Science and Sarcasm
30 September 2005
Circus of the Spineless #1 has hatched

Circus of the SpinelessTony, Nuthatch and Urban Dragon Hunters have collaborated to bring us the new, monthly Circus of the Spineless carnival celebrating invertebrate animals. Tony has spent a lot of elbow grease putting the inaugural edition together. He's listed 54 posts from across the blogosphere. 54! Some were submitted by their authors, others were selected without the authors lifting a finger (like one from this very blog). If this first collection is any indicator, you three have got your work cut out for you...

29 September 2005
Au Sable River Fishing Report [22 September 2005]

B and I were fortunate enough to spend last Thursday streamer fishing the Au Sable main branch with author and veteran guide Bob Linsenman. The weather was mostly overcast and occasionally quite rainy, we were teamed up with a fishing and writing expert and his sturdy drift boat, so we expected a fully rewarding experience. And we did have a great day on the river. The trip was arranged earlier this spring as a birthday present for B, so we had been looking forward to this day with Bob for a few months. B had made arrangements to stay at Gates' Lodge for the long weekend while we enjoyed both the Au Sable and Manistee rivers.

A learning momentWe both enjoy Bob's writing and recognize his vast experience and expertise in a trout stream. We own and have read most of Bob's books on various technical flyfishing subjects and we tend to flip to his magazine articles first. Though his books are mostly focused on the 'how-to' and 'where-to' aspects of fly fishing, his shorter stories and essays appearing in magazines are often lighter, humorous and are often a delightful mixture of actual experience and fictional embellishment. He's currently working on a novel. We found him to be just as witty and knowledgeable in person as he appears on the page. We've fished with guides a couple of times before and have had great times, with or without catching a lot of fish. But this float trip provided a level of flyfishing and intellectual satisfaction and comfort well beyond those experiences. I've added Bob to my personal short list of favorite flyfishing acquaintances that I'd hang out with again - in a heartbeat - if given the chance.

Admittedly, B and I have not fished the Au Sable River as much as obsessive-compulsive, flyfishing Michigan residents should. Though we certainly appreciate its beauty and large fish population, we've also found it to be slightly more popular and busier than we normally prefer - with both fishermen and canoe traffic. However, I think we enjoyed the river sufficiently on this trip to overlook any volume of other folks sharing the stream. After a couple of days on the 'big water,' we both commented that we expect more frequent trips to the lower Au Sable in the not-so-distant future. We had never really explored very far below the confluence of the South and Main branches and found the larger portions of this river, below Mio, to be absolutely spellbinding. The gorgeous and 'fishy-looking' water of the bigger river is plentiful and it's clear that stories of huge and healthy trout lurking in every deep, dark pool and logjam are probably accurate.

Like most other Michigan streams his fall, the Au Sable's water levels have been well-below average. For the bulk of September, the river has been flowing at about 50-60% of its normal volume - so the water was low and clear for our long weekend of fishing. Low and clear is not usually predictive of good fishing, but we did have the overcast and cloudy skies on our side.

The end of a fun day with Bob LinsenmanWe met Bob at his fly shop, then followed him to our put-in at M-33 in Mio. B strung up her 9'6" fast-action 7 weight rod with a long 25' heavy sink-tip line. I rigged my 9' super-stiff Lamiglas 6 weight with a similary heavy and long 250-grain sink tip line. We anticipated a day of chucking big chickadee- and kitten-sized streamers and needed long heavy sink tips to get them down quickly and to keep them down during our jerk-strip retrieves. We also rigged up a couple of lighter 5 weight rods with floating line in case we decided to switch to dry flies or nymphs during our float. We loaded our gear into Bob's big aluminum drift boat and shoved off. B and I started casting immediately as we were drifted along a very nice looking run within seconds from the boat ramp.

We drifted downstream with birthday-girl B in the front and I in the back of the boat. Bob deftly maneuvered the boat downriver into optimized lanes for casting toward the left or right or both sides simultaneously. He directed one or both of us to switch sides frequently as we came upon extra-likely pools, runs and riffles - we quickly followed his orders realizing the knowledge and experience speaking. Two other boats were drifting this same section on Thursday - one from Bob's shop and another by a guide that Bob knew. All 3 boats leap-frogged each other downriver - we recognized the couples in the other two boats as others staying at Gates Lodge with us. We casted stacked blondes, madonnas, bunny-strip leaches, wooly buggers, trick-or-treats, and JJ specials among other big good-looking flies. Before long, the skies darkened and a light rain began to fall. Bob suggested donning our rain jackets. I appreciated his attentiveness to our comfort. I suspect he recognized our hyper-focused, obsessive fishing demeanors, having been there himself, and correctly assumed that we'd forget things like rain jackets, food, oxygen and bathroom breaks were it not for his sane reminders. At many points during the day, he'd question whether or not our shoulders, arms and/or hands were cramped, realizing that throwing heavy lines and big, wind-resistant streamers can take a physical toll after awhile. Oh sure, our limbs got tired and sore, but we really didn't want to stop and waste this valuable fishing opportunity. We were OK with paying for it later. After the rain stopped, we pulled into the Meadow Springs access and Bob whipped up a very satisfying lunch of grilled pork chops, potato salad and cole slaw to warm and re-energize us. After a short rest, we were ready to get back to the river and, hopefully, to the fish.

The end of a fun day on the riverWhen passing a really nice-looking pool, Bob would occasionally mutter, "Come on baby. Come on fish..." I imagined this was usually because he had a long and personal relationship with its residents, so I paid particular attention to casting well at those points. Bob was very complimentary of our casting and our persistence, though both features had declined over the course of the day. We moved quite a few fish, some really nice ones. I had a rainbowy-looking fish of maybe 16" or so chase my fly briefly, but I did not lead him far enough into temptation. We hooked and caught maybe 8-10 browns and rainbows in the 12" range and had a quite a few short strikes. I caught one small brookie by the wrong end. Coming in backwards, he initially convinced us that he was a larger fish. We didn't catch any fish bigger than 12-13" but we did bag a grand slam - catching rainbows, browns and the one little brookie. Bob and B at least got to see a really big fish. It was a gigantic brown trout that Bob guessed weighed maybe 10 lbs. or so. I missed the whole thing since I was casting off the other side of the boat. I just heard the simultaneous "Oh MY GOD!! Hoe. Lee. SHIT!" exclaimations as the big fish came into the clear and smashed the surface after something. We dropped anchor for a few minutes to regain composure and take a few casts toward his location. Without results.

As we neared our take-out at Comins Flats, the sun was retreating over the horizon but I was wishing the day wouldn't end. Trying to prolong the experience, I even got a second wind of sorts and my casting started to improve after it had declined from my overworked arm muscles. Bob beached the boat and I reluctantly got out and packed up my gear. We were tired; there was no denying it. We never switched to our smaller rods or smaller flies; we had continuously chucked big flies on heavy lines for 7 or 8 hours. My body was sore and tired, especially my right arm, shoulder and hand. And my brain too. I had been focusing intensely on my fly in the water all day. It was a good variety of tired though. The best. A happy, satsfied tired. I decided a couple of thngs - that I want to fish this stretch of river many more times, and I definitely want to fish again with Bob.

