Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Natural history

No, it ain't the pelepolonian war.

Stolen from the interwebs
Natural history is the observational study of nature. To “do” natural history is to observe and catalog what is. This is the part of science that comes first, before any hypothesis, experiment or theory.

A few of these pictures are worth (imho) clicking on to bignify.

REALITY. Annual sunflower, Helianthus annuus

These days most folks think -- or appear to think -- that science is all about certainty and absolutes and answers. I don’t want to get too bogged down here in detail and long-winded definitions, but science is none of those things. Science is simply the never ending journey of trying to understand what our universe is and how it works.
NOT REALITY. Not even close.

Before scientists in lab coats can venture into the laboratory to make the smoke, fire, and breakthroughs which lead to publication in peer-reviewed journals, fame, glory and government funding, they have to start with the basics. They have to start with what is.

Scarlet phase prairie coneflower, Ratibida columnifera

Natural history is where you find the “what is.”

The “what is” is reality. It’s the stuff that actually exists. The stuff that really exists is often different than the stuff that is “supposed” to exist, or the stuff the “experts” tell you exists, or the stuff that you wish existed.
Real flower on a real ranch

Here’s  an example of what I mean. I recently looked into participating in a government conservation program. It looked like a good way to leverage some of my tax dollars back into conserving the land and ecosystem asset of the ranch. At the end of the day I chose not to participate because there was far too much risk and uncertainty wrapped up in the program. But that’s neither here nor there.

One element of the program was to plant pollinators to attract and sustain bees and other insects. Good idea. The requirement was to plant at least three species of plants which flowered in each of the three parts of the growing season, spring, summer, and fall. Good idea. I mentioned in passing that as as there were already abundant multi-season pollinators present all over the ranch, the challenge would be to find and introduce new, or at least underrepresented, pollinators.

At which point the expert advised me that I was wrong. A book was pulled out, proving that there were in fact no pollinators present on the ranch.
No real flowers, no real ranches. Experten mit Bücher auf den Regalen.
If you take my meaning here, you will get the point. The pollinators which actually do exist on the ranch are real, and represent the reality of “what is.” The book represents a fiction. A fantasy. The book is paper and ink and exists on a shelf in an office. It is not the “what is” that exists and lives every single day on the pastures and rangeland of the ranch.
Woolly Verbena, Verbena stricta

That’s the real point. Reality is what is. Natural history is the study of reality, the study of what is. Period.

Natural history is one of the things I do. That doesn’t make me a godlike scientist of letters. I’m just a fellow who observes and catalogs and applies rigorous reasoning to hypotheses. In some sense all of us are natural historians, or are at least equipped with the fundamental tools of the natural historian. We each have five senses which we constantly use to investigate our surroundings. We each have a brain, reasoning power and some level of curiosity. Add to these things a systematic and rigorous way of observing and cataloging our observations and, Voila! Natural historian!
Purple prairie clover, Dalea purpurea, with sweat bees, probably Augochloropsis metalica

Farmers and ranchers are accomplished natural historians.

They observe nature every single day. They keep records. They quickly learn that nature is ever changing, never the same.

They see how tiny changes in one part of nature affect the whole of nature.

They understand that there is often an enormous difference between what is and what is supposed to be or what is wished to be or what is demanded to be.

All real natural historians are okay with what is. They’re not terrified of what is, don’t descend into screaming fits of fear and rage when nature doesn’t behave as they wish.

Another way to describe natural historians, I suppose, is grown up.

That’s not to say that I, or farmers and ranchers as a cohort, or natural historians in general, are perfect, godlike creatures who see and interact with reality on a plane far above that inhabited by mere mortals.

Of course not. We’re just people, and like people everywhere have the capacity to be right and wrong, weak and strong, honest and dishonest. I think most of us try pretty hard to be rigorous and honest, though, and most of us are perhaps less susceptible to falling for false narratives. Not because we are better, in any sense, than our fellows. But because we’re fortunate to live in and experience reality every single day. In that sense we farmers and ranchers are simply blessed.

Why does any of this natural history business matter?

For one thing, finding stuff out is fun. For another, finding stuff out helps us survive and prosper and and guard ourselves against disaster.

Hmmm. Guard ourselves against disaster.

Let’s think about that.

If you pay attention to the common narrative, and if you have some small measure of sense, skepticism, and experience, you can’t help but notice that the world is not always the same as it is commonly reported to be.

There are a lot of swindlers out there who rely on fiction and invention to keep themselves in the style to which they’ve become accustomed. Farmers and ranchers know this because every day they stand accused by swindlers of horrendous crimes. Destroying the environment. Murdering innocent animals. Poisoning children. Causing a plague of pestilence and disease.

The swindlers point to fantastic -- that is to say, invented -- evidence. Farmers and ranchers know and understand that the evidence is invented. They know this because they live and exist in reality, not in ink and paper on a shelf somewhere, and not in weighted computer models or in the fevered fantasy world propounded by swindlers.

But what of the non-farmers and non-ranchers? How can they know the difference between reality and fantasy if they do not live on farms and ranches?

