November 30, 2008


New Yorker cover by Barry Blitt. Click for bigger.

OMG I love this. [Good eye, you out there! Yes, Mr. Blitt is the same illustrator who gave us the controversial fist-bump cover.] From MediaBistro, via HuffPost.

November 29, 2008

"I, too, am a Mumbaikar today."

Terrorist attack in Mumbai. Photo by Arun Shanbhag.

I wish I could reach out and for just one moment hold the hands of the woman in this AP photograph. Maybe shed some tears on her shoulder. But I do not know what I would say to her. I do not think she would want me to say much. The expression on her face matches the feeling I have at the pit of my stomach and in the depth of my heart. I think - I hope - that she would understand how I feel. I can only imagine what she is going through.

And so, in prayer and in solidarity, I stand today with Mumbaikars everywhere. In shock at what has happened. In fear of what might happen yet. In anger at those who would be so calculated in their inhuman massacre. In sympathy with those whose pain so hurts my own heart but whose tears I cannot touch, whose wounds I cannot heal, and whose grief I cannot relieve.
From the post I am a Mumbaikar: In Prayer and in Solidarity, by Adil Najam of All Things Pakistan. Read the whole thing at the link.

Citizen journalism at its most immediate: photos and updates from Arun Shanbhag, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who lives in Boston but was staying with family in Mumbai at the time of the attacks. As always, Flickr has more.

And Freddie deBoer [who is young enough to be my great-grandson, and possibly even younger than that] shows why he's in the sidebar with this post. Excerpt:
So there's about 1 billion Muslims in the world. A billion. A billion is a lot. What would a billion man plot look like, exactly? How would they communicate? Coordinate? I mean if you could really get a billion people together to attack Mumbai, you might as well try to take over a whole country. Ah, but maybe by "are behind" he [Rod Dreher] means "support". That kind of contention is thrown out there all the time, of course, and it has the virtue of requiring no form of proof whatsoever. Just like the contention "The average Palestinian would murder every Jew if he could," this kind of statement has no referent, invites no verification, requires nothing but the author's say-so and the guts to think you can leave it out there, orphaned and unsupported. This is non-falsifiable nonsense. I'm sure, say, the thousands of impoverished Thai Muslims living along the coast with no television or newspapers would be surprised to learn that they support a terrorist attack they've never heard of. Dreher has left himself an out, here, but he's done it in about the weakest form possible: possibly most Muslims weren't behind these attacks. Mmmm.

Once again quoting the post by Adil Najam:

But, today, I have no words of analysis. What words can make sense of the patently senseless? I do not know who did this. Nor can I imagine any cause that would justify this. But this I know: No matter who did this, no matter why, the terror that has been wrought in Mumbai is vile and inhuman and unjustifiable. And, for the sake of our own humanness, we must speak out against it.

And, so, to any Mumbaikar who might be listening, I say: “I stand with you today. In prayer and in solidarity.”

Baruch Dayan Emet
: Blessed is the true judge.

"Taking the Lambs to Market"

Butcher shop in Pinole, California. "Clarence Faria's Uncle Manuel, owner, on the right."

Fragments of Maxine Kumin's Taking the Lambs to Market have appeared in a number of links recently: here, for instance, in a fine essay on sheep, local slaughterhouses, USDA inspections and small-farm economics by Bill Fosher.

So I thought I'd post the whole thing. From the collection Looking for Luck:

Taking the Lambs to Market

All due respect to the blood on his bandsaw,
table, hands and smock, Amos is an artist.

We bring him something living, breathed, furred
and meet it next in a bloodless sagittal section.

No matter how we may deplore his profession
all of us are eating, even Keats

who said, If a Sparrow come before my Window
I take part in its existence and pick
about the Gravel
, but dined on mutton.

Amos, who custom cuts and double wraps
in white butcher paper whatever we named,
fed, scratched behind the ear, deserves our praise:

a decent man who blurs the line of sight
between our conscience and our appetite.

And one I've posted before and will no doubt post again: Meat, by Thom Gunn.
My brother saw a pig root in a field,
And saw too its whole lovely body yield
To this desire which deepened out of need
So that in wriggling through the mud and weed
To eat and dig were one athletic joy.
When we who are the overlords destroy
Our ranging vassals, we can therefore taste
The muscle of delighted interest
We make into ourselves, as formerly
Hurons digested human bravery.