Things I learned

  • A little fish in the trophy water is a 12-incher
  • I've been attaching my leader loop to my fly line loop backwards
  • A new knot for tying on streamers - it leaves a loop for better action
  • Shupac and his friends did an awesome job of river-cleanup

Visible scars : one finger blister
Wildlife sightings: 3 Pileated woodpeckers, Belted kingfishers, an osprey with a fish bigger than ours, a grouse, wood ducks, Red-breasted mergansers, unidentified flycatchers and a mink
Rating of dinner at the AuSable River Restaurant in Mio: 1.5 stars out of 4
Did I get to use a spey rod?: No
Enjoyment grade for the day: A+++

28 September 2005
I and the Bird #7 is headed this way...

IATBDave at BirdTLC is hosting today's chapter of the I and the Bird blogging carnival. Dave has done another swell job presenting quite a few stories from blogs I already know and frequent regularly and from a few new ones I'm looking forward to knowing better. Friends Nuthatch, Tony, Pamela, Cindy and Mike have submitted great posts again as have notable regulars Hedwig the Owl, Clare from the Arctic Bay, Charlie and Dave, today's host.

I have the job of hosting the next installment of IATB, so start thinking of your next birdy blogging subjects and send them along before October 11.

27 September 2005
Twenty-third Post Meme

Via Pharyngula, Thomasburg Walks and A DC Birding Blog:

1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

Here's the fifth sentence from my 23rd post, written on April 9, 2005 on National Geographic Magazine's 'Crane Cam':

We have quite a few around my home and quite a few pairs now stick around to nest in the area each summer.

Riveting, eh?

Judge rules gay couples can receive health insurance

The decision was announced late this afternoon. Here's the Detroit Free Press article:

LANSING - An Ingham County judge ruled Tuesday that Michigan's ban against gay marriage does not prevent public employers from providing health insurance to partners of gay employees.

Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk said health care benefits are benefits of employment, not marriage.

"Today's ruling affirms what we've believed all along - Michigan voters never intended to take health insurance away from families," said Deborah LaBelle, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.


From the ACLU of Michigan's press release this afternoon:


In the opinion, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Joyce Dragonchuk makes it clear that the constitutional amendment does not impact domestic partner benefits. “Health care benefits are not among the statutory rights or benefits of marriage. An individual does not receive health care benefits for his or her spouse as a matter of legal right upon getting married. Judge Dragonchuk goes on to write, “Health care benefits for a spouse are benefits of employment, not benefits of marriage.”

“We’re hopeful that Governor Granholm will reinstate domestic partner benefits as part of the negotiated contract between the state and its employees as she has previously indicated she would,” said Jay Kaplan, Staff Attorney for the LGBT Project of the ACLU.


How this could be decided any other way is beyond my imagination. But I also could not imagine why anyone would vote for Proposal 2 last November. However, I am relieved for this little victory...

26 September 2005
Well said

The always-articulate Rana over at Frogs and Ravens has a few words about the failures, disappointment and that simultaneously bland and icky after-taste the Democratic Party has provided to the liberal-minded population over the past few years. Her sentiments resonate with me. Here's her introduction (but definitely go read the whole thing):

I'm feeling tired, and I'm feeling cranky. Some of this is inadequate sleep, but a lot of it is bone-deep frustration with the ongoing discussion about Democratic Party strategy that is permeating the blogosphere these days.

First things first. I am a Green.

I am therefore a member of a rival party. I am also a lefty feminist gay-friendly, tree-hugging, civil liberties defending, anti-racism, pro-multiculturalism, over-educated intellectual progressive.

I know what I stand for. I know what kind of world I want to live in. I have a positive vision of the future, even in my deepest, darkest moments of despair.


25 September 2005
Theocon-administered kleptocracy...

Michael Bérubé's words, not mine, but I like them. He also tears Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) a new one...

via Creek Running North.

We're back ...

B and I headed north for a long weekend of trout fishing. I had expected to have access to the internets while we were away so I could blog and stay in touch, but alas, it was not so. I apologize for my deficient posting.

I'll post details over the next couple of days but here's the short outline:

  • serious long days of potato digging and sampling Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so that I could take the rest of the week off for...
  • a float trip with Bob Linsenman, famous author and fly fishing guide, on Thursday
  • other fishing-related adventures on the Manistee and Au Sable Rivers on Friday and Saturday
  • I sped home Sunday morning for an early soccer game while B stayed and fished some more
  • We fished hard every day and I've got the blisters to prove it. We did have a great time. I'll post more soon...

    20 September 2005
    'Follow the academic' meme....

    OK, here goes nothin'...

    The following survey is for bloggers who are actual or aspiring academics (thus including students). It takes the form of a go-meme to provide bloggers a strong incentive to join in: the 'Link List' means that you will receive links from all those who pick up the survey 'downstream' from you. The aim is to create open-source data about academic blogs that is publicly available for further analysis. Analysts can find the data by searching for the tracking identifier-code: "acb109m3m3". Further details, and eventual updates with results, can be found on the original posting:

    Simply copy and paste this post to your own blog, replacing my survey answers with your own, as appropriate, and adding your blog to the Link List.

    Important (1) Your post must include the four sections: Overview, Instructions, Link List, and Survey. (2) Remember to link to every blog in the Link List. (3) For tracking purposes, your post must include the following code: acb109m3m3

    Link List (or 'extended hat-tip'):
    1. Philosophy, et cetera
    2. Pharyngula
    3. evolgen
    4. Science and Sarcasm
    5. [Add a link to your blog here]

    Age - 42!
    Gender - Female
    Location - Central Michigan, USA
    Religion - No, thank you.
    Began blogging - March 2005
    Academic field - Biology (Agronomy and Soil Science)
    Academic position [tenured?] - Staff and graduate student [someday...]

    Approximate blog stats
    Rate of posting - 4-5 times per week
    Average no. hits - about 60-80/day
    Average no. comments - 0-2/post
    Blog content - Natural science, lefty politics

    Other Questions
    1) Do you blog under your real name? Why / why not?
    No, anonymity is my preference for now. I have too many bosses who may not approve of my opinions or even the fact that I have a blog. This, of course, is none of their business. Anonymity is my insurance that it stays that way.

    2) Do colleagues or others in your department know that you blog? If so, has anyone reacted positively or negatively?
    Nope. That's also my preference.

    3) Are you on the job market?
    Not for a couple of years.

    4) Do you mention your blog on your CV or other job application material?
    No. I prefer to separate my blog writing and my academic life.

    5) Has your blog been mentioned at all in interviews, tenure reviews, etc.? If so, provide details.
    No, they are not aware of it. By design.

    6) Why do you blog?
    I like to write about non-work topics once in awhile. I think this helps my writing in general, both technical and non-tecnical writing improves. I have opinions to share, friends and family to inform, new blogger relationships to find and develop...

    19 September 2005
    The Accidental Birdist

    I had a pretty good birding day on Saturday, even though I stayed inside the house for nearly the entire day. Have you ever had this experience? Every time you pass a window, there's some cool nature exhibit in the yard? That's how my Saturday went...

