimes you read a story about a man you wished you had met. This is one of those stories.

The 60-pound Plott hound was headed to her new home in the Bay Area.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Larry Richardson, one of Gigi’s foster parents over the past two months. “She’s a sweet dog and we’ll miss her. But we’re grateful she’s going on to bigger and better things and her forever home.”

What makes Gigi so special, what made nearly 10 people come to bid her goodbye, was that she belonged to the late Robert Hamada. The Kauai artist and master woodturner was known for his magnificent wooden bowls. He passed away at the age of 93 on Jan. 23 at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.

He also bred and sold hunting dogs. When he died, there were 25 dogs and six puppies on his property. A friend, Allen Kapali, cared for the dogs in the following months and found homes with hunters for nearly all of them. Kapali said the hunting dogs were a big part of Hamada’s life. He was so proud of them, so sure of their abilities, that he give guarantees to the people who bought them. If they weren’t the best hunting dog they ever had, after one year, they could return it for a full refund.

“He did that for 30, 40 years, and not one dog ever came back,” Kapali said. “That’s how much belief he had in his dogs.”
Read his obituary here. Worth it!


World War I Terriers

Staff Sergeant and horse farrier for the Army Service Corps (ASC) with the Corps pet dogs, Hissy and Jack, in France in 1916.

Army Service Corps (ASC) members posing with their company dog in 1917.

 Messenger dog, 1918.

German officers in France in 1917 with their terrier.

German officers in 1915 with their terrier. The man under the X is a young Adolph Hitler.

Cleopatra at the Pizza Hut

Cleopatra lived closed to the building of Pizza Hut than the Pyramids.

The Great Pyramid was built circa 2560 BC, while Cleopatra lived around 30 BC. The first Pizza Hut opened in 1958, which is about 500 years closer.

For the record, Pizza Hut was the first company to deliver in outer space. A pizza was launched on a Soyuz in 2001, and eaten by Yuri Usachov while in orbit on the International Space Station.  The number one Pizza Hut, by sales, is actually in Moscow. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Life on the Edge

Flea and Tick Season is Almost Upon Us

Warm weather is almost upon us, which means tick season looms on the horizon.

Use whatever you want for flea and tick protection.

What I use is pretty old-school:  grocery-store brought pyrethrin-based dog shampoo.

My dogs are in forest and field a lot, and they generally need baths after being underground. I generally wash my dogs every week from April through November.

I am wary of all the newer flea and tick treatments.  Most have been very poorly tested and negative outcomes are legion.  As for veterinarians, they generally know less about fleas and ticks than I do, and their opinions are clouded by their desire for profit.  As I wrote a while back:

A huge chunk of veterinary pharmacology is dedicated to getting you to NOT use cheap, over-the-counter flea, tick and heart worm treatments like simple pyrethrin-based shampoos (pyrethrin is so safe it is FDA-approved for food plants) and low-cost ivermectin.

To be clear, I am OK with folks using whatever they want, but I always advise caution with newer branded medications, whether for humans or for dogs. Cox-2 drugs like Vioxx have not proven more effective than Cox-1 drugs like aspirin, but they did leave over 20,000 Americans dead. Whoops!

The latest heads up in the world of dogs is Trifexis, a two-year old flea and heart worm preventative that is already linked to 7,000 dog deaths and an estimated 30,000 illnesses. Do these numbers mean Trifexis is the culprit, or that Trifexis is going to harm your dog? No. Remember that all animals present with a wide variety of reactions to everything, and as a consequence honey bees kill more people in this country than terrorists. That said, is Trifexis a medication I would stay away from for now? It is.

I am a firm believer that the single best remedy for ticks and fleas is the human eye, combined with a good flea comb, and a flea bath after taking your dog into the field.

Fleas and ticks are a real problem for terrier men, as most dens have fleas in them, and seed ticks are particularly tough to get rid of -- you will need to dip the dog in a pyrethrin dip several times if you are unlucky enough to get into a mess of these.

What's a seed tick?  Well, to answer that, let's go over the lifespan of a dog tick.

American Dog Ticks are known as "three-host ticks," because they have three different host animals in their lifetime.

First, the larva hatch out from the eggs, which may have been deposited in a den frequented by fox, raccoon, possum or groundhogs. Larvae only have six legs, like an insect, and are white. The larva will stay on the ground or climb up a plant or shrub to wait for a host to pass by. The larva will wait with their front claws outstretched to grab the first small mammal that comes by -- at this stage it is called a "Questing Tick." The first animal to go by is is usually a mouse, rabbit, squirrel, or chipmunk. The larva will drink its fill of blood on this first host animal (a period of about four days) and then drop off.