Not much like this degraded meat — this meal
Of something, was it chicken, pork, or veal?
It tasted of the half-life that we raise
In high bright tombs which, days, and nights like days,
Murmur with nervous sound from cubicles
Where fed on treated slop the living cells
Expand within each creature forced to sit
Cramped with its boredom and its pile of shit
Till it is standard weight for roast or bacon
And terminated, and its place is taken.

To make this worth a meal you have to add
The succulent liberties it never had
Of leek, and pepper fruiting in its climb,
The redolent adventures dried in thyme
Whose branches creep and stiffen where they please,
Or rosemary that shakes in the world's breeze.

November 28, 2008

Good eats and good reads: on raising - and killing - lamb for dinner

Louise Erdrich looked at the northern tallgrass prairie and wrote:
I would be converted to a religion of grass. Sleep the winter away and rise headlong each spring. Sink deep roots. Conserve water. Respect and nourish your neighbors and never let trees gain the upper hand. Such are the tenets and dogmas. As for the practice — grow lush in order to be devoured or caressed, stiffen in sweet elegance, invent startling seeds — those also make sense. Bow beneath the arm of fire. Connect underground. Provide. Provide. Be lovely and do no harm.
Provide. Here is California farmer Andy Griffin, author of The Ladybug Letter, writing about "the karma of meat":
[C]ooking meat is the way nature allows us to eat grass. By profession I’m a vegetable farmer, but as a hobby I keep a flock of goats and sheep along with a tiny herd of Dexter cattle and I think of them collectively as my “meat garden.” My animals eat cull vegetables, like over-ripe tomatoes, under-ripe winter squash and deformed beets, but mostly they eat grass from the hillsides around my home that are too steep and dry for me to farm. Remember the Dust Bowl? One of the most profound and long-lasting catastrophes of the “dirty thirties” was that speculation in grain caused vast tracts of arid, marginal land in the western Great Plains to be ploughed down for wheat. When the drought came there was no turf to hold the soil down and it blew away. That land should have never been taken away from the Buffalo and the beef cattle.

"Cooking meat is the way nature allows us to eat grass."
Andy Griffin

And when Andy says "beef cattle" he isn't talking about the "karmically-challenged modern beef steer" fattened on corn in a feedlot. People, there's a reason Isaiah says in the Bible, "All flesh is grass." [A reason that has nothing to do with meat for dinner, but still.]

Everything dies. If we are conscientious, the stock we raise will die with as little stress as possible after a comfortable life. And this beats being chased down and torn apart while still alive, or wasting away from injury and infection, or dying of some hideous parasite-borne condition on the African savannah, if you ask me. [Full disclosure: when an earnest vegan says, "I am someone who cares about preventing cruelty to animals," I want to say, "Dude -- like Battle at Kruger?"] As the man wrote, "No wild animal dies of old age."

All of this is by way of introducing some links to excellent posts on raising sheep [and other stock] for slaughter, and dinner.

First, from the always terrific Bill Fosher [owner/moderator of the Sheep Production Forum]: Honor thy meat.

I loved this:
Q: “How do you eat meat from animals you knew?”
A: “I don’t like to eat meat from an animal I didn’t know!"
True, true — the only lamb I used to eat, before free-range and grass-fed became trendy, was barbecued on a friend's ranch not long after being slaughtered. The person sitting across from me at the table could tell me everything about that individual lamb, from its grazing habits to the name of its great-grandma. I knew where that lamb came from and what care it received. Who do you ask about the shrink-wrapped ground beef at Whole Foods?

Ardi Gasna has been in my blog list forever, and back in April, California chef, sheep dairy owner and artisanal cheesemaker Rebecca King wrote about slaughtering lambs she'd raised:
I know some may find it morbid (although they themselves eat meat that someone else kills!), but I've discovered I actually enjoy slaughtering and butchering my own animals. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that I was responsible for this animal from its birth until its death. I am also fascinated in the process by which a living thing becomes food that we eat. The lamb has been really delicious as well, some of the best I've ever had.
As it happens, Andy Griffin of Mariquita Farm and The Ladybug Letter has crossed paths with Rebecca and her sheep. Small blogosphere.

Farmer and Honest Meat blogger Rebecca Thistlewaite also has some words on lamb, specifically: "So the California raised grassfed lamb tasted better, but why does it cost so much more?" Read the rest in her post The Real Dirt on Lamb.

And what about the actual, you know, slaughter? How much easier it is for the animals when they are killed quickly at their own farm or ranch, without the stress caused by transport to a distant slaughterhouse! So why aren't there more MPUs?