    We've had an extrordinarily high amount of Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) traffic at the nectar feeder on our back porch this summer. In recent years, we've typically had a pair of hummers or a family in the general vicinity who we'd observe at the feeder every few days. But this summer, I think the Hummer family was nesting in the small tree immediately adjacent to the house and so ended up frequenting the feeder a lot more than usual. Or perhaps there was more than one pair in the area. This summer, their thin 'chippy' little voices were regular features of our backyard. We've heard and seen them zipping about in the yard, survived them zinging close to our heads, and we've seen them around the porch and feeder every day. Anyway, that's a long intro for my point - there were hummers loading up on sugar-water at the feeder almost every time I passed by the big glass back door on Saturday. I enjoyed stopping to watch them several times as I poked around in the house. I was working on a research proposal and on designing a new doghouse for Dylan - I'm an amateur engineer-wannabe. I had plenty of occasions to get up from my desk, walk around and stare out the back door. These hummers are relatively bold, continuing to sip even when a big ugly human is watching from a few feet away. They must be focusing on carb-loading for their big trip south to Mexico or Central America; packing on a few extra micrograms.

    Later, on a hummer-free trip past the door, I happened to notice a meadowlark-sized, and meadowlark-shaped, bird perched at the very top of the large mature oak tree in the field across the backyard. Grabbing my binoculars for a better look, I could see no yellow coloring and definitely no black "V" on his breast - so not an Eastern Meadowlark. He was mottled over the breast and his beak was somewhat long, similar to a meadowlark's . He sat still for several minutes, providing a good unimpeded view so I have no good excuse for my lack of a certain identification. After flipping through the Stokes'and Peterson's guides a couple of times looking for a good idea, I still came up with nothing. bugs me that I don't even have a good guess. It could've been somebody unusual migrating through,it could've been an oddly colored meadowlark (what does a juvenile look like?), or it could've been that my vision and birding skills are sub-standard.

    On another trip to the fridge for a cold drink, I coudn't help but spot a smaller-than-average, darkly colored Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) perched atop the bluebird nestbox at the back of the yard, not 60 feet away. He was methodically consuming a small snake. I missed the snake-capturing part of the story, sadly. He took is time with the snake, re-situating it in his talons a few times though it appeared to have expired as it was not resisting his manipulations. I was reminded of a similar 'hawk show' B and I saw while hiking through a northern Florida campground several years ago. We were making our way through the campground and heard a Pileated Woodpecker over our heads. We stopped, spotted him and trained our binocs on him for a good long look. Not 20 paces further up the trail, we stumbled into another extremely cool birding moment (here's where the relavant hawk part comes in...). We first noticed a loud mixture of very excited songbird voices, squawking nervously and shrieking alarm calls. Scanning the canopy, we quickly spied their problem - a Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) was perched in the crook of a hardwood with a vigorously writhing snake in his talons. The hawk made several attempts to swallow the snake alive and whole, but each time the hawk started the snake down his gullet, the snake wrapped his tail around the hawk's neck and brought the process to a screeching, gagging halt. The hawk then had no choice but to grab the snake in his talons and pull it back out, reorganize and start all over again. During all this, the songbirds kept up their dischordant chorus, attempting to drive the hawk from their grove. The Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) were the most courageous of the songbird army - dive-bombing the trespassing hawk while he was otherwise focused on his wriggling meal. The Jays actually bashed into the hawk several times. The hawk seemed unaffected by all the commotion and Jay-impacts. He really just wanted to get the snake down and, after 6 or 7 attempts, he did. Then he flew off to safer spaces. The Red-Tailed Hawk in my yard on Saturday enjoyed a much more relaxed atmosphere - no songbirds, jays or commotion. He hung out on the bluebird box for a spell after his meal. I wished for my camera, which was not quickly accessible, so that I could try capturing his visit via digiscoping. Maybe next time...

    ADDENDUM: This post was included in I and the Bird #7 hosted at Bird TLC on 9/26/05.

    17 September 2005
    Moth no longer a mystery

    Cucullia convexipennis or Brown-hooded owlet mothI recently posted pictures of a large, nectar-sipping moth that appeared around the petunias on our back porch. We couldn't seem to find a good ID for it, so I sent a plea to some avid insecters here in Blogoland, and they came through heroically.

    Cindy first guessed that this guy was probably in the Noctuidae or Owlet Moth family rather than the Sphingidae family as I had guessed. Tony researched and found a likely identification of Cucullia convexipennis or Brown-hooded owlet moth in the Noctuidae family. Pamela provided links to more images. It looked like a really good match to me to I dug around a bit to see if the size and range and other details seemed appropriate.

    Well, I can't find much concrete info about this Owlet moth. It must be one of the larger moths in the Noctuidae family as it had a wingspan of about 2 to 2 1/4" or so. It is a night-flyer and feeds, apparently, on flower nectar. The caterpillar form of this guy feeds on aster and goldenrod foliage. We've certainly got lots of goldenrod around here. It appears that its range may include most of the Upper Midwest and Eastern US and Southern Canada. I can't find a range map, but there are recorded observations from Saskatchewan, Ontario, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, New York, etc.

    Though I can't even find a range map, I did discover that its nucleic acid sequence is well-established:

    413 bases -

    1 hvdsgksttt ghliykcggi dkrtiekfek eaqemgkgsf kyawvldklk aerergitid
    61 ialwkfetar yyvtiidapg hrdfiknmit gtsqadcavl ivaagtgefe agiskngqtr
    121 ehallaftlg vkqlivgvnk mdsteppyse srfeeikkev ssyikkigyn paavafvpis
    181 gwhgdnmlea stkmpwfkgw nverkegkae gkcliealda ilpparptdk alrlplqdvy
    241 kiggigtvpv grvetgilkp gtivvfapan ittevksvem hhealqeavp gdnvgfnvkn
    301 vsvkelrrgy vagdsknnpp kgaadftaqv ivlnhpgqis ngytpvldch tahiackfae
    361 ikekvdrrtg kstednpksi ksgdaaivnl vpskplcves fqefpplgrf avr

    If I had just captured, extracted and sequenced it we'd know for sure...

    Cindy, Tony, Pamela - thanks for your help!

    16 September 2005
    It's almost too good to be true...the NHL is back!

    Stevie YThe NHL is back and the Red Wings play their first preseason game next Wednesday, September 19 at 7:30 against Tampa Bay - and I think it's televised somewhere. It's been a long, long hockey and Red Wing drought. The 2004-05 season was cancelled due to failed negotiations between the owners and player's association; I'm not sure how that ultimately settled itself. The Wings have been back in training camp in Traverse City all week and I'm glad my Wing-free phase is almost over.

    It's going to take some adjustment to resume my previous level of Wing fanaticism though. I'm sure I'll adjust, but the Red Wings look a lot different than when we last saw them at the end of the 2003-04 season. Head coach Dave Lewis has been replaced with Mike Babcock who was the coach of the Mighty Ducks. In fact, all the coaching staff is new; Barry Smith and Joe Kocur are gone. Thank goodness Steve Yzerman is returning, as are Brendan Shanahan, Niklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Chris Chelios, Tomas Holmstrom and several other veteran wings. Baby-Wings Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Fischer also remain on the roster. I did notice that Darren McCarty is apparently gone as are Mathieu Dandenault and Derian Hatcher. And Pavel Datsyuk has apparently returned to Russia to play there. Darn it. He was a lot of fun to watch. I also noticed a lot of one- and two-year contracts which is a bit contrary to the Wings' historical arrangements. We'll see how many more changes we fans will have to adapt to...

    Lights! Cameras! Action! ......well, temporarily.