What about those who do not live and deal directly with every other narrative crisis du jour propounded by the swindlers? Global warming. Population explosion. Terrorism. Racism. Gun violence. Federal spending. European debt crisis. Nuclear Iran.

As it turns out, there’s an app for that. It’s called the rigorous and honest pursuit of natural history.

Good luck.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Shootin' 010

Yesterday I sent my farmer/rancher friend from Herefordshire* a couple of whatsapp videos featuring my trusty Colt M-4 (actually an LEC, the non-selective fire version, but it's my story and I'll tell it the way I wanna). The rifle was being fired by some fat guy.

I thought Elwyn and his friends and neighbors might enjoy seeing a genuine black rifle in all its legal and proper glory.

He wondered whether I needed to have a license and if so, whether it had to be periodically renewed. I responded with a bit about the 2nd amendment and the Constitution. He also wondered how much it cost to shoot.

The answer to that one is about 17 cents per round for the 5.56.

Most importantly, he asked why I didn't show him the target!  :)

Well, I'm just learning this video-graffy stuff. Today I shot the target getting shot, and did a nice little bumbling informational video. Since I'm pretty shy, I had the fat guy stand in for me in front of the camera.

And therefore without further adudes, voila!

Have a great day!

*if ya'll is a kounty kommissar or kounty klark, Herefordshire is in England, and no, that ain't out thar by boston

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dragon Fly Zed and hook a brother up

I was out doing July range and pasture photo monitoring this morning when I came across this fellow skimming above a stock tank.

He appears to be a Twelve-spotted skimmer, Libellula putchella. Very pretty and surprisingly patient with my efforts to photograph him.

What's that? Of course I had my camera with me. I'm never without my trusty new camera. Just like I'm never without my pistol.

Except for this morning, when I had my camera but did not have my trusty Smith & Wesson Shield. That's right, I was running around with a camera and an empty holster. I did have a rifle along though, so I wasn't completely nekkid.

Some of you may recall Chris Kennedy, who made a couple of gust posts here regarding terrorism and his navy career.

Chris is a writer of highly entertaining science fiction tales, and he offers readers an interesting opportunity to appear in one (or possibly more) of his stories.

Those interested can submit their name and subsequently appear as a "Red Shirt" in one of Chris' books. The term "Red Shirt" hearkens back to the old Star Trek television series, where a long list of red shirted crewmen met generally grisly ends at a rate of one per episode.

As you might imagine, Chris' Red Shirts face a similar fate. Which is pretty cool -- an opportunity to have your name immortalized in print and to have the character bearing that name slaughtered in some memorable fashion.

Except Chris has decided to let a few Red Shirts survive. My name finally made the cut for the next novel, and he recently sent me an email offering my Red Shirt character a slim chance at survival.

Who will die? Who will live?

Turns out that it's up to the folks who cast votes. Thumbs up? Thumbs down? Will Shaun "Lucky" Evertson survive the experience? Or will he have his brain slurped out by aliens or succumb to some other nasty fate?

Turns out it's all up to ya'll. You can go here if you wish to participate.

It'll be fun either way.

And you might find some fun books to read.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Interesting topic over at Sarge's Place, which I read as a discussion about why "gubmint" is off the rails.

Now interestingly, I just happen to be presently dealing with local gubmint that's gone completely off the rails.

Or, if you prefer (as I do):

Don't really want to get into the details now, though I guarantee I will in the near future. Suffice to say that after the meeting I had earlier today, face to face with openly unprincipled and dishonest politicians, bureaucrats and professional government victims, I needed to take a stinging hot shower, scrub down with lysol, and drink a quart of bleach.

As disgusting as the slime is, the problem facing our nation isn't slime. Slime is as slime does. The problem is the sheer number of sovereign American citizens who are perfectly content to let the slime exist and multiply.

Still, it's a bad feeling to look at those people and realize that they don't see you -- in fact cannot see you -- as a sovereign citizen. Nope, in the eyes of the slime you're just a thing, an object to be manipulated.

Need me another quart of bleach just now.

Anyway, on to the main attraction. The B-58 Hustler. Invented to irradiate slime with the MK53BA. Ahh, nostalgia.


And some pretty cool videos...

Have a great American Day, fellow Sovereigns! Stand by to go weps free on slimy scumbags!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A walk on the non-linear wild side

Who remembers the old Virginia Slims television ads? Who, for that matter, remembers televised tobacco ads? It's true, it's true! Such things used to exist. Here's a fave:

Let's not forget smokeless tobacco. Walt Garrison and Earl Campbell.

But I was talking about Virginia, wasn't I? Virginia and her slim, sophisticated smoke. I always liked Virginia.

Virginia's not the only one to have come a long way.

Last Saturday marked the end of America's 239th trip around the sun. Let's think about that for a minute. Our planet orbits Sol with a velocity of roughly 67,000 mph, which ballparks out to 585,000,000 miles per year. Times 239 equals pretty close to 140 billion miles.

What? that's all?

Well… Probably not. Sol isn't exactly standing still. The stars in our neck of the Milky Way are orbiting the galactic center at about 140 (there's that number again!) miles per second. We earthlings, at least those of us who exist in reality, are along for the ride. Whither goest the sun, goest also the earth, after all. So, 140x60x60x24x365.25x239 equals....