That truck on the left is a mobile slaughterhouse, or MPU - Mobile Processing Unit. From The WSJ's Have Knife, Will Travel:
Scott Meyers of Sweet Grass Farm Beef [on Lopez Island, Washington] started raising Japanese Wagyu cattle on his grass pasture once the mobile unit was up and running. "It gave me access to the marketplace," he says. "Without that, I wouldn't have even considered" raising beef.

Mr. Meyers says the mobile unit offers his animals a "sublime" death because they avoid the stress of traveling long distances. Such care makes his beef taste better, he says, as he introduces part of his herd: "This one's Violet, here's Splits and Buttercup."
The Ethicurean has more on the Island Grown Farmers Cooperative here.

But that's Washington State. Are there any mobile rigs in California?

Sort of. Marissa Guggiana explains in Leading Lambs to Slaughter — In search of a kinder, gentler abbatoir:
Right now there are seven operating MPUs in the U.S., but none of them are in California. California’s lone MPU sits gathering dust in Monterey County. The MPU is operated by George Work, of Work Family Ranch. Work’s enthusiasm for the practicality of the MPU got it built, but it hasn’t been enough to overcome state and county bureaucracy, and a federal regulatory system that seems reluctant to change.
The general response from other meat processors, government workers, and members of the sustainability community to the MPU is a list of reasons why it does not work, has not worked, and will not work. Most of these focus on county regulations. For instance, in Washington, where [Bruce] Dunlop operates, he’s able to compost the non-edible remainders and return them to the pasture as fertilizer. In California this wouldn’t be tolerated. While each county has its legal peculiarities, there seems to be an overarching resistance rooted in a fear of decentralization, a fear that if we move outside the model of faster, cheaper, and more, we lose.
We'll see what happens once the new administration takes over, though I suspect MPUs are not high on the list of concerns at the moment.

Related posts from this blog, with much link goodness.

Hey, that'd be a good title for a book!

And finally, from one of the links above:
Keep in mind one of the oldest ways to get "free-range, grass-fed, organic, locally produced, locally harvested, sustainable, native, low-stress, low-impact, humanely slaughtered meat": by hunting it yourself.

November 27, 2008

Blessings, I haz them

From The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form: a poem for the day, by Richard Stehr.

When you're facing that Thanksgiving spread
And the plentiful feast you'll be fed,
It's a time not for counting
The calories mounting
But counting your blessings instead.
May everyone enjoy a happy Thanksgiving holiday, and a safe and satisfying Black Friday [and Cyber Monday!].

[Hat tip to the most excellent Barbara Wallraff.]

November 24, 2008

New books: Wolves, and a parrot

Querencia blogger Cat Urbigkit has a new book out: Yellowstone Wolves: A Chronicle of the Animal, the People, and the Politics. Cat and her family raise sheep and cattle in western Wyoming and she has been following the wolf situation in that area for years. [Click on Wolf Watch at this link to read more.] Stephen Bodio of Querencia has written an excellent post about Cat's book, which he reviews in his spirit wolf voice. I kid ;~) Yellowstone Wolves looks like a good read.

Another new release: scientist Irene M. Pepperberg has written a book about her decades-long partnership with Alex, the famous parrot who died last year at the age of 31. From today's NY Times review:
Her book movingly combines the scientific detail of a researcher, intent on showing with “statistical confidence” that Alex “did indeed have this or that cognitive ability,” with the affectionate understanding that children (and children’s books about animals) instinctively possess: that “animals know more than we think, and think a great deal more than we know.” While her training as a scientist keeps her from lapsing into sentimentality, her love for her longtime avian colleague keeps her from sounding like a stuffy academic.
Read the whole review here. The book is Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence — and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process.

No place like home

New Zealand: Drift Bay House by Kerr Ritchie Architects. More photos here, at Arch Daily. [H/T x3 to Materialicious.]

How I love you, o precious week of Thanksgiving vacation...! I might be up at the family cabin now, but am hunkering down here at home instead, happy for the extra time to spend with a dear old dog and eager for the anticipated rain.

Speaking of cabins and other dwellings that make me happy:

Another shot of the New Zealand home by Kerr Ritchie Architects. [Click for big.] Pity about the view.

In Montana, a Forest Service lookout-style cabin perfect for the grizzly-averse [like yours truly]. Slide show here, along with a NY Times article on the new cabinistas.