    Tush in actionI did not watch Tush's stump speech staged in front of a Jackson Square cathedral in New Orleans last night. I wasn't planning to watch anyway, but I saw an Elizabeth Bumiller Whitehouse pool report on Wonkette's site and, serious or not, it seemed to indicate that the speech would be nothing more than a Emperor Tush commercial. Here's an excerpt from Bumiller's WH pool report:

    Your pool was just taken for a look-see of the speech site in Jackson Square; we'll be in the vans when the president speaks, so we agitated and got the 10-minute tour. It was worth it. The president will be positioned at a podium set up in the grass in the square, with a statute of Andrew Jackson astride his horse and St. Louis Cathedral in the background. Bobby DeServi and Scott Sforza were on hand as we drove up about 8 p.m. or so EDT handling last-minute details of the stagecraft. Bush will be lit with warm tungsten lighting, but the statue and cathedral will be illuminated with much brighter, brighter lights, along nothing like the candlepower that DeServi and Sforza used on Sept. 11, 2002, to light up the Statue of Liberty for Bush's speech in New York Harbor.

    Here's a quote from DeServi on the lit up cathedral: "Oh, it's heated up. It's going to print loud.''

    I'm not generally interested in the type of thing.

    This morning, via TPM and Daily Kos, I read comments from Brian Williams, anchor for NBC who witnessed the drama:

    I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions.

    Nice. All pomp and theater, not a drop of substance or reality. Generators and lights were positioned and fired up for the big Rove-crafted campaign speech, then it's all turned off, the shirt-sleeved Emperor and his entourage of PR designers and shapers are transported back to the aircraft carrier or wherever they're housed for the evening. Why was the speech even delivered from New Orleans? There's no one there to hear it and it cost lots of time and resources to stage it. And nothing will result from it. The choice of an open-necked shirt instead of a jacket and tie? We're supposed to imagine he's rescued a family or that he's just come off a line of sandbag carriers stopping a leak in the levee.

    The real time for all this furious effort, planning and action was before, during and immediately after the hurricane, not now that it's just a his political problem. I could not be more disgusted with our government.

    15 September 2005
    I and the Bird #6

    I and the BirdBirdchick Blog is hosting the current edition of the I and the Bird carnival of birding stories and pictures. Sharon has done a fantastic job of presenting the stories of goshawk violence, pipit migration, pornographic roadrunners, endangered species funding inequities, bird smells, and our reasons for birding.


    14 September 2005
    Mystery moth needs a name

    Pamela at Thomasburg Walks recently wrote a lovely post about a Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) that visited her garden. She included several great pictures of her visitor. We've also enjoyed visits from Clearwings and from Striped Morning Sphinx moths here in our yard

    More recently, we've had a third type of hummingbird or sphinx moth of some kind visiting our garden and backporch petunias. He's significantly smaller than the other two and not quite as distinctively colored. I cannot find a reference picture or photo that is terribly close. I've perused a couple of insect books, The Moths of Canada (at Pamela's suggestion) and for help, but I've not found anything that looks similar to me. I think we've only seen him after dusk, in the dark.

    Mystery hummingbird/sphinx moth

    Mystery hummingbird/sphinx moth

    Tony, Pamela, any ideas?

    Shiawassee River Semi-Fishing Report [September 14 2005]

    We squeezed in another brief evening fish tonight after we got home from work. Dusk is upon us earlier these days, making our quick and casual evening fishing outings a whole lot quicker. Tonight, we decided to take Dylan, our newish year-old border collie, to see if he'd cooperate and patiently hang out within a comfortable distance and stay out of trouble. We anticipated a less rigorous fishing experience since we'd be splitting our attention between Dylan and the river. B took her light spinning rod to make fishing less complicated, but I couldn't choose against my 9'9" 5 weight.

    Our plan diverged further from normal when we arrived at the county park and B discovered she hadn't brought any spinning lures. I forgot important stuff too - my lanyard with all my various fishing tools, floatant, etc. I've done worse. I've forgotten my rod before. We decided to share my 5 weight. We also decided to impersonate bank-billies and dispense with waders and wading. We didn't have much time to fish anyway.

    Ugly Turks TarantulaI tied on an ugly, poorly-tied Turck's Tarantula. It became hopelessly soggy after about 3 casts since I didn't treat it with floatant. It didn't appear to matter though, I quickly hooked into a 15" smallmouth under an overhanging branch. He was a powerful guy, the biggest I've ever caught I think. Even with my 9'9" rod it took a bit to land him. He was gorgeous - deep bronze with almost argyle-like patches over his back. Alas, my camera was back home with my fishing tools and lanyard so I have no picture to share. Here's a picture of my ugly Tarantula instead.

    B took her turn with my rod but the bite was clearly not on. She caught a rock bass on a Gartside Gurgler, but could entice no smallies. I played the chase game with Dylan while B fished so we'd both be out of the way of her backcast. When we were both tired of chasing and being chased, we convinced B to pack it in and go home. We called ahead to our local pizza joint to order a pizza to pick up on the way home.

    Landing efficiency: 2/2 (it's almost steelhead season, gotta practice the lingo)
    Wildlife sightings: cedar waxwings, bats, a few straggler whiteflies, eyes in the ditches on the drive home...
    Dylan's grade as a fishing dog - points awarded for patience, distance from backcasts, obedience etc.; points deducted for dirtyness, eating strange materials, scaring fish, etc.: Not bad, shows promise, B overall
    Rating of Mama Lee's Greek Pizza: 3.5 stars out of 4
    Did I get to use a spey rod?: No
    Enjoyment grade for the evening: A

    Forgotten vacation pictures

    I had wanted to post these leftover pictures from our recent vacation weeks ago, but I neglected to get around to it until now. What I really want to write about today is the disgusting tailspin that our country, our government and our political system is currently in, but perhaps a mental break from all that is a better idea. Besides, I'm so mad I can barely assemble a coherent sentence. On to a more light-hearted subject...

    These are two photos taken during our flyfishing vacation in norther Michigan in late June 2005. My previously posted vacation stories/fishing reports are here, here, here and here.

    A practical joke?

    I liked this picture. On one of our drives through Grayling, I noticed the the Ben Franklin store had had it's marquee tampered with. A practical joke? On whom? Now, I think his was probably done because the Ben Franklin chain has gone defunct and rearranging the letters was cheaper than taking the whole marquee down or leaving it intact and being sued. I bet even a few residents have failed to appreciate the change...

    Moth hiding in a pine tree

    I liked this picture too. We stopped at a convenience store east of Grayling for a snack and a drink one morning. B went in the store while I waited in the car. As I sat staring at the store's front, I noticed this big unidentified moth clinging to a sign. We had been focused on big bugs all week - looking for Hexegenia flies in the evenings on the river and anywhere else. So this big bug caught my eye even though he was clearly attempting to evade detection by hiding in a pine tree.

    13 September 2005
    I'm not placated by this statement, are you?

    During the senate hearing on his nomination for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts likened himself to a baseball umpire:

    And using a baseball metaphor, he compared his judicial role to that of an umpire, saying, "My job is to call balls and strikes, not pitch or bat."

    As a former soccer referee and current player, I know that some referees and umpires are amazingly good and others suck. Comparing yourself to sports officials does not ease my mind. Try answering the questions that'll be directed toward you and providing documents that the committee is requesting.