Next the larva will shed its skin and become a larger eight-legged nymph tick. These nymph ticks are still very small, and will look for a new host which is likely to be another small mammal such as a possum, raccoon, groundhog or fox. Once the nymph has grabbed on to a new host, it will again drink more blood (this time for a period of about six days) before it drops off again and molts a second time.

During this third stage of a tick's life, male and female ticks will look for a larger mammal to serve as a host. This mammal might be a raccoon, possum, fox, skunk, woodchuck, deer, dog, or even human. The male will not feed at this terminal stage of its life cycle, but will mate with the female as she feeds on the host animal. After mating, the male will die and the female tick will engorge herself before dropping off the host animal to lay her eggs -- as many as 4,000 of them -- on the ground.

If an impregnated female tick falls off a groundhog, fox, raccoon or possum while it is in an earth den, the larva may hatch out with thousands of little white tick larvae waiting to latch on to your dog.

These "seed tick" infestations will require several flea and tick dips, and very systematic work with a flea comb, to clear from a dog's fur follicles.  They are hard to get off!

Nice Rack

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Pyramids Are Older than the Mammoths

Scientists have successfully inserted Woolly Mammoth DNA into the Elephant genome.

Here's an interesting fact to ponder: The Pyramids are older than the Mammoths.

The last mammoth died out on remote Wrangel Island around 1650 BC, when the Giza Pyramids were already 1,000 years old.

I bring this up because scientists have now successfully inserted Woolly Mammoth DNA into the Elephant genome.

No, this does not mean that Mammoths are about to be recreated inside a Jurassic Park.

But it does mean that we are making progress in the manipulation of cells and cloning, and that it is no longer crazy talk to think we might, one day, be able to bring back some approximation to now extinct animals such as Passenger Pigeons, Tasmanian Tigers, Mammoths, Carolina Parakeets, and Woolly Rhinos.

Of course, all of this is just a conjurer's trick for creating new zoo specimens unless suitable wild habitat can be set aside and protected, which will require humans to reign in our own fecundity.

For those interested in reading a bit more about Mammoths and the future, see this old post entitled The Mammoth in the Hedge about my "losing the race" to win the first Long Bet. Ted Danson beat me! On the upside, I did win a later bet, the one that (arguably) can be described as the most important bet in the world.

Waterpixelating a Few Dog Pictures

I've been playing with the Waterloggue app on iPhone, and using a little Snapseed on top or underneath to see what I can get out of various pictures. I am doing what you have to do with technology these days -- playing with it so you can see what it can do and what its limits are. Not every picture works well as a watercolor (no surprise), but if you experiment you start to understand the limitations and strengths of the medium, as well as the software.

For the record, I have decided this kind of stuff should be called "Waterpixelating."  There: I have coined a word.  Feel free to use it.

Pictures 101

A few basic lessons on contrast, repetition, alignment, placement, filling, and framing will go a long way to getting better pictures, whether they are of your dog or a tree, a cathedral or a sandwich.

Monday, March 23, 2015

If You are Over Age 45

If you are over age 45,
world population has doubled in your lifetime. In 1968, the world population was 3,557,000,000. Today, the world population is 7,217,000,000 and grows by over 200,000 people a day.

The Last of the Mohicans

There are only three countries left that have not officially adopted the metric system: Liberia, the United States, and Myanmar. In October of 2013 Myanmar announced it plans to make the switch.

What's that mean for terrier digging? It means the old and newer LRT Deben locators may be the last ones that will measure in feet.

But maybe not.  The truth is that most locators are sold in the U.K.and the U.S., and most of the folks in the U.K. are not entirely enamored with the metric system, and many still use pounds, ounces, feet, and inches.  All the terrier locator collars that measure distance in meters are adaptations of avalanche collars used for skiiing.

The Human-Animal Bond

The Human-Animal Bond exists -- and it's typically what veterinarians are trying to gauge as they set you up for a larger bill.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Wonderful Eyes of the American Kestrel

Dogs see only about one-sixth as well as humans.

Humans like to think that we see well -- a vanity we cultivate by comparing ourselves to dogs, rats, and other mammals that mostly see in black and white, grays, light yellows, and blues.

In fact, most mammals have a sharply reduced visual spectrum because early mammals went through a very long period when almost all of them lived an entirely nocturnal existence.