This one, on a rocky outcropping in Fosen, Norway, is Cabin Vardehaugen by architecture studio Fantastic Norway. More photos here.

Casa Lago Rupanco in Chile, by F3 Arquitectos. I want. Slide show here.

This is insane

So my beautiful California is burning up — and both Laura and Heather claim it's... snowing. And they have photos — gorgeous, amazing photos — to prove it. Unreal.

Check out Laura's scary post on the worst South Dakota blizzard in 30 years — photos here. And the weather went all Andrew Wyeth [did I mention how much I love Heather's writing?] over at the most excellent Raised by Wolves. I swiped the photo above from Heather's blog because I love the colors. More of her snow scenes here.

November 22, 2008

Indifference to the truth is worse than lying: BSL and the curse of false equivalencies

The truth is not "somewhere in the middle."

Here is the truth about breed-specific legislation, from veterinary animal behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall: "Breed specific laws are not based in science. [Laws] banning breeds will not make you safer, and the illusion that they will do so is dangerous to humans and unfair to dogs."

The facts back her up. So why are various city councils so determined to ignore the science? Because it's easier to imagine that the truth is somewhere in the middle. It requires less courage and a lot less work. Russell Baker — quoted by the late, great Molly Ivins back in 1987, so help me, and things haven't gotten better — explains how "balance" works. Boldface is mine:
In the classic example, a refugee from Nazi Germany who appears on television saying monstrous things are happening in his homeland must be followed by a Nazi spokesman saying Adolf Hitler is the greatest boon to humanity since pasteurized milk. Real objectivity would require not only hard work by news people to determine which report was accurate, but also a willingness to put up with the abuse certain to follow publication of an objectively formed judgment. To escape the hard work or the abuse, if one man says Hitler is an ogre, we instantly give you another to say Hitler is a prince. A man says the rockets won't work? We give you another who says they will.

The public may not learn much about these fairly sensitive matters, but neither does it get another excuse to denounce the media for unfairness and lack of objectivity. In brief, society is teeming with people who become furious if told what the score is.
And here is Ivins herself [both quotes from her book Who Let the Dogs In?]:
The American press has always had a tendency to assume that the truth must lie exactly halfway between any two opposing points of view. Thus, if the press presents the man who says Hitler is an ogre and the man who says Hitler is a prince, it believes it has done the full measure of its journalistic duty.

This tendency has been aggravated in recent years by a noticeable trend to substitute people who speak from a right-wing ideological perspective for those who know something about a given subject. Thus, we see, night after night, on MacNeil/Lehrer or Nightline, people who don't know jack about Iran or Nicaragua or arms control, but who are ready to tear up the pea patch in defense of the proposition that Ronald Reagan is a Great Leader beset by comsymps. They have nothing to offer in the way of facts or insight; they are presented as a way of keeping the networks from being charged with bias by people who are replete with bias and resistant to fact. The justification for putting them on the air is that "they represent a point of view."

The odd thing about these television discussions designed to "get all sides of the issue" is that they do not feature a spectrum of people with different views on reality: Rather, they frequently give us a face-off between those who see reality and those who have missed it entirely. In the name of objectivity, we are getting fantasyland.
Now imagine a city council meeting, which shouldn't be too much of a leap. Members of the city council are 1) debating whether to ban certain dogs based not on their behavior or temperament but on their physical appearance, and 2) turning their backs on the concerns of law-abiding citizens whose good dogs have never harmed or threatened to harm anyone.

There are two opposing points of view.
  • Strongly opposed to breed bans are the real experts at the CDC; the AVMA; the authors of A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention; and virtually every competent dog-trainer, veterinary animal behaviorist and humane organization in North America.

  • In favor of breed banning: someone who quotes an odd "study" lacking citations and footnotes and filled with misspellings, misstatements and some of the nuttiest dog behavior analysis since Thurber's mother.

And the city council, if it is sufficiently replete with bias and resistant to fact [not all of them are, thank God], will pat itself on the back for its "balance" and cast its deciding vote in favor of those who have missed reality entirely.

"We create our own reality," as the man said. The truth is somewhere in the middle! So we ignore science, we fill law-abiding citizens with anguish, and when we feel like it, we confiscate and kill their good dogs.


Those who like to keep their bullshit detectors honed might want to check out the links in the Vagabond Scholar's posts on Faulty Argument Patterns and False Equivalencies. H/T to Batocchio for the Molly Ivins lead.

[Universal B.S. Detector Watch from Gizmodo.]