    12 September 2005
    What did one Ivory-billed say to the other?

    Ivory-billed woodpeckers from CLOThis news is a couple weeks old, but I haven't seen much written on it. So I'll attempt to float it to the surface with a quick mention...

    Cornell University ornithologists have now analyzed 18,000+ hours of audio recordings (which I suspect is the tip of the audio-iceberg for them) collected from 153 different sites within the Big Woods of Arkansas where the Ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) was observed during 2004. They've discovered that the recordings offer additional support for the presence of Ivory-billed woodpeckers in the region. From the Cornell Lab's press release:

    The researchers announced the results at the annual meeting of the American Ornithologists’ Union in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Aug. 24, 2005, and invited the public to listen to the calls and knocks on the Web at The sounds are strikingly similar to those made by ivory-billed woodpeckers, the researchers said. One of the recordings, from January 24, 2005, captured a distant double knock, “Bam bam!” followed by a similar and much closer double knock 3.5 seconds later—possibly the drumming displays of two ivory-billed woodpeckers communicating with one another by rapping on trees.


    After eliminating thousands of noises from gunshots and other sources, the researchers found about 100 double knocks that bear a strong resemblance to the display drumming of the ivory-bill’s closest relatives. The sounds were clustered around certain recording locations at certain times of day—a pattern that would not be expected if they had been produced by random noises.

    Then ARUs also recorded nasal tooting calls similar to those of ivory-billed woodpeckers. Charif said blue jays are notorious vocal mimics that sometimes utter calls like those of ivory-bills. However, he added, a sophisticated acoustic classification program categorized nearly all of the unknown calls from Arkansas as most similar to ivory-billed woodpecker recordings. None matched up with “tooting” calls of blue jays from the Lab’s audio collection, but the researchers say they cannot rule out blue jays until they analyze more variants of the calls.

    “We’re excited and encouraged by the acoustic analysis,” said Dr. John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “These sounds give us additional hope that a few ivory-billed woodpeckers do live in the White River and Cache River region. But this species is still on the verge of extinction and huge mysteries remain to be solved. Certainly, we have a lot more work to do before we know enough to determine its population size, let alone ensure its survival.”

    Listen and compare the double-knocks and "tooting" calls for yourself.

    11 September 2005
    Local lake fishing report [September 10 2005]

    We spent our Saturday around home after a plan to spend the day with some friends fell through. But we did treat ourselves to an evening fishing outing on a local lake.

    We're lucky to have this small state park only a short drive from home. The park is about 2500 acres in size and has a nice 400+ acre lake within it. The lake is man-made - the result of damming a portion of a small river - and is probably 4 to 20 feet deep. At the time it was built, the lake was stocked with bass, perch, bluegills, sunfish, crappie, pike and muskies; all continue to thrive. It is a lake that receives a lot of fishing pressure since it's one of the few decent fishing lakes around, but it's managed fairly well and provides reasonable outdoor experiences for many. It is a great place for birding; there are lot's of species to find. It's a 'no-wake' lake so we can paddle around in our little kayaks and canoe without risk of being run over or washed up on shore. Thank heaven for that.

    We loaded up the canoe last night and headed over to the lake at about 6:00 PM. B chose to take a spinning rod, but I couldn't choose against a fly rod and so chose my 9'9" 5 weight. Our friend Barb called at the last minute and joined us so she could get a little fly fishing in also. Barb and I used mostly surface poppers and rubber-legged bugs while B used big rubber-bodied jigs and sinking plastic baits.

    The first location we tried yield absolutely nothing except a visit from a friendly muskrat. I think I stirred one little bluegill to smack at my fly and that was it for all 3 of us. We paddled back across the lake to another favorite area and had a little better luck. First we were treated to a brief owl show. A pair of short-eared owls flew back and forth over the water between a couple of perches and they were close enough that we could get a good view. I started catching 4-5" whopper bluegills once in awhile - sorry I didn't bring my camera. B caught a monster 16-17" largemouth up against the edge of a weedy patch - sorry I didn't bring my camera. She must've landed her sinko right on his nose because he exploded on it as soon as it hit the water. We brought him into the canoe after a strong battle in the weeds and quickly released him. A short while later, she caught another monster just like him. This one must have chased her sinko for awhile; he didn't hit it until she had retrieved it part way back. He did manage to put up a strong fight under the canoe. She got one more big, splashy strike without a hookup on the evening. Barb and I each caught a handful of little bluegill dinks - some in the mouth, some not.

    Ratio of driving time to fishing time: 1:6
    Wildlife sightings: great blue herons, a pair of short-eared owls, various ducks, cormorants, an osprey, bitterns, a muskrat, a big painted turtle and lots of cedar waxwings
    Fishing tackle smackdown: a spinning rod beats a fly rod this time
    Did I get to use a spey rod?: No
    Enjoyment grade for the evening: A

    10 September 2005
    Another brilliant driftglass rant

    Bush dislikes youDriftglass's post has lots of images so it'll take a moment to load completely, but it's worth the wait. He has positioned the words to Pink Floyd's "Us and Them" from "Dark Side of the Moon" alongside a series of photos of political and hurricane subjects. It packs a pretty good punch; typical of his rants. Here driftglass's conclusion to the montage:

    Fuck these men, and God damn you if you voted for them.

    I don't believe for one minute in a petulant and vengeful Deity that murders people to score debating points. However, if I did actually put my faith in such childish superstitions, I think I would be be much less inclined to blame gays for every single bad thing that happens and pay very close attention to the fact that God is at His most wrathful when foolish men in great nations make monsters into kings.

    May God forgive us for letting criminals and madmen run our country.

    "Impeach them all"

    Shame on BushA great post by Rana at Frogs and Ravens summarizing some recent administration screw-ups and value problems and calling for a little citizen action. I had started a post similar to this, but it's not as good...

    Here's her last point:

    What are our representatives waiting for? Another goddamned blowjob or something?

    She has a good point, eh? Let's run with it.

    I would add "(k) Eliminate the minimum wage standard so the corporate cronies given the rebuilding projects to can postpone local income normalcy and skim even more tax dollars for themselves."

    If you are so compelled - and I hope you are - visit the Impeach Bush website and add your name to the list. Continue on to contact your congresspersons and senators and let them know your views.

    On bad science journalism

    A Guardian (UK) article on the predominantly bad science writing in mainstream media. [via The Sideshow]

    Bad ScienceScience stories usually fall into three families: wacky stories, scare stories and "breakthrough" stories. Last year the Independent ran a wacky science story that generated an actual editorial: how many science stories get the lead editorial? It was on research by Dr Kevin Warwick, purporting to show that watching Richard and Judy improved IQ test performance ( Needless to say it was unpublished data, and highly questionable.


    But enough on what they choose to cover. What's wrong with the coverage itself? The problems here all stem from one central theme: there is no useful information in most science stories. A piece in the Independent on Sunday from January 11 2004 suggested that mail-order Viagra is a rip-off because it does not contain the "correct form" of the drug. I don't use the stuff, but there were 1,147 words in that piece. Just tell me: was it a different salt, a different preparation, a different isomer, a related molecule, a completely different drug? No idea. No room for that one bit of information.

    Remember all those stories about the danger of mobile phones? I was on holiday at the time, and not looking things up obsessively on PubMed; but off in the sunshine I must have read 15 newspaper articles on the subject. Not one told me what the experiment flagging up the danger was. What was the exposure, the measured outcome, was it human or animal data? Figures? Anything? Nothing. I've never bothered to look it up for myself, and so I'm still as much in the dark as you.

