Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Aerial shooting of wolves has begun in Alaska

Looks like the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is planning to reduce some wolf populations up to 75% to boost caribou numbers, according to this L.A. Times article. The parks service isn't so hot on the plan, stating bad information about wolf populations (possibly leading to over-culling), and unrealistic goals for Caribou herd recovery. Apparently, the Fish and Game Department goals are herd numbers that haven't been seen since the early 1900's.

As a biologist, I could start in at this point with an enormous tirade, scientific references to back up my opinions, and righteous indignation. Instead I'll just say I disagree with this plan. My first child is due today and I need to keep my blood pressure down.


[photo credit in linked article]

Monday, March 30, 2009

Nettle Time -- Part 3, freezing

Freezing is now my favorite way to store Nettles. The end product is versatile and super tasty.

Farmer Theo said that his frozen Nettles ended up weird, slimy and black. I was hoping that was due to over cooking, so my main goal was to parboil the nettles just long enough to make them edible, but not long enough to make the leaves break down. I succeeded.

This first picture is of my parboiling setup. I use a stainless steel stock pot with a pasta insert. I get the water (with a little salt added) to a roiling boil, full power, and dump the full pasta insert in with the nettles. I stir the nettles to make sure they're all exposed to the boiling water -- 30 seconds to 1 minute maximum. The closer to 30 seconds the better in my book.

Here is the finished parboiled product. Note the bright green stems and still-green leaves -- this is what you see when they are correctly boiled. None of the leaves are more than slightly wilted, and definitely none of them are a dark, blackish-green color. That is a sign of over-cooking.

At this point they are ready to eat, and we did eat plenty of them right out of the pot -- no salt, no butter no nothing. I really love the taste of these guys, it is like a flowery, mellow spinach flavor. Oh and here's something I learned the hard way -- don't store the newly-cooked greens in a big pile (say in a huge steel bowl) for very long, because they keep cooking and can over-cook. Spread them out to cool and get em bagged up as soon as you can.

For bagging up, I use a Food Saver Vacuum Machine. For the price it works dandy. You can see from the pictures that I leave a lot of empty space in the bags. That is because I re-use them if I've only stored vegtables in them. They are easy to clean (I throw them in the dishwasher -- mine doesn't have a heating unit in it to melt them) and the extra space keeps them a good useable size.

Anyway, there they are, labeled and dated and ready for the freezer. If vacuum sealed they should stay for 2+ years in the freezer. Having "only" picked 5 full grocery bags full of nettles (and drying 2 of them), we're almost out already. In my house at least, don't expect them to stay around too long.

In the 4th and final installment, I'll talk briefly about how I've used the fresh Nettles in cooking.

Enjoy storing up wild foods,


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday Morning Awesome: Great Pearl Jam Cover

Nice cover of a classic Pearl Jam song "Why Go Home" by P.O.S.:

Enjoy youtube musicians with good voices covering songs outside their normal genre,


[via my faithful Canukistani operative "Yuri"]

Friday, March 27, 2009

Nettle Time -- Part 2, Drying

In Nettle Time -- Part 1, I mentioned that these wild edibles are coming up right now all over the Pacific Northwest (and elsewhere), and gave a few tips about gathering. Now I'll talk about storage and use.

The most common way for people to store nettles is to dry them.

The equipment needed to dry nettles is minimal -- you could do it by hanging them over a line in a shady but well-circulated area, for instance. But this time of year the ambient humidity is so high that I would be concerned about mildew if you did it outside. If you dry them inside, make sure to hang them in an area that folks won't brush up against them as their stinging quality is still up and kicking throughout most of the process.

I chose the quickie route -- The Dessicator [hear as Monster Truck Rally announcer for full effect]. The reason I call my cheapo grocery store dehydrator The Dessicator is because driers like these seem best at absolutely desiccating something, as opposed to drying to a particular moisture level as is required of most dried fruits, fruit leathers, and jerky. But for drying the living hell out of things, it works great. I use it for seaweed, mushrooms, and nettles. No moisture subtlety needed, just dry the dickens out of it, and store.

One note on storage of dried nettles. Even when fully dried, the stingers (especially on the stems) can still be moderately active. Consider wearing gloves when packing up your dried nettles. The second your dried stuff hits hot water or cooking food, those needles will be safely de-activated, so no worries. If you are worried despite this assurance, clean the nettles of all stems, and then powder them with a few pulses in a food processor.

What to do with dried nettles? Well the most common answer is tea. For use in tea, folks tend to leave the nettles in dried form and not powdered. Folks use nettle tea not only as a general health tonic (lots of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and Iron), but to help with allergies. I even have a friend who is serving it to her dog for allergies, and it's working quite well. There are plenty of sources of information on the intartubes regarding nettles as medicine and I'll leave that conversation to those folks.

Another use is as a flavor and nutritional supplement in food. In this case, the powdered form is preferred. You can add the powder directly to food, or create a condiment out of it. I know of folks who use it in soups and stews, but also in smoothies, and sprinkled on top of just about anything that could use a fresh, "green" flavor.

You can make a Gomashio-type condiment by mixing the powder with salt, or even better add freshly-roasted sesame seeds to the salt and nettles and grind the mix up a bit in a mortar and pestle. Best done when the seeds are still warm, it blends the flavor nicely. In this manner the nettles are replacing the seaweed normally used.

Next episode will cover freezing, methods and uses.

Enjoy free wild spring produce,


Thursday, March 26, 2009

First confirmed Wolverine sighting in California in 80 years!

