On New Year’s Eve, with the California project three weeks from ending, Mrs. Animal went for a drive down the coast to the environs of Monterey Bay, which is a gorgeous area. We did some walking, enjoying the clean sea air and watching such critters as pelicans, seals and cormorants. Photos follow. Enjoy! Click for more!
California, where I have spent these last few months (in a somewhat restive manner) undoubtedly holds the title of the looniest of the several states. And the primary stronghold of that lunacy, San Francisco, lies just to the north of here. But to the south, in Santa Cruz County, there is a lot of pretty country and some great hiking trails. Yesterday I spent the morning wandering in those hills, mostly for my own amusement but also to share the impressive countryside with all you True Believers. Photos follow.
In a bit of news from around the Arctic Circle, a film crew caught some footage of another starving polar bear. Excerpt:
This year, biologist Paul Nicklen published a video online of an emaciated polar bear on Baffin Island rummaging through trash cans, looking for food. The polar bear was likely at death’s door when Nicklen captured the footage in late summer.
Nicklen, who founded the environmental group Sea Legacy, said he wanted to highlight the future polar bears face because of global warming. It worked, and the video has gone viral, sparking media coverage about a polar bear that’s a victim of a warming world.
“We stood there crying—filming with tears rolling down our cheeks,” Nicklen said, National Geographic reported.
“When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realize what it looks like. Bears are going to starve to death,” said Nicklen. “This is what a starving bear looks like.”
Yes, bears are going to starve to death. Mountain lions are going to starve to death. Wolves are going to starve to death. It is a sad but inevitable fact in the lives of large predators that some of them never quite get the hang of surviving. The death rate of young bears in many environments is appalling.
But that’s nature for you.
There are a number of questions that I’d like to have answered that might shed a little more light on the whole thing:
- Assuming the bear did die, and it does indeed look inevitable from the film, did anyone do a necropsy on the animal to discover if it was injured, infested with parasites, or diseased?
- How old was the bear? Young bears, especially young males, are frequently injured by larger, older bears as they seek their own territories.
- Were any other emaciated bears observed in the area? If the environmental conditions were the root cause of this bear’s condition, then other bears in the area would be suffering as well.
- Where, exactly, was the bear? Near a human habitation? Polar bears are creatures of the coast and pack ice, but one hanging out near human habitations may (again) be a young one still learning how to survive, and maybe doing poorly.
In other words, there are just too many possible explanations to just go off and go “RRHHHEEEEE! Global climate change! We must cripple our economy now!” Large predators almost never die peaceful deaths. They are killed in fights with other predators, they are injured trying to take down a prey animal, they die of disease or by accident, or they just plain starve. It’s a damned tough world out there, and in the Arctic, it’s several quantum levels tougher.
Blaming this on climate change is some Olympic-level jumping to a conclusion.
Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!
California would be a pretty neat place if it weren’t so full of Californians – you know, that odd grouping of people who keep putting the lunatics back in charge of the asylum that is their state government.
But the country has a lot of appeal. Yesterday I drove over to the coast and took a long walk down a really interesting rock-covered beach. For company I had sandpipers, gulls, ravens and pelicans. Photos follow.
“There are no limits to either time or distance, except as Man himself may make them. I have but to touch the wind to know these things.”
The wind is, of course, a purely physical phenomenon, the movement of atmosphere from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. The sun’s heat drives the wind. So does heat moving in ocean currents and the Coriolis Effect. A myriad of local and global influences move the wind and shape it. In our history, we have harnessed the wind to grind grain, to pump water, to move ships, to generate electricity. Plants use it to spread pollen and seeds, birds use it to soar in the sky, mammals seek or avoid it to improve their own comfort in their environment.
I once spent part of a morning out on the end of a long fishing pier at Ventura, California, looking over the Pacific Ocean towards Santa Cruz Island and using my big twenty-power binoculars to look for whales. I did not see any whales, although I enjoyed seeing sea ducks, grebes, and watching pelicans diving for fish. The constant that morning was the wind, blowing in from the west. It was not a harsh wind that sunny California morning, but a warm wind, just enough to ruffle hair.