    Why? Because papers think you won't understand the "science bit", all stories involving science must be dumbed down, leaving pieces without enough content to stimulate the only people who are actually going to read them - that is, the people who know a bit about science. Compare this with the book review section, in any newspaper. The more obscure references to Russian novelists and French philosophers you can bang in, the better writer everyone thinks you are. Nobody dumbs down the finance pages. Imagine the fuss if I tried to stick the word "biophoton" on a science page without explaining what it meant. I can tell you, it would never get past the subs or the section editor. But use it on a complementary medicine page, incorrectly, and it sails through.


    So how do the media work around their inability to deliver scientific evidence? They use authority figures, the very antithesis of what science is about, as if they were priests, or politicians, or parent figures. "Scientists today said ... scientists revealed ... scientists warned." And if they want balance, you'll get two scientists disagreeing, although with no explanation of why (an approach at its most dangerous with the myth that scientists were "divided" over the safety of MMR). One scientist will "reveal" something, and then another will "challenge" it. A bit like Jedi knights.

    The danger of authority figure coverage, in the absence of real evidence, is that it leaves the field wide open for questionable authority figures to waltz in. Gillian McKeith, Andrew Wakefield, Kevin Warwick and the rest can all get a whole lot further, in an environment where their authority is taken as read, because their reasoning and evidence is rarely publicly examined.

    Read the whole thing. The author has many more good points than those I've excerpted.

    08 September 2005
    Tangled Bank #36 is online and ready for your perusal

    The Tangled BankIt's B and B's turn to host the current, and 36th edition of The Tangled Bank. Another fine job Peter...

    My friends Mike and Nuthatch have posts in this edition, in addition to posts from PZ Myers, Orac, GirlScientist and others.

    First-person accounts of Katrina and the after-chaos

    Pascal Riche, a French tourist chose an unfortunate point to visit New Orleans. Here's her story of 3 days in the SuperDome. [via TPM Cafe.]

    Shupac links to a link to another story; this one's from a Convention Center survivor.

    07 September 2005
    A Katrina and hurricane aftermath timeline

    From Think Progress.

    These folks did a really thorough job. The timeline is very complete - it includes weather reports; important local, state and federal government declarations, vacation activities and news reports.

    The media is not too hung up on facts and information

    And they're not overly concerned about accuracy either. With a media like this, it's very effective to just 'make up shit' to defend your national- and global-scale blunders. They let you get away with it every time. No scrutiny, no fact-checking. Just regurgitation.

    We deserve better.

    From the TPM Cafe.

    Broaden your horizons

    King SpudHave you ever visited the Potato Museum? Or read the Museum's Potato Blog?

    Then you'd better skeedaddle over there so you're no longer missing out on things like the Save our Spuds Exhibit, Potato Radio or the Bonsai Potato. I actually own a Bonsai potato - a birthday gift-past.

    As someone who's occasionally considered a 'potato' person by virtue of my job, I'm a little bit embarassed...

    Yep, Cheney's been on vacation. Fly-fishing

    What a disgrace to flyfisherman everywhere.

    05 September 2005
    Excellent commentary by Keith Olbermann

    Here's an excerpt, but definitely go read the whole thing:

    But, nationally, these are leaders who won re-election last year largely by portraying their opponents as incapable of keeping the country safe. These are leaders who regularly pressure the news media in this country to report the reopening of a school or a power station in Iraq, and defies its citizens not to stand up and cheer. Yet they couldn't even keep one school or power station from being devastated by infrastructure collapse in New Orleans — even though the government had heard all the "chatter" from the scientists and city planners and hurricane centers and some group whose purposes the government couldn't quite discern... a group called The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    And most chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection — or at least amelioration — against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological.

    It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.

    Mr. Bush has now twice insisted that, "we are not satisfied," with the response to the manifold tragedies along the Gulf Coast. I wonder which "we" he thinks he's speaking for on this point. Perhaps it's the administration, although we still don't know where some of them are. Anybody seen the Vice President lately? The man whose message this time last year was, 'I'll Protect You, The Other Guy Will Let You Die'?

    Shiawassee River Fishing Report [September 4 2005]

    Shiawassee fish/float 9/4/2005We needed a respite from the overwhelmingly sad and disturbing news of the hurricane aftermath. This week, my head has not been in a state where fun is all that likely, but I needed to make an attempt to at least distract myself temporarily. It was a beautiful day - comfortable 75 degrees, lots of big fluffy clouds regularly floating in a bright, clear blue sky - much better visibility than is typical in Michigan.

    We floated the same nearby stretch of the Shiawassee River that we enjoyed in early August. We put in at a city park at about 1:00 PM and took out at a county park about 6 or 7 miles downstream at about 8:00 PM. I was concerned that we'd be doing more dragging than paddling since the Shi's water flow is seriously 'off the charts' low right now. But, we didn't have to portage over much more river bottom than last time - only 3 or 4 short stretches in the whole trip. The very low water and super-vigorous weed growth did limit the fishable locations somewhat, but there are so many great spots on this river that, even in these conditions, it's a really nice stretch to float and fish.

    Three of us employed 5-6 weight fly rods and one brought along a spinning rod. It's pretty hard to fly fish and float at the same time, so we typically paddled from spot to spot where we'd beach our boats and wade for awhile. Fly line in the boat, time necessary to retrieve line, paddle access and impending crashes are not pleasant combinations, so we generally keep our fly rods stowed while paddling. The spin fisherwoman is able to fish and float a bit better and has access to a bit more water as a result.

    Little 8-10" smallmouth bass and rock bass were plentiful. We probably caught 10-15 fish each - most were found up tight against the bank, in shady log jams or near underwater structure. We threw mostly surface patterns - poppers and rubber-legged flies like a Turck's Tarantula or a hopper. B's white and tan beadhead woolly bugger invention, now called Smallmouth Crack got some use too. The largest smallie, a nice 14-incher, was caught by Vicki on a sluggo retrieved over a nice deep spot with underwater boulders. The smallmouth in this river are beautiful - deep green-bronze and extremely healthy looking with no scars or signs of parasites or bad luck.

    When we reached our take-out point, there were a few whiteflies hatching. There had been a pretty hatch of something smaller during the last hour of our float, but only a few small surface feeders seemed to notice.

    Number of leech encounters: 0 again! Neoprene socks rule.
    Scratches on the bottom of my kayak: TNTC
    Wildlife sightings: a fish I need to identify, great blue herons, wood ducks, kingfishers, woodpeckers, an osprey, a beaver and lots of cedar waxwings
    Did I get to use a spey rod?: Nein
    Enjoyment grade for the day: A+

    Tush Spin Machine is in full force

    The Whitehouse is clearly much more adept at responding to a public perception/spin crisis than to a real disaster.

    Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett have been dispatched, faster than buses to a SuperDome, to quell the rising tide of public criticism by attempting to unfairly shift blame to local and state crisis responders. They've given 'anonymous' quotes to several news agencies incorrectly asserting that Louisiana failed to declare a state of emergency until days after the storm, delaying federal responses. Fortunately some publishers have corrected this lie by printing retractions and supporting facts. I really wish reporters would cease with the 'anonymous' quotes from 'senior Whitehouse officials'. Why do they wish to be kept anonymous? BECAUSE THEY'RE LYING. Plain and simple. They aren't protecting their jobs or worried about superiors finding out they spilled the beans. LIES.

