Another clueless, airhead model

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Oregon Wildfires

I spent 20 days on the road with a wildfire crew, eventually making our way to the Malheur National Forest in Oregon. The Bald Sisters fire was 550 acres but costing over a million dollars to fight due to the extensive use of air tankers dropping fire retardant. The Murderers Creek and Buck Fork fires were pushing 66,000 acres and nearing one hundred million dollars. Our concern were several smaller fires that required a quick, initial attack. Most only required mopping up but this was just as important to prevent them from growing bigger. This sudden increase in physical effort was a harbinger for strains, pulled muscles, and a knee that was reaching the limits of its' usefulness.

Note to self: next time bring a knee brace and plenty of painkillers.

Fellow Fish/Wildlife coworker - Roland "Sasquatch" Davis
California Quail (Callipepla californica)
Dropping in gear for over-nighter.
Western Pennyroyal (Monardella odoratissima)
Woodland Pinedrops (Pterospora andromedea).  A parasite using it's symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungus to extract nutrients from pine roots. It's chlorophyll content is negligible therefore, it does not use photosynthesis to turn sunlight into chemical energy.  
Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium).  Not a true grape but as a herb it is proported to cure digestive problems.
Best restaurant in John Day, Oregon.
The Crew.  11,000 feet.
The Squad: Thomas Adams, Roland Davis, Mike Kuhnert, James Harbour  and Robert Allen.
4,600 feet of hose.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Texas City Oil Spill - Matagorda Island

Almost two million pounds of oiled sand have been removed from after an oil
spill one month ago.
Credit: Jeff Adams

The spill – named the Texas City Y Spill because the site is near the intersection of three major waterways – comes just as the migratory shorebird season approaches.  A significant amount of oil drifted to Matagorda Island, winter home to the only naturally wild flock of whooping cranes. When the spill occurred, approximately 70 percent of the estimated 304 whooping cranes had not yet begun their migration to Canada and about 40-60 were on Matagorda Island. Matagorda is part of a barrier island chain that extends along most of the Texas shoreline. In addition to wintering whooping cranes.The island has 11 pairs of nesting aplomado falcons, a resident bird that was extirpated from the United States in the 1950s and is being successfully reintroduced.  Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are currently staging in the Gulf and are expected to begin nesting on area beaches, the most northern extent of their historic range. The barrier islands along the Texas coast are important for many other migratory birds, including piping plover and shorebirds that feed on the sandy beaches and roost in the vegetation of the foredune. 

- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 

After the 170,000 gallons of oil spilled into the waterways of Texas City it slipped through the control of the U.S. Coast Guard and drifted south.  I was called in to join a contingent of resource advisers to monitor the contracted cleaning crews to insure they didn't destroy more habitat in the process of cleaning up. The oil came ashore then was buried under sand from 1-5 inches.  Rather than only directing crews I joined in the shoveling for 7 days - piling up oiled sand for disposal into dump trucks to either a landfill or cleaning (?).  By the time I left the cleanup had completed its objective but monitoring by other federal employees is ongoing.  I worked from 0600-1930 with only time otherwise to shower, eat and hit the rack.  

On my last day a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)  was discovered on the edge of a huge swath of sargasso seaweed.  It appeared exhausted but showed vigorous life when picked up.  It was taken to rehab in Port Aransas and then released back in the Gulf.

Beach Evening Primrose (Oneothera drummondii)

Friday, March 21, 2014


Using an event at a place which clear cut and denuded bird habitat to benefit an organization devoted to advancing bird science and habitat. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Homesteading prequel

Iced over Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) and Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata).  Thawed and thriving.

All indications are that unless I win the lottery I will be condemned to stay another 5-6 years in Dungpileton.  In the meantime I am honing my homesteading skills with projects that will benefit me after I escape.  There are hundreds of homesteading blogs and websites to choose from including a site called Instructables -  Not entirely for homesteading but many projects are about self-sufficiency.  One such project was constructing a bee hive out of a plastic food storage 55-gallon drum.  Once in a while I scavenge a plastic drum which I know have contents which were safe to work with. After cutting the barrel in half I scrubbed it clean enough for bee habitation. This project came from  For this project I used plastic honeycomb frames which were surprisingly inexpensive from  It took a little modification to make them fit in the barrel and I recommend using a jigsaw blade made for paneling.  They came with a light coating of bees wax so I added another layer to further help the bees start the comb making process.  The first chance of occupancy will come in the spring when scout bees report back to a traveling swarm that my hive is suitable to live in. 

Partitioned for small starter colony.

Extra layer of beeswax will increase likelihood of a large honeycomb.

The polar vortex and subsequent sub-freezing days have force most of my yard plants to die back however, the lowest temperature of 20 degrees had little to no affect on plants that emerge at this time.  e.g. hedge nettle (Stachys drummondii) and spiderwort (Tradescantia ohioensis).  The only vegetable that didn't survive were peas.  This winter is my best crop of lettuce, broccoli, spinach, artichoke and Kohlrabi.


Red Broccoli

Kohlrobi (should have been harvested earlier but still tasty when steamed)
This morning I spied one hummingbird on the sugar water feeder.  Probably a ruby-throat.  I have a number of songbirds taking from the  suet but they often have to wait for the marauding flock of grackles to finish.  Only the yellow-bellied sapsucker and bluejay are big enough to eat from the bird seed feeder and suet at will.  

