August 17, 2008

puppies and teddybears with big scary claws

Got this from Daily Kos, which I seem to be reading while I'm lounging around being sick. It's awesome footage of a grizzly mama and two cubs getting a little harassed by a wolf, which seems to want to play with the cubs. Two things I noticed: first, that wolf is big! Grizzlies are enormous, and the wolf looks not too much smaller than the mama: I guess they must have really different builds, because a large wolf is 150 pounds and a small grizzly sow starts at something like 250 or 300 pounds. Second, you can really tell that at one point the wolf wants to play - it looks just like a dog doing what's called a play bow with its shoulders and head low, hindquarters high, and tail wagging (right after minute four). The grizzly cubs are almost impossible for me to read - mama seems mostly interested in chasing the wolf away, but I can't tell what the cubs want at all. I think this speaks to the long human acquaintance (including, for many of us, personal acquaintance) with wolf relatives. We're pretty good at reading canine behavior; ursine stays kind of mysterious. Third thing, even though I said there'd be two: this is such a cool thing to do! The USGS is putting solar-powered motion-activated cameras in the Northern Rockies to videotape wildlife doing their wildlife thing. It's mostly to understand how effective their DNA collection efforts are, and whether there's sampling bias with respect to age and sex, but you can see a wide range of other applications for that kind of camera information.

Here's the video, and here's the link to the USGS site.

McCain Watch #4: oops, you guys care about that?

I haven't been doing much McCain watching, what with being out of the country and everything, but no sooner do I get back than the man does another foolish thing. It's not a dumb policy idea, necessarily, but it's a politically expensive thing to say. McCain said he wanted to renegotiate the Colorado River Compact of 1922.

You're now looking at me like I'm speaking a different language, unless you follow western water policy. The compact is an agreement - based, stupidly, on best-case water level predictions - about how much water the various Colorado River states get each year. It gets split evenly between the Upper Basin states (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah) and the Lower Basin states (Arizona, New Mexico, and California). You might spot one problem right away, which is that the Lower Basin states have about 44.8 million people, compared to 10.6 million in the Upper Basin states. The other huge problem is that the compact is based on water levels measured during a particularly wet period, and thus promises what it can't deliver. A new version the compact wouldn't be a terrible idea, though in my personal view some of the most foolishly-situated cities in the world are the ones that would want more water in order to grow (Phoenix, baby, I'm looking at you); thus, renegotiation is unlikely to get us a more ecologically sensible agreement.

So. Anyway. This piece of water policy, which allocates a seriously disproportionate amount of water to some sparsely-populated states, is probably more sacred than the Constitution in Colorado, and I'm including the Second Amendment here. Everyone in Colorado is pretty sure that renegotiation would reduce the amount of water they get, and giving up water is not something you want to do in the West. It's like the caucuses in Iowa, where no candidate will come down too hard on farm subsidies. Except McCain just said he was all for renegotiating the compact. ColoradoPols (which I found via Daily Kos) puts their headline up as "McCain just lost Colorado," and the Colorado politicians quoted say variations on "over my dead body." Variations like, "over my cold, dead political carcass" that aren't too different at all. Who know what this will mean come November - I'm not going to start crowing just yet - but it can't be that great for McCain.

What really gets me about this is that McCain is an Arizona politician, so he ought to know how people feel about water policy.

August 1, 2008

full up on ruins

Every other building in Israel is some kind of excavated restored ruin with 4-foot thick stone walls and arched windows.

How we long for a bungalow.