Where else had that wind been? Where did it come from? From what unknown shore did that wind journey to visit me there on that California pier? What mountain valleys did it travel, what plains, what forests did it traverse to get to where I was standing? If the wind could talk, what stories would it have to tell?
I wonder these things because I have always been afflicted with wanderlust. Bright, breezy spring days in particular fill me with the urge to go walkabout. The wind suffers from no restrictions on its movement; no job, no travel expenses, no duties or obligations. It crosses mountain ranges, continents, oceans and borders as easily as it crosses the street. The wind is my constant companion when I am out of doors.
As Mr. Borland pointed out, the wind knows few limits. In the Middle East, I have experienced hot, dry winds that felt like they came from a furnace. Growing up in northeast Iowa where winters are serious business, I have felt cold, dry bitter winds that were so frigid they burned. While traveling in the American South, I have suffered through sluggish breezes so humid that you could almost hear them splash.
When I was a boy in Iowa, the wind brought winter blizzards and summer thunderstorms, the smell of corn pollen in the summer and burning leaves in autumn. In Colorado, the winds bring the small of pine and spruce in the mountains, the smell of sage on the flats, winter storms and summer rains. When I am fishing on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, a place I love without reservation, the wind blends the smell of the endless forests of spruce and fir with the smell of the sea.
The Swiss have the Foehn, the Californians the Santa Ana, the French the Mistral, the Hawaiians the Pali, Alaskans the Williwaws. In my own Colorado in the spring comes the Chinook, that warm, brisk spring wind that melts snow and dries the ground for the first spring wildflowers. The wind has as many names as it does variations.
Some warm summer afternoon, take a moment and look closely at a dandelion that has gone to seed. Dandelions are a favorite of children in summer – to pick them, and blow the silky seeds away, to watch the breeze carry them off to start another patch of dandelions on some homeowner’s manicured lawn. Dandelions depend on the wind to live, to spread. Some homeowners swear at dandelions, but I like them – they are great survivors. Counting on the wind is a good evolutionary bet.
Lately the urge to wander has been hitting me with great vigor. I want to go walkabout. I would like to find a way to ride on the wind as I would ride a river in my old canoe, to see where the wind’s river would take me. What a wonder, to be as free as the wind, to wander the hills, forests and valleys! One of my favorite spots in Colorado is in the White RiverNational Forest south of Eagle, where a Forest Service road wanders close to the south rim of McKenzie Gulch. One sunny afternoon I sat on a rock at the top of the gulch, eating a blueberry bagel and considering how long it would take me to descend into the bottom and climb the other side. As I thought about this, a Clark’s Nutcracker floating by overhead opened his wings wide and rode the south breeze across the vast gulf of air to the other side. I envied that bird; I wanted to spread wings and float on the breeze. Instead, my own evolutionary legacy forced me to walk.
Walking still suits me, though; the wind is always there with me.
Stand outside in a stiff breeze sometime. Raise your arms high and spread your fingers. Touch the wind.
For all its variations, the wind is one of the Earth’s few constants.
Recently The Daily Caller presented a pretty good article on three self-defense myths that you still see bandied about. Here they are, with some of my comments.
Myth No. 1: Hit him anywhere with a .45 and it will knock him down.
This myth probably started with the advent of the .45 Colt back in the 1870s, but it has been repeated most often when people refer to the .45 ACP. Nowadays, you will hear it touted regarding the .44 Mag., the .41 Mag., the .40 S&W or whatever new pistol cartridge that has just been introduced.
The truth was discovered way back in 1687, when Sir Isaac Newton published his third law of motion. Newton simply stated that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, if a bullet shot from a handgun was so powerful that it could actually knock a person down, it would also knock the shooter down.