Homemade Suet:

4 cups lard
2 cups raisins
1 cup crushed walnuts
2 cups corn meal
2 cups honey or mollases
4 cups bird seed

Melt lard then mix in the rest of ingredients.  Pour into pan and refrigerate.  Cut to fit in suet cage.

Grackles (note stalagmite on water dripper)

Wilson's Warblers?  Feeding on homemade suet

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
Lastly, I buried cuttings of potatoes in October.  The above ground vegetation died back after the second freeze but after digging around I found several egg shaped tubers.  My most successful crop yet. I've read the potato industry sprays a rooting inhibitor on store potatoes so this may explain why I have not had good crops in the past.  Next time I'll use certified seed potatoes.

Next projects: solar panels and solar death ray.

Doobie II.  The black killer Ninja assassin cat.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

A Funny from the American Meat Institute

by: Jill Richardson 

 The American Meat Institute sent out a press release to help journalists deal with its "pink slime" problem. Oh wait, I'm not supposed to use that word. Its "lean finely-textured beef" problem. By the way, they didn't mean for it to be funny. Here's what they sent out: 

From: Eric Mittenthal
Sent: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 11:52 AM
To: Eric Mittenthal
Cc: Janet Riley
Subject: Newsroom Advisory: Glossary of Terms for Media to Use and Avoid in Coverage of Lean Finely Textured Beef 

Contact: Janet Riley
Eric Mittenthal

Newsroom Advisory:
Glossary of Terms for Media to Use and Avoid in Coverage of Lean Finely Textured Beef.


Throughout the extensive coverage of lean finely textured beef (LFTB), journalists have often used incorrect terms to describe the product, how it's made and its role in the beef supply. This guide is a quick reference for use when covering news related to LFTB.

 The United States Department of Agriculture defines LFTB as beef.  For that reason, terms such as filler, binder, additive or ingredient are not accurate when describing LFTB in the context of adding it to ground beef.  Additional facts about LFTB and how it is made are available here.

Proper Terms:
Lean Finely Textured Beef: This product is produced by Beef Products,  Inc.  More detail is available at

Finely Textured Beef: This product is produced by Cargill.  More detail is available at

Beef: Both LFTB and FTB are defined as beef by USDA.
Product: Just as a steak or roast are considered a product of a company, LFTB and FTB are products of BPI and Cargill respectively.

Improper Terms:
Pink Slime: While this term has been commonly used to describe LFTB, there is nothing slimy about it.  The negative connotation of the phrase "pink slime" shows bias and is inappropriate to describe a wholesome, safe, nutritious and USDA inspected beef product.

Filler: According to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, if a product is labeled as "Hamburger,"  it can contain all beef or beef and beef fat.  Other permitted ingredients include dry seasonings, such as spices and flavorings.  Water (and other liquids) and fillers (e.g., breadcrumbs and flours) are not permitted.  Products including the latter ingredients may be called "Beef Patties" and the added ingredients must be listed on the label.  Hamburger must meet the standard of identity in USDA regulations, 9 CFR 319.15(b).

Binder: A gelatinous substance contained in the muscle tissue that tends to bind materials in sausage emulsions.  Cereal flours, dried skim milk, etc. are also used for this purpose.

Extender: An additive other than meat that increases weight and changes the texture of sausage products, e.g., cereal, flour.  Binders are also extenders.

Additive: A food additive is defined in Section 201(s) of the Federal Food Drug & Cosmetic Act as any substance, the intended use of which results or may reasonably be expected to result, directly or indirectly, in its becoming a component or otherwise affecting the characteristic of any food (including any substance intended for use in producing, manufacturing, packing, processing, preparing, treating, packaging, transporting, or holding food; and including any source of radiation intended for any such use.  Additives are used for flavor and appeal, food preparation and processing, freshness, and safety.  To use or market a substance as a food additive, a company must first file a petition with the Food and Drug Administration outlining the tests that prove the substance to be safe under the proposed conditions of use.  If it is approved as safe under those proposed conditions, FDA prescribes in its regulations, the types of foods in which the additive may be used and how it may be used.  An additive is fundamentally different than the product to which is it is added.  Examples of additives include antioxidants, thickeners, curing agents, flavor enhancers and more.
 Eric Mittenthal
Vice President, Public Affairs
American Meat Institute
National Hot Dog & Sausage Council


Acceptance?  Hard to say because I didn't ask my family if they've accepted I would never celebrate Christmas with them again.  There was no call from my mother asking when I was coming to San Antonio for the celebration.  Nothing said before or after except for a Merry Christmas email from Cindy, my youngest sister.  At Thanksgiving the family tradition is to draw names for Christmas gifts.  We are not a rich family so one obligatory gift to a sibling or other relative is sufficient.  This is organized by Linda, my oldest sister.  After two years of mild protest she finally left me alone. 

Many atheists celebrate Christmas.  Many atheists have children and tolerate the holiday to avoid conflict in their community.  Other atheists capitulate to a spouse who is spiritual in his or her.  beliefs.  I spent December 25th reading magazines, clearing brush and watching videos.  As an outsiders I find the holiday to be a colossal waste of time and a perpetuation of  capitalistic, neurotic passive-aggressive guilt.  We don't do this for others who have had a relevant impact on American society.  George Washington and Dr. King are given holidays and for the latter a more solemn remembrance but neither are deified like Jesus. 

When you don't celebrate Christmas you'll find you don't miss a thing.  There are more than enough occasions in the year to celebrate with your love ones.  When you don't celebrate Christmas you find that peace and goodwill are inherent in all humans and not a religious invention.  Life goes on the next day.