Indeed. From danagraves on Flickr: click for big.

Rikyrah over at Jack & Jill Politics makes a great point: the U.S. military allows people like this to join up — and kicks out people like this?

"Lax enlistment standards have inadvertently allowed thousands of gang members to join the military, including young men who belong to the Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, and various white supremacist groups."

From The Web of Language:

Secretary of Defense Bob Gates sees no irony in the fact that the military finds convicted felons and illiterates less morally problematic than well-educated homosexuals without so much as a parking ticket on their records who might actually be able to understand what the enemy is talking about (not to mention what our Iraqi “allies” are really saying). Gates insists that in drumming out the translators, the army is simply following the law, a law which he has no intention of reviewing.
It's long past time to review the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. As Barry Goldwater is reported to have said, “You don't need to be ‘straight' to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight.”

Dear Mr. President-Elect

You have a month and a half.

That's it: maybe six weeks. They'll go by like lightning. Use them wisely, and we'll rejoice. Not so wisely, and you'll fail to provide the optimal foundation for your new puppy's life. Even worse, you'll have a dog's lifetime to regret your failings.

Cabinet appointments? Forget 'em. [ For a minute, anyway.] I'm talking about socializing your puppy. Nothing, but nothing is more important.

"Oh, that!" you say. "Of course we'll socialize our dog."

Forgive me, Mr. President-Elect, but I said socializing your puppy.

Beyond 12 weeks, it's rehab, it's a wild goose chase, it's closing the barn door after the horse has not merely escaped but has disappeared for good. After 12 weeks you can call it whatever you like, but it isn't socialization.

I can't begin to tell you how important this is. You have until the puppy is 12 weeks old, maybe 14 weeks if you're lucky, to help him become the most happy, friendly, confident, and above all safe dog to be around, for the rest of his life and a good deal of yours.

And that's what every president needs, right? The last thing you want is a dog that will bite well-meaning reporters, or cower when foreign delegations arrive in unfamiliar outfits, or bolt in panic at the sight of an umbrella, or, God forbid, growl and snap at the poster child in a wheelchair or the elderly dignitary leaning on a cane.

So here's the drill, and it's a simple one: your pup must meet one hundred [very different] people by the time he's 12 weeks old. Friendly people, it goes without saying.

People of every size, shape, color and language group.
Men with beards.
Women with funny hats.
People in wheelchairs.
People on crutches.
People on bikes, skateboards, rollerblades.
People carrying ladders, tennis rackets, grocery bags, sporks, incense burners, surfboards, umbrellas, babies.
Sleeping babies.
Small, squirming, squealing babies.
Old people.

As Jean Donaldson says in her classic book Culture Clash [in Chapter 3 -- Socialization, Fear and Aggression -- a chapter that should be required reading for every person who ever plans to have anything to do with dogs], you don't want a dog that merely tolerates all these folks. Why would you settle for that, when you can have a relaxed, confident dog that enjoys them? Why would you want a dog that hides from your daughters' friends, or snaps at them, when you can have a dog that loves people and is reliably, happily, famously friendly and comfortable around them?

Don't worry that your puppy will catch horrible illnesses from spending so much time schmoozing, either. For one thing, if you keep the pup in your arms and -- this is important -- off lawns other dogs might have visited, he should be fine. For another thing:
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has written [...] that inadequate socialization leads to behavioral problems, including fear, avoidance and aggression. And behavioral problems are not just the primary reason dogs are dumped at shelters -- they also are the No. 1 cause of death for dogs younger than 3 years old.

"While puppies' immune systems are still developing during these early months, the combination of maternal immunity, primary vaccination and appropriate care makes the risk of infection relatively small compared to the chance of death from a behavior problem."
Huge thanks to Ian Dunbar for the "100 people by three months of age" mantra, and here's an example of how well it works:

A dear friend of mine got a border collie pup just over a year ago. Without socialization, border collies can be shy, suspicious, fearful, dangerously reactive and much worse -- trust me on this. So my friend, treats in hand [and pocket], set out to introduce her pup to 100 people by the time the pup reached three months of age. She did it, too. And on Halloween my friend dressed up her border collie and joined some neighborhood families, all in costume, as they walked their children from house to house. [Every Halloween our town blocks off a few streets for trick-or-treaters. No traffic -- just lots and lots of people.] The streets were filled with ninjas, pirates, princesses, dragons, robots and God knows what else. I personally know a few dogs that would still be running in wild-eyed terror if they'd come within a block of that celebration. My friend's border collie? He had a wonderful, confident, tail-wagging good time, and was greeted and petted by one and all. I'm sure he thought the whole thing was arranged just for him.