Part of the reason you still see this line of horseshit served up is because you see it in the movies and on television so often. One of the best portrayals of an old Western gunfight is in the excellent Costner/Duvall flick Open Range; it shows a real gun battle, with old guns made with varying tolerances and inconsistent black-powder ammo, with opponents literally just blasting away at each other at short range until hits are scored. But there is a scene that ruins the whole thing; Robert Duvall fires his double-barrel 12 gauge through a plank wall at a bad guy, and the blast picks the baddie up and slams him against a wall. Not even a 12-bore at a range of about six feet will do that; not even close. More on that in the next bit:
Myth No. 2: There’s no need to aim a shotgun, just point it in the general direction of the bad guy and fire.
The shotgun is an awesome firearm that is altogether too often overlooked by today’s defensive shooters. However, it is not a magic wand. People who claim you don’t have to aim a shotgun have simply never done patterning tests with their favorite defensive smoothbore.
When shot exits a shotgun barrel, it does so in almost one solid mass. That mass is smaller than a man’s fist. It is only as the shot travels downrange that it begins to spread apart, and it spreads much more gradually than a lot of people expect.
A shotgun can be absolutely devastating at close range; I can attest to this from personal experience, having personally taken a hit to the leg from a 12-gauge at a range of about three feet. (It was just a minor difference of opinion; call it a misunderstanding and leave it at that.) But it’s not a damned paintbrush. A good tight aim is still required.
Myth No. 3: If you have to shoot a bad guy in your front yard, drag him into the house before calling the cops.
As ridiculous as this may sound, it is one of the self-defense myths that just won’t go away. A student brought it up once in a defensive pistol class. There are couple of good reasons why this is a terrible idea.
We live in a time when any halfway-awake forensics weenie can reconstruct your life history from the remains of your gerbil’s three-week-old fart, and people are still spouting this nonsense.
Here are a couple of additions of my own:
Don’t ever fire a warning shot.
Daffy old Uncle Joe Biden’s advice on the topic notwithstanding, this is a bad idea. For one thing, you may well be guilty of negligent discharge of a firearm. But more to the point, if things are bad enough that you have produced a firearm to deter a threat, if you are called upon to fire your first shot should be center mass. Shoot to stop the threat; a shot in the air does nothing to that end.
Understand the laws of your jurisdiction.
In Colorado, we are fortunate enough to have what liberals call the “Make My Day” law; state law gives home and business owners the right to use force to defend themselves on their property, without requiring one to retreat. Your state may differ; some places require you to flee before using force, which to my thinking is a horrendous abuse of government authority and a denial of a basic human liberty. But if you don’t want to end up in the crowbar Hilton yourself, know your local laws.
It’s a damned shame that so many folks who write about guns don’t seem to know much about them – including some that should know better.
Here’s a topic I’ve always found interesting, especially given Mrs. Animal’s and my Alaska relocation plans: How to prevent a bear attack. Excerpt:
If a bear sees and charges at a hiker, it’s best to stay still and “stand your ground,” the NPS (National Park Service) said.
“Most of the time, if you do this, the bear is likely to break off the charge or veer away,” the NPS said. “This is called a bluff charge.”
If the bear gets within 40 feet (12 meters), start spraying pepper or bear spray. (Bear spray is recommended because it goes farther than pepper spray.) Both contain capsaicin, a chemical that irritates the bear’s eyes, nose, mouth, throat and lungs. But, if the bear continues to charge, it’s time to play dead, the NPS said.
Timing is incredibly important. A bear can still veer off at the last moment, so a person should play dead only within a nanosecond of making contact with the bear.
“Drop to the ground; keep your pack on to protect your back,” the NPS said. “Lie on your stomach, face down, and clasp your hands over the back of your neck with your elbows protecting the sides of your face. Remain still and stay silent to convince the bear that you are not a threat to it or its cubs.”
Once the bear leaves, wait several minutes to make sure the bear and its cubs are no longer nearby. Then, cautiously get up and walk (don’t run) away, the NPS said. The bear could still attack again.