    Rove and Bartlett are also behind the evident decision to quickly send as many military and cabinet officials as possible to affected areas for vital photo ops with survivors, responders and big equipment. Here are some weekend articles on the subject:

  • Washington Post
  • New York Times
  • Los Angeles Times
  • From the NY Times:

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 4 - Under the command of President Bush's two senior political advisers, the White House rolled out a plan this weekend to contain the political damage from the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina.

    It orchestrated visits by cabinet members to the region, leading up to an extraordinary return visit by Mr. Bush planned for Monday, directed administration officials not to respond to attacks from Democrats on the relief efforts, and sought to move the blame for the slow response to Louisiana state officials, according to Republicans familiar with the White House plan.

    The effort is being directed by Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and his communications director, Dan Bartlett. It began late last week after Congressional Republicans called White House officials to register alarm about what they saw as a feeble response by Mr. Bush to the hurricane, according to Republican Congressional aides.

    As a result, Americans watching television coverage of the disaster this weekend began to see, amid the destruction and suffering, some of the most prominent members of the administration - Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Donald H. Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense; and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state - touring storm-damaged communities.

    Mr. Bush is to return to Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday; his first visit, on Friday, left some Republicans cringing, in part because the president had little contact with residents left homeless.

    From the Washington Post:

    Late last week, Bush said he was unhappy with the overall response, but the aide made it clear he was most upset with the local plan -- not his own administration's efforts. Bush lost patience with local officials when he learned that thousands of people were sent to the New Orleans convention center for relief only to learn their was no assistance for victims there, the aide said, calling this the "tipping point." Bush infuriated Blanco and other local officials when he sought late Friday night to federalize the relief effort and seize control of National Guard and other operations. The governor refused, and tensions between the federal and local officials worsened.

    Tush thinks the local plan of sending survivors to centralized locations was a problem? Really?

    From the LA Times:

    Under the law, Chertoff said, state and local officials must direct initial emergency operations. "The federal government comes in and supports those officials," he said.

    Chertoff's remarks, which echoed earlier statements by President Bush, prompted withering rebukes both from former senior FEMA staffers and outside experts.

    "They can't do that," former agency chief of staff Jane Bullock said of Bush administration efforts to shift responsibility away from Washington. "The moment the president declared a federal disaster, it became a federal responsibility…. The federal government took ownership over the response," she said. Bush declared a disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi when the storm hit a week ago.

    "What's awe-inspiring here is how many federal officials didn't issue any orders," said Paul C. Light, an authority on government operations at New York University.

    Evidence of confusion extended beyond FEMA and the Homeland Security Department on Sunday.

    Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said that conditions in New Orleans and elsewhere could quickly escalate into a major public health crisis. But asked whether his agency had dispatched teams in advance of the storm and flooding, Leavitt answered, "No."

    "None of these teams were pre-positioned," he told CNN's "Late Edition." "We're having to organize them … as we go."

    Such an ad hoc approach might not have surprised Americans until recent decades because the federal government was thought to have few responsibilities for disaster relief, and what duties it did have were mostly delegated to the American Red Cross.

    Most media outlets are now downplaying the fact that Tush, Cheney, Rice and several others were on vacation before and after the first few days of the storm. They didn't hurry their plans to return to Washington until the disaster became a political one.

    FEMA has taken criticisms in the past for it's poorly coordinated and slow response - especially to Hurricane Andrew in 1992. But, more recently, FEMA operated very effectively under the direction of then-director James Witt. From the Tampa Tribune, 24 August 2004:

    In the coming days, thousands of state and federal emergency response workers poured into Charlotte, DeSoto and the other Florida counties Charley hit hardest as it passed through Aug. 13, a Friday. Caravans of trucks from tree-cutting services, utilities, law enforcement and the National Guard arrived all that weekend to start the recovery.

    Twelve years after a frustrating and disjointed response to Hurricane Andrew, the Category 5 storm that flattened Homestead, emergency planners at the local, state and federal level all have disaster plans in place.

    Although Charley exposed gaps in them, most observers and residents say they're satisfied - even impressed - by the initial response.

    ``We're two weeks ahead of Hurricane Andrew'' is the oft- repeated assessment by officials on the scene.

    Mutual aid agreements and existing contracts with the Federal Emergency Management Agency allowed all those workers to get into position before Charley made landfall. Then it was a matter of driving to the areas hardest hit and organizing the recovery.

    Truckloads of jugs of water and bags of ice were being passed out by Sunday morning. Free meals from the Red Cross and Salvation Army soon followed. Churches and civic groups streamed into town with 18-wheelers filled with more water, cleaning supplies, baby formula and diapers.

    ``Every street you go on you see utility trucks,'' said Betty Morrow, a research associate at Florida International University's International Hurricane Resource Center. Power was restored to two-thirds of Charlotte County in a week. In another week, the rest of the county should be reconnected, officials say.

    So, Louisiana Governor Blanco has swiftly moved to hire Witt to assist with the Katrina aftermath. From Yahoo:

    BATON ROUGE, La. - James Lee Witt, the former Federal Emergency Management Agency director hired to advise Louisiana's governor, described the crisis Sunday in the hurricane-ravaged state as "our worst nightmare."


    Before Witt became director, FEMA was criticized for its slow response to Hurricanes Andrew and Hugo. With Witt in charge in 1993-2001, the agency won praise for its vigorous reaction to the Midwest floods and the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles.

    Witt repeated his criticism Sunday that the reorganization that put FEMA under the Department of Homeland Security had hurt the agency's ability to deal with natural disasters. He said a lot of resources also had been depleted by the war in Iraq.

    Witt now heads the crisis and emergency management consulting firm James Lee Witt Associates. He said he was called by the governor Thursday and would stay in Louisiana as long as needed.

    Gov. Kathleen Blanco said that when she told FEMA Director Mike Brown she was hiring Witt, "he said, `That is absolutely the right thing to do. He will make a huge difference.'"

    Let's keep our fingers crossed that Witt's involvement means a turn for the better.

    04 September 2005
    Donate to the Red Cross

    Liberal Blogs for Hurricane ReliefIf you haven't already, make a donation right now toward Hurricane Katrina relief services. I think the Red Cross is the best option; I made my donation to them through Liberal Blogs for Hurricane Relief. It's a PayPal interface and lots of info is available on their plans to transfer 100% of the funds collected to the Red Cross. They are currently at $151K and their goal is $1 million.

    If you don't feel comfortable with this type of transaction, give to the Red Cross directly.

    Ranting vicariously through Steve Gilliard...

    03 September 2005
    Bush visit serves to hamper progress in disaster zone

    Bush Diverts Critical ResourcesHere's a list of some of the accomplishments of Preznit Tush in the last day:

  • Staged levee repair, then removed equipment after photos.
  • Staged food distribution for photos, then tore down the center.
  • Ban on all helicopter flights while Tush was in the state of LA meant no food and aid delivery to some outlying parishes.
  • All this while the rescue and recovery efforts are directed/bungled by Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security and Michael Brown, chief of FEMA. Brown's previous job was commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association where he ultimately was fired for supervisory incompetence. In 2001, he was hired at FEMA by his old college roomate and head of FEMA Joseph Allbaugh. When Allbaugh left, Brown was promoted to head of FEMA.