100 people by three months of age, Mr. President-Elect. Your dog and your family will thank you. So will everyone else. [Mention "100 people by 3 months" on your weekly radio address, sir, and I will personally come to your home and house-train the new pup for you. Hope to see you soon!]

The wonderful image above is from TiggerLarue's Pound Puppy Rescue set on Flickr: click here to see the original.

November 20, 2008

Of plague, a mountain lion, and an unlucky biologist

Not the plague cat: Shelby County's Mountain Lion. [Gloves, people! Protective respirators!]

And I thought dead rattlesnakes were the only things that could smite me from beyond the grave.
A wildlife biologist who was never trained about disease risks he could encounter while on the job died from the plague after handling a deceased lion without protective gear, according to a federal report.

The report [completed in May; released 19 Nov. 2008] by a National Park Service review board said Eric York, 37, didn't wear gloves or a protective respirator in October 2007 while handling and performing a necropsy on a mountain lion that had died of the plague.
Read the whole sad story here. York was involved in a mountain lion collaring program in Grand Canyon National Park and became ill after recovering the body of a collared lion.

An average of 10 to 15 persons are infected with plague in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC. The disease is usually associated with infected rats and rat fleas that live in the home, and is more common in rural areas: "in the United States, the last urban plague epidemic occurred in Los Angeles in 1924-25." [Yes, L.A. was urban then: 576,673 inhabitants in 1920.] Diamond Bar, an area threatened by the recent fires here in SoCal, suffered a plague outbreak in the 1970s. The Diamond Bar outbreak was traced to ground squirrels, the usual plague suspects in Southern California. But a fatal case of plague from handling a mountain lion...? Unheard of — until now.

Further reading:

CDC Plague Home Page

World Health Organization: Plague Fact Sheet

MedlinePlus Encyclopedia: Plague

Note to self: when collecting road kill specimens for county museum, remember to wear gloves.

H/T: Wildfire Today.

November 19, 2008

LIFE photo archive available on Google Image Search

From the LIFE photo archive: "Dog breeder Arthur N. Allen, whose border collie, Roy, won the North American Dog Society Championship 3 times in a row; here with potential future winner." 1961 photo by Robert W. Kelley. [They left a word out. It should be the North American — something, I'll think of it in a minute — Dog Society Championship... Ship? Ship Dog...? No... ]

Dude. The LIFE Magazine photo archive, all 10 million images, is going to be available on Google Image Search. From the Google Blog [with H/T to Lisa Gold, among others who've mentioned this]:
We're excited to announce the availability of never-before-seen images from the LIFE photo archive. This effort to bring offline images online was inspired by our mission to organize all the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. This collection of newly-digitized images includes photos and etchings produced and owned by LIFE dating all the way back to the 1750s.

Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints. We're digitizing them so that everyone can easily experience these fascinating moments in time. Today about 20 percent of the collection is online; during the next few months, we will be adding the entire LIFE archive — about 10 million photos.

That 20% should keep you busy enough for now.

November 15, 2008

"Escenario dantesco"

Night flight. Wind gusts were 70 mph. Photo by Mark J. Terrill via SFGate.

Huge suckage when a local disaster is sufficiently awful to rate coverage abroad along with descriptions like "a scene out of Dante." Yes, it's the annual burning of the California foothills, or, as the locals call it, autumn.

No way out. Roads and freeways were closed all over SoCal. Photo by Dan Steinberg, NY Times -- more photos at the link.

Some helpful websites:

SoCal Fires Liveblog at the Daily Kos has every phone number and link you might need -- road closures, evacuation centers, emergency hotlines, links to live video coverage and more.

Cal Fire Incident Information has just what it says.

CrisisWire has maps, the latest fire photos from Flickr, news links, more.

Los Angeles Fire Department Blog has news, emergency numbers, obligatory Twitter/Flickr/YouTube links.

Former Hot Shot Bill Gabbert is covering the fires over at his Wildfire Today blog. [OMG, even he has a post on that super-cute French kid. Most viral video evar.]

The Santa Barbara Independent has terrific coverage of the fire in Montecito with memorable images by staff photographer Paul Wellman. Below, two by Wellman: a yard ignites; and a resident pulls over to take one last look before evacuating his home. [More photos here. And say what you will about our Governator -- every damn fire season he at least has the decency to get his boots on the ground, talk with victims, thank firefighters, etc.]