Most mammals are still nocturnal. 

If you wonder where the raccoons, possum, deer and fox are in your area, the answer is that most move about only at night. The rest of the time they are resting up in thick tangles of growth, tucked up into underground dens or hollow trees, slumped into small depressions and wallows, and otherwise "loafing on the couch," just out of eyesight.

Since most humans never stray far from car or path -- and almost never venture into dense tangles or on to even slightly swampy ground -- the critters remain undiscovered.

Animals that are mostly nocturnal do well with eyes that see very little color.

The canine eye is a good example. Though your dog may sleep all night (and half the day too!) it is still only a few thousand years removed from its wolf or proto-wolf progenitor; not enough time for physical evolution of the canine eye to have occurred.

Mice and rats mark their burrows and runways with urine scent trails because, like most mammals, they do not have very good eyesight.

The bottom line is that dogs do not see very well -- not even sight hounds or seeing eye dogs. In fact, dogs seem to see only about one-sixth as well as humans.

Not all mammals see in a reduced spectrum, however. The progenitors of old-world apes experienced a mutation millions of years ago that resulted in more cones and rods being added to their eyes. The result is a wide range of color vision among old-world apes (chimps, gorillas, orangutans) and their cousins, we humans.

Surprisingly, some of the oldest and most primitive animals on the planet have a wider spectral range than humans and chimps. This includes reptiles and the likely descendants of dinosaurs -- birds.

Anyone who has tried to stalk a wild turkey knows how incredibly sharp their eyes are. In fact, all birds have remarkable eyesight. It's been estimated that a common sparrow hawk, for example, could read a newspaper from 25 yards away, while an eagle can spot the twitching ears of a rabbit from a distance of two miles.

The reason avian acuity is so high is that a bird's eye is built entirely differently from that of a human or a dog. For one thing, the retina of a bird is enormous.

The retina is the screen at the back of the eye on which an image, coming through the lens, is focused. This screen is composed of light-sensitive rods and cones, with the rods registering shapes and the cones differentiating colors.

On rods alone, the avian eye far eclipses that of the dog or the human. A human eye, for example, has about 200,000 rods, while an eagle has about a million -- five times more.

The true knockout blow for birds, however, is in the cone department. It turns out that many birds, and especially birds of prey, have cones in their eyes that enable them to see a much wider spectrum than we can, and for some birds -- such as the American Kestrel or sparrow hawk (actually a kind of small falcon) -- this spectrum includes ultraviolet light.

What's the benefit of being able to see in the ultraviolet spectrum? 

Simple: mouse urine glows purple in ultraviolet light (one reason "black light" is used to find old pet urine stains on wooden floors).

When a sparrow hawk hunts along a hedge, it is able to look for urine stains that mark mouse holes, runways and nests.

Mice and rats mark their burrows and runways with urine scent trails because, like most mammals, they do not have very good eyesight. Scent cues help rats and mice orient themselves in the complex world of hedge, forest, field and barn. The result is that a rat or mouse can "run" a scent trail very fast without spending time in the open trying to figure things out.

Experienced human ratters know this about rodents, and so they will drag their boot across the middle of a shed and spin long boards perpendicular to where they have been lying, all in an attempt to break up or disturb invisible scent trails. A few seconds hesitation by a confused and disoriented rat is just the edge a terrier needs to even the odds on the farm.

For a sparrow hawk, visible urine trails enable it to focus on areas where small rodent activity is heaviest. By simply flying over a hedge or field, and then lighting on a fence post, telephone pole, or dead tree near visible urine marks, a sparrow hawk can dramatically increase its chance of finding lunch.

Once activity in the grass is spotted, a sparrow hawk will face into the wind and hover low over a grassy area -- a tactic that earned it the name "windhover" or "wind fucker" in 17th Century Holland, when the terminology was considered a little less offensive that it is today.

As for ultraviolet vision, it's not all about food -- it's about sex too. It seems that all those rather drab-looking birds we see in the hedge look a lot prettier when they are seen through the lens of an ultraviolet-sensitive eye.

Birds species in which male and females look very much alike to us look very different to the birds themselves, as they have twice as many cones in their eyes and so can see shade and colors we miss altogether. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

It's the Vernal Equinox -- Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung, but you wouldn't necessarily know it by looking out the window, as it was snowing this morning.

The picture, above, is this morning's watercolor of my neighborhood. I really am getting good at this painting thing!