    It's definitely not what you know, but cronyism that appears to be invaluable.

    Worst. President. Ever.

    All 3 should resign.

    Haliburton hired for Katrina cleanup

    via Pandagon:

    Halliburton hired for storm cleanup

    The Navy has hired Houston-based Halliburton Co. to restore electric power, repair roofs and remove debris at three naval facilities in Mississippi damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

    Halliburton subsidiary KBR will also perform damage assessments at other naval installations in New Orleans as soon as it is safe to do so.

    KBR was assigned the work under a "construction capabilities" contract awarded in 2004 after a competitive bidding process. The company is not involved in the Army Corps of Engineers' effort to repair New Orleans' levees.

    Today, from kos:

    We have two competing world views in American politics. The first says that government cannot help people. That government must be as small as possible, and exists only to provide security from external enemies. The other says that government can be a force for good and can help make people's lives better.

    This week, we are seeing the effects of the lack of government. The American people are seeing what happens when the GOP worldview is dominant. We've talked about the two disasters -- the hurricane itself, which was unavoidable, and the response to the hurricane and lack of leadership, which was.

    We are seeing a third disaster -- the conservative world view itself, crashing and burning as reality meets ideology. Where government programs are slashed in the name of Norquist's drownable government, only to see an entire major city wiped off the face of the map as a result.

    02 September 2005
    Good thing it's National Preparedness Month

    And I find it very reassuring that we've got a Department of Homeland Security.

    Here's today's tip:

    Today's Tip

    Preparedness Tip #2
    Pick a place to meet after a disaster. Designate two meeting places. Choose one right outside your home, in case of a sudden household emergency, such as a fire. The second place you choose needs to be outside your neighborhood, in the event that it is not safe to stay near or return to your home.

    OK, let's see how we did here...

  • Disaster: Hurricane Katrina. Check!
  • Two meeting places: Hmmm, how about the stadium and the convention center? Check!
  • Outside my home? What home? Neighborhood? What?? Whatever. Check.
  • OK, now what?

  • When might they get us a draft of Preparedness Tip #3? Right after Phase 4-C?

    Molly Ivins is one of my heroes

    help usShe's got an essay about our current disaster in the south, and across the nation in general, at

    And here's a related piece by another author, also at

    Whitehouse disaster and correspondence

    A close and very angry friend of mine sent this vitriolic email message to the Whitehouse last night after listening and watching numerous news reports about our Katrina rescue and response efforts:

    Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2005 7:33 PM
    Subject: RIH asap

    Time to vent after 5 years of tyranny - courtesy of you and your lying, thieving counterparts:

    You are a disgusting, illogical, evil freak - may you be dropped down into the middle of New Orleans to fend for yourself, you self-centered, son of Satan, pie-eyed bastard! They'd rip you to shreds in a heart beat and would be fully justified in doing so.

    The day you leave office will be a day of celebration for all - go rot!

    Name witheld
    A citizen of the country formerly known as America

    Here's the automated response from

    Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2005 7:33 PM

    On behalf of President Bush, thank you for your correspondence. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush and all Americans send their thoughts and prayers to the families of those who have lost lives and to all those affected by this natural disaster.

    The President is directing Federal agencies throughout the government to do all in their power to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The top priority is to save and sustain lives. President Bush established a White House task force to oversee Hurricane Katrina response and recovery, and he convened a Cabinet meeting to ensure that Federal agencies' efforts are timely and fully coordinated. Residents of the Gulf Coast states affected by the hurricane have lost loved ones, lost homes, and been displaced from their communities, and they will have the full support of the Federal government.

    The President has called for the coordination of all parties involved in the response and relief efforts. Federal, state, and local governments are working side-by-side to deliver relief to the areas physically damaged by Hurricane Katrina and to communities across the South that will be affected in the aftermath of the storm. Efforts and resources are focused on saving lives, sustaining lives, and supporting long-term recovery. For information and guidance you may wish to visit the FEMA website at or call 800-621-3362 or 800-621-FEMA.

    The President has called on all Americans to support the relief and rescue efforts through charitable contributions and aid. Americans who wish to contribute can do so by contacting charities that are assisting with hurricane relief. For more information on relief and recovery efforts, please visit the USAFreedom Corps website at

    Thank you again for taking the time to write.

    Isn't he great? What a leader! What an administration! What a government! Full support!

    I've noticed from TV interviews and local reports that very few politicians are out and about without 'cover-your-ass' armor on right now.

    01 September 2005
    From TPM Cafe regarding Katrina victims and response...

    A reader with access to raw news feeds wrote:

    If you use this info I want to remain anonymous, but I was watching the raw video feeds yesterday and saw an interview that brought out a really important point that went right by me.

    Lots of people in that area - the poor and the old and the sick - get checks from the goverment on the 1st of the month. They spend for the month with that money, so by the end of the month they are broke.

    The storm hit on the 29th.

    Many people could not afford the $50 to fill their gas tanks to leave. The interviewee said they people were begging him to please loan them the money for gas. They were forced to stay, and forced to stay when they were broke.

    This all could have been anticipated.

    And this...

    I've noticed a similar trend in some of the newspaper stories. People were forced to leave hotels after only a night or two, because the $89/night charge was more than they could afford.

    Another provides a bit of context:

    Meanwhile, the developers who built on the wetlands and the politicians who made environmental damage and subsequent disasters possible can hop in their cars and create a new life elsewhere, if it comes to that. Nothing like having some money in the bank, cut of clothing, and looks that our society gives more credibility to!

    And yet another smart reader:

    But I read several stories of families filling up hotels allover the south, a lot of the "middle class" with credit cards. Give it a day or so, and their credit cards will be maxed out, they will be needing access to identity papers they don't have for insurance claims, prescriptions, doctors records no longer there, doctors no longer there? No job, it's gone. Where to live? Where to send the kids to school? Just move in with the relatives in Minneapolis or what? Where's the FEMA centers going to come from for them when FEMA obviously can't even handle the population left behind?

    Perhaps the individuals who are looting, stealing, thieving and shooting at helicopters are the smart ones; they're being arrested and removed to safety while others wait days for rescue and still others have died waiting. Besides, what the hell is wrong with looting a grocery store or a food warehouse under these circumstances? Or a hardware store? No one is going to return to the city for a month or two at best; is that food going to be sold then? Most food will be no good, lots of other things will be unsaleable. No one will miss it, but someone can save themselves and their family with it now. You have my blessing. The rules of survival in downtown Cincinnati and those for citizens of downtown New Orleans or Biloxi or East Floodville are not the same right now.

    It appears that the initial devastation these first few days is just the tip of the iceberg. And President Tush is steering our cruise ship. I think I feel a rant coming on.

    I and the Bird #5 has just left the nest...

    I and the BirdJohn over at A DC Birding Blog is hosting the current installment of the I and the Bird carnival. He's done a bang-up job organizing birding- and bird-related stories submitted by amateur, avid or professional bird-sorts.

    Today's edition is presented in a 'conference-schedule format' (I wish I'd thought of it first!) complete with coffee, donuts, and lunch and dinner breaks. Submitted posts include tales of hummingbird wars, whooping crane flight training and a chimney swift family in a fireplace.

    Go, read these beauties for yourself...

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