Dante in Montecito.

November 12, 2008

Must adopt French child at once

Once upon a time... from Capucha on Vimeo.

H/T: Boing Boing. [Fave comment: "Good lord, that child should be locked up before her cuteness reaches some kind of critical mass and destroys the planet."]

November 11, 2008

On Veterans' Day, II

Left: President-elect Barack Obama hugged Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth after a wreath laying ceremony at the Bronze Soldiers Memorial in Chicago in honor of Veteran's Day. Ms. Duckworth is the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. [Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais.]

Two more links: from the NY Times, an article [with photos], Veterans Helped by Healing Paws: service dogs give hope, and help, to wounded veterans. The article profiles three severely disabled veterans and their service dogs.
In the Army, we have this thing called a battle buddy. You never go anywhere by yourself, and you always take your battle buddy because they are there to protect you and you are there to protect them. It’s the same concept with a service dog.
And over at the most excellent SmartDogs' Weblog, Janeen writes about the US War Dogs Association - Helping our Four-Legged Veterans.
Today, war dogs are being used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan and although the military has made concessions about allowing them to return home, most of their futures are uncertain. To honor their dedication and sacrifice, the men who served as handlers for these four-legged soldiers established the U.S. War Dog Association.
Read the entire post here.

Blog love: Worms & Germs

How can you not love a blog with posts like Stupid things done with bats and Woman pecked by magpie loses leg and Cleaning up raccoon latrines? Worms & Germs is one creepy fascinating website. Smart, too: it's brought to us by the Ontario Veterinary College's Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses and the City of Hamilton Public Health Department, and the focus of the blog is zoonotic diseases. [Check out their Resources page.]

Today the W&G post is about dog bites. Excerpt:
A study was recently published in the Veterinary Record (O'Sullivan et al, 2008, volume 163) describing 234 dog bites in people in Ireland. Dog owners and victims of dog bites were interviewed to characterize the incidents. Bites were divided into 2 categories: bites to the dogs' owner(s) and bites to someone who didn't own the dog. Here are some parts of the study that I found interesting:

*A large number of dog breeds were involved. The breeds most commonly involved in bites were also the most common breeds in the country, indicating that higher bite numbers for certain breeds were a reflection of the breed popularity, not a breed-associated propensity to bite.
Read the rest of the post here. Weird trivia: "24% of owners and 22% of non-owners were bitten on a Wednesday." Unreal. Forget BSL -- Ireland needs to ban Hump Day.

W&G now has a sibling-blog devoted to horses: EquID Blog. Thanks to Drs. Scott Weese and Maureen Anderson for coordinating these often cringe-inducing and always informative websites.

Such cute dogs! And such a deal!

How do I love the Unexpected Pit Bull calendar? Let me count the ways: January, February, March... 365! Admit it, pit bulls have the most lovable smooshy-faces of any dogs in the entire universe, and the Unexpected Pit Bull calendar has totally wonderful photos of smooshalicious pibbles.

Pre-order your calendar today and you'll save 10%. And did I mention that all, I repeat all proceeds go to pit bull rescue and advocacy groups? Every last penny. I order a few of these great calendars every year and love em a lot. A fine calendar and a worthy cause — it's a win-win situation! Take care of your Christmas shopping early and order today.

On Veterans' Day

Marine Staff Stg. John Jones. Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, via HuffPost.

The VA estimated that in 2007 it took an average of six months to reach an initial decision on a benefits claim [...] and processing appeals takes years.

"This is a national embarrassment," said [attorney Robert E.] Cattanach, a Navy veteran with a son who has served two Army tours in Iraq. "Every day that goes by that this isn't fixed, people's lives are being changed," he said, recalling his effort to obtain benefits for a veteran who committed suicide before his case was resolved. [Source: today's WaPo. Full article here.]
An excellent proposal from hilzoy:
While a veteran's disability claim is being processed, that veteran doesn't get disability. S/he has to live on a fraction of his or her active duty pay, which would be OK for someone who could get another job, but is not at all OK for someone who is disabled. As I wrote last June, it doesn't have to be this way: rather than putting the burden on vets to prove their disability, we could presume that their disability claims were true, and then audit a subset of them, the way we do with taxes. (This is an idea I got from Linda Bilmes, here.) That way, vets would get the money they are entitled to from the outset, rather than having to live off friends and family while the VA slogs through their mountains of paperwork.
This is the least we owe our nation's veterans. "On this Veterans Day, let us rededicate ourselves to keep a sacred trust with all who have worn the uniform of the United States of America: that America will serve you as well as you have served your country." [Barack Obama]

November 10, 2008

Verbing nouns

Screen grab [and H/T]: the most excellent swissmiss.