“During a predatory attack, you should be aggressive and fight back using any available weapon (bear spray, rocks, sticks) to stop the aggression by the bear,” the NPS said. “Fight back as if your life depends on it, because it does. Predatory attacks usually persist until the bear is scared away, overpowered, injured or killed.”
Now, I’d like you to spot which item of preparation is missing from the linked article. Go ahead and look. I’ll wait right here.
Back already? OK, you probably noticed the one preventive measure that a great many Alaskans avail themselves of when in bear country, one that is more effective than any other; a firearm. A good powerful handgun or (preferably) a rifle or 12-gauge shotgun stuffed with slugs will stop a bear. With a bit of distance and luck, a shot into the ground may deter a bear before it gets too close. But an experienced hand with a good weapon will be safer than an experienced hand with a can of bear spray.
Alaskans know bears. They live with them. It’s not uncommon, on popular fishing lakes and streams, to be able to spot the locals by the .44 magnums on their belts.
Saturday was an interesting Bay Area day. Since my own dear Mrs. Animal is here with me for a six-week stint, we decided to go adventuring. Up north of the bay, across the Golden Gate Bridge, lies Muir Woods National Monument. We went there Saturday, had a nice long walk followed by lunch up in San Rafael at a wonderful place called Terrapin Crossroads, owned by Grateful Dead bass player Phil Lesh. Photos follow.
As if we didn’t already know this, John Stossel is pointing it out for us: The EPA is a Racket. Excerpt:
Regulation zealots and much of the media are furious because President Donald Trump canceled Barack Obama’s attempt to limit carbon dioxide emissions. But Trump did the right thing.
CO2 is what we exhale. It’s not a pollutant. It is, however, a greenhouse gas, and such gases increase global warming. It’s possible that this will lead to a spiral of climate change that will destroy much of Earth!
But probably not. The science is definitely not settled.
The Earth will not notice.
However, people who pay for heat and electricity would notice. The Obama rule demanded power plants emit less CO2. Everyone would pay more—for no useful reason.
I say “would” because the Supreme Court put a “stay” on the regulation, saying there may be no authority for it.
But here’s the real kick in the nuts:
Some of what regulators do now resembles the work of sadists who like crushing people. In Idaho, Jack and Jill Barron tried to build a house on their own property. Jack got permission from his county. So they started building.
They got as far as the foundation when the EPA suddenly declared that the Barrons’ property was a “wetland.”
Some of their land was wet. But that was only because state government had not maintained its own land, adjacent to the Barrons’ property, and water backed up from the state’s land to the Barrons’.
The EPA suddenly said, “You are building on a wetland!” and filed criminal charges against them. Felonies. When government does that, most of us cringe and give up. It costs too much to fight the state. Government regulators seem to have unlimited time and nearly unlimited money.
But Jack was mad enough to fight. He spent $200,000 on his own lawyers.
Three years later, a jury cleared Jack of all charges.
Here’s the deal; I’m something of an environmental nut myself, in that I like being out and about in the environment. I like clean air, clean water, birds, chipmunks and trees. I also remember the late Sixties, when some of our cities were unlivable due to the filth and you couldn’t eat fish (if you could find one) out of many of our major rivers because of the pollution.
But that battle’s won.
Here’s the problem with popular “movements” like the environmental movement, the civil rights movement, and countless others: They can’t admit victory. Thousands if not tens of thousands of people are making a damn good living whipping up outrage and planning the next round of ever-more intrusive legislation and regulation, and they have no interest in admitting they won (or, in some cases, that their grandparents won), folding their tents and going home.
But it looks like President Trump is willing to send at least 31 percent of them packing.
On the Saturday just past I found myself once again with one of my favorite situations; no place to go, and all day to get there. Now mind you, I can’t abide Bay Area politics, but I am frequently in the position where I’m paid to go where the work is, not where the fun is. So I make the most of it, and there are always some decent outdoor adventures not too far from anyplace I find myself. Saturday it was the Almaden Quicksilver County Park, where I spent a nice sunny Saturday hiking in the hills. Photos follow.