Yeah. 1,055,917,296,000 miles. One trillion, fifty-five billion, nine-hundred-seventeen million, two-hundred-ninety-six thousand miles since July 4, 1776.

So how far is that in some kind of reasonable perspective? Well, it's about one-twentieth of the straight line (kinda-sorta, more or less) distance between Sol and her closest stellar neighbor in the Alpha Centauri star system.

If we hopped in a car that could do 140 miles per second and had enough fuel on board, it would take us the better part of 5,000 years to tool on over to Proxima for a picnic.

Sometimes it's fun and useful to think about scale and context. It helps put things in perspective.

But many people are afraid of or hostile to scale and perspective.

I'm glad I don't share that terrorized, rabbity viewpoint.

Shortening days

The days are shortening up now though it’s just the second week of July and summer hasn’t hit full stride yet. The weather is warm and sunny, the days are mostly hot, but the nights are cool, and that’s something to be thankful for. It’s not too dry, either. It’s a summer to savor.

At 5 a.m. dawn is coming fast and the east horizon is tinged with an orange glow where the sun will soon appear. I stand at the highest point of the EJE, an unimpressive hill in the southwest corner of a section of native prairie.

As I look out over the lush (for once) High Plains, it occurs to me that I’m a lucky fellow. Not many folks in America have the opportunity to stand in the midst of such natural beauty each morning, let alone go to work each day on a ranch they love. I’m afraid I tend to take my good fortune far too much for granted.

I’ve been all over the world. I’ve seen and done some amazing things. But this place has always been home, and I’ve never wanted another one. Maybe that has do with the way I grew up.

As a youngster I trompped the prairies far and wide, and though I didn't realize it at the time, I learned a lot.

Witnessing the changes the seasons brought, seeing the effect of precipitation or lack of it, learning the names of plants and animals in their thousands of variations, none of these prepared me for a life on Wall Street or to be the President of a University.

But they did show me the way the world works. Nature is a very cool place.

In spending enough time on the prairie, watching and seeing, touching, smelling, listening and even tasting, I began to understand the world and my place in it.

On a recent excursion I hiked for miles through the prairie, up and down hills and draws and across wide, smooth grassy swales. I carried a forty pound rucksack and the warm sense of my good fortune. Few people in the world get to walk the prairie.

I sat down against a big rock on the east wall of a draw, in partial shade, wind in my face, and just enjoyed.

It was a hot day and I was sweaty and sore. I'd taken a tumble earlier when I stepped on a big rock that was less stable than I imagined.

But the ever-present prairie breeze wafted through the draw and wicked away the sweat on my brow, cooling my body and delighting my skin.

The breeze brought the summer scent of hot prairie; volatiles from grass and sumac and yucca and all the other plants. There was the smell of death, too; something had expired upwind. Not pleasant, but reality in the wholeness of the prairie.

Insects droned and birds skittered about; swallows and meadowlarks and cowbirds. Killdeer dashed back and forth at the bottom of the draw where some dampness remained from earlier rains.

Overhead, the brilliant blue sky was half filled with white batting clouds growing gray and fat with rain for someone else.

I heard a scratching sound, rocks trickled, and four antelope meandered past atop the opposite bank, forty feet away, nibbling their lazy way along while pausing to sniff the breeze and missing me entirely.

The water that I'd packed along in my rucksack was warm but tasted delightful. Kimball County water slaked the driving thirst produced by tramping up and down the hills of the Kimball County prairie.

The day inched along and I listened and felt and smelled and tasted and watched and experienced.

There are riches and honors; fame and fortune galore in the world. And hate and famine and fratricide and the evil deeds of egocentric humans.

And there are peaceful moments in quiet, beautiful places that sing a song of deep contentment.

The religion of peas will save us all from dirty girls

For all the AILOs* out there, look at these dirty peekchures and do the math. If you believe all that crap you spout about the "religion of peas is just like us, man, only better" then you're doing it wrong. And you're a mouth-breathing idiot. And I keep trying to think of reasons why you shouldn't have your collective esophagii ripped out, but I'm coming up short.

Iranian woman at the beach, 1960 S
Co-eds, University of Teheran, 1971. S
University of Teheran, 1971. S
Teheran Twist, 1967. S
Kabul, Afghanistan, 1970. S
You imbeciles are doing it wrong. How 'bout get off your ass and start acting like real Americans?

Have a nice day.

While your man-crush buddies continue to rape, murder and enslave women 'round the entire world (dee-troyt and chicongo too!)

*AILO = American In Location Only

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Epic July 4 greeting

Methinks some of my AILO (American In Location Only) friends and neighbors could take a lesson.

Elwyn is a farmer/rancher friend of mine from Herefordshire.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Corpsman Chronicles VII: No Slack in Light Attack

Sarge has a 2014 BugBall video up at his place.

Great video. Those Hornet guys and gals are superb.

They stand on the shoulders of giants.

Hey, I'm olden. And I'm in this video in three (count 'em THREE!) places.