Whattaya mean, I can't use hemorrhage as a verb? Oh, sorry — haemorrhage. Too bad I didn't read the section on Americanisms before I took the quiz. You can test your language chops at The Economist's style guide for journalists, where gerunds get the respect they deserve and commas know their place. A sample:
In general, be concise.Try to be economical in your account or argument (“The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out”—Voltaire). Similarly, try to be economical with words. “As a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigour it will give to your style.” (Sydney Smith) Raymond Mortimer put it even more crisply when commenting about Susan Sontag: “Her journalism, like a diamond, will sparkle more if it is cut.”
In other writing-about-language news: Barbara Wallraff has a fine new blog over at the Atlantic — check it out. [And for the record, Merriam-Webster says hemorrhage is a noun and a verb. *iz smug*]

November 8, 2008

I LOL'ed

From The Root, where you'll find some terrific writing from Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alice Walker and others, in a special section in honor of our President-Elect.

My first [and last] "Caturday" post

Maru the cat at play. L'oeuvre de Maru. [H/T: Boing Boing.]

When can I move in?

And where should I put the sheep? Float cabin photo from materialicious.

I love materialicious. Check out a few of the homes and links Justin has featured lately:

This cabin was built on an exposed postglacial archipelago in Canada’s Georgian Bay. Interior view:

Monte-Silo, from gigaplex Architects.

I love this house. Lots more photos at the gigaplex Architects link.

Justin Anthony's materialicious has two sibling-blogs: the totally addictive workalicious and the ever-so-tantalizing stair p**n. Mmm, stairs:

All three blogs feature architecture from around the world and great links, including this humble favorite: The Tiny House Blog. Enjoy.

November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008: Fanfare for the [un]common man

Give a listen to Aaron Copeland's Fanfare for the common man, performed by the United States Marine Band. From the collection of the Library of Congress — good music to vote by.

November 2, 2008

The Red Vote

Author Sherman Alexie explains to Stephen Colbert why 90% of American Indians Native Americans our nation's indigenous peoples are voting for Obama.

[H/T: The Unapologetic Mexican.]

November 1, 2008

Happy Día de Muertos!

Death takes a holiday, plans a party. No rest for the wicked, right, Fake America? Calaveras by you know who.

It's Days of the Dead, actually: November 1 [Día de todos santos] and November 2 [Día de los fieles difuntos]. Day of All Saints and Day of All Souls. None of that "you can sleep when you're dead," either. The dead are muy ocupados following the paths of marigold petals from one altar to another, from one harvest festival to another, world without end, amen. So round up a few armloads of marigolds - cempoalxóchitl, the Nahua flower of death and remembrance, the color of the south, where souls go - and build an ofrenda; celebrate the satirical work of the graphic artist José Guadalupe Posada; eat well; grab life with both hands, and remember to set the clocks back. ¡Viva la vida!

Altar de muertos [homenaje a - ¿Quién más? - Posada].

Children's Procession, San Francisco, CA.

Communicating from beyond the grave. ["Can you hear me now?"]

A fave: Pia and dagger [part of this Flickr set].

In Los Angeles, CA:
Festival De La Gente
Día de Muertos at Self Help Graphics

Lame-duck Bush to planet: "Drop dead"

What was once Kayford Mountain, West Virginia. [Source: Julie Zickefoose.]

Just how much harm would the Bush/Cheney administration like to inflict on the environment before a new [and, one hopes, vastly better] administration takes office? A world of hurt:
The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January.

The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines [see photo above] and farms [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations].

Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.

Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.
Par for the course, I guess:
"And [Bush] said, ‘History,’ and then he took his hands out of his pocket and kind of shrugged and extended his hands as if this is a way off. And then he said, ‘History, we don’t know. We’ll all be dead.’”

More Sadness for Appalachia

Shameless: The Bush deregulatory Free-for-all

Bush’s Last-Minute Rule Making Has Environmental Implications [Plugged in my zip code and discovered that Southern California Edison - my provider - buys coal from companies engaged in mountaintop removal. In every sense, this concerns me. It concerns all of us - so let's do something about it.]