A male wolverine was still-photographed last year and video'd this year on Sierra Pacific timber land in Northern California. Genetic tests have shown that it is a male, and the same animal in both instances. The video footage was captured by a cameras set up at baits by SPI on their land.

The individual shares more genetic similarity with animals in the Northern Rockies around Idaho or Montana than those from California's past. For more details, check out this article at Redding.com.

Check out the handsome fellow below:

Enjoy seeing some of the rarer aspects of the ecosphere creep back into the lower 48,


[via Uncle Tom, source Redding.com]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Colbert wins space station naming contest

You may have heard NASA was holding a contest to name the newest room to be added to the International Space Station. Amongst the geek set, it was a hard choice between "Colbert" and "Serenity." Seems that there are more Colbert geeks than Firefly geeks.

Although the Discovery News article says the contest "went awry" when he won the naming contest, I disagree.

I do understand that they may have to refuse the name though, since "Colbert" is a commercial enterprise as well as a name. It's still pretty awesome nonetheless.

Enjoy the power of communication, even when applied to trivialities,


[photo credit in linked article]

Songs Stuck in my Head Series: The Scotsman

Canukistani Kate gave me a mixed music CD and finished it off with The Scotsman, by Mike Cross. It's now stuck in my head, of course.

Below is a World of Warcraft animated video for the song.

Enjoy bawdy drinking songs becoming deeply inculcated into modern geek culture,


Monday, March 23, 2009

Nettle Time -- Part 1

Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)are some of the easiest to identify, most common, tastiest and most nutritious wild edibles in the Pacific N.W. And they're starting to pop right now.

In Washougal, Washington on the shores of the Columbia, the nettles I was picking late last week (with the help of Farmer Theo and Ms. Sara) were almost all under 1' tall. That's primo size for eating.

Identifying nettles is pretty easy, especially if you aren't afraid of a little pain. Look for herbs in wet forest ground that look like mint or verbena, and touch it with, say, your arm. If it flares up and stings and makes a rash where it touched you, bingo. A less painful way to I.D. them involves talking to experts and/or bringing them into the forest with you.

I always use gloves when I collect them, for obvious reasons. If you want to return to the same collection spot, cut them above a growth node and they'll come back bushy and tender in a few weeks from the same stalk.

There are many ways to use nettles, from cooking and eating as is, drying and using as a supplement or tea, and even making cordage. I'll talk about how we're going to be using them this season in later episodes of this post.

Enjoy eating something that formerly was just something you avoided when hiking,


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday Morning Awesome: Prop 8, the Musical

Don't know why I hadn't gotten around to posting this yet, it is quite full of awesome.

Enjoy activists with talent entertaining you with information,


[via Deborah, thanks again for the props and for the reminder about this awesomeness]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring starts for the garden -- plants and animals

We lose our breakfast nook in certain seasons. Spring is a big one -- it's a nice south-facing 3-windowed space, practically a greenhouse. T. does his starts there and begins the hardening process, and this year we have chicks too.

The starts in the picture are too numerous to name -- but a good mix of veggies and flowers.

The wee ones are a mix of Australorps, a very pretty black chicken with green iridescence in the feathers, very steady laying breed; Silver-laced Wyandottes, a hearty laying hen with amazingly beautiful plumage; and the special rare-breed, Delawares. Looks like the new generational theme in the flock is black and white formal.

Whenever we raise chicks, we raise many more than we'll ever need because there are always folks looking for pullets later in the season. Plus, our friends up on the mountain have a ravening band of mutt chickens in a big forest enclosure, and any new breed to add to the mix just makes their flock hybrids stronger. There's always room for more up there.

And we have the roughest chore too -- to pick up and play with the chicks a lot as they're growing up. It's a tough one, but we suck it up and do it. We've found that the adult chickens are so much easier to deal with if the chicks get handled and talked to a lot. Jobs like catching them to clip wings and check feet are much less noisy and dramatic.

Enjoy bad photography of lovely spring garden tasks,


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A couple attacks on small family farms -- H.R. 875 and S. 425

Again we are faced with good sounding legislation that just grows government in ways that allow them to be the strong arm of big money. For a quickie video on both H.R. 875 and S. 425 -- click here.

H.R. 875, the Food Safety and Modernization Act stinks to high heaven.

Let's just start out with who introduced it -- Rep. DeLauro D, Conn. Her husband works for Monsanto. If there ever was an evil corporate giant, Monsanto is it.

Another big stinker is Senate Bill 425, the Food Safety and Tracking Improvement Act. This one is sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D, Ohio. And again, there is noise of Monsanto connections with this politician (according to the World Net Daily article).

The bills call for the creation of government agencies which will be up in the business of even the smallest food producers -- legislating and prosecuting over details like what pesticides are or aren't used, what animals are fed, and how to medicate animals. This is all jumping off of the scare from the peanuts in Texas, mark my words. Some of the fines proposed are draconian -- up to 1$ million dollars per offence. Small farmers are concerned about both these bills.

I'd love to see the Conservative "anti big government" folks jump on these bills, but I'm not expecting any action from them. I'm not expecting much of any push back from Washington at all unless folks make a huge stink -- big money is behind this so it's business as usual. We have two weeks to voice our concerns.

Notice that it's two Demublicrats that are introducing these bills -- "the-one party-as-two-party" system is in full force here. Whomever happens to be in power is beholden to the same interests, which is why I'm neither a Republican nor a Democrat. On the grand majority of issues, especially ones I'm most concerned about, there is no difference.

If you want to read more, check out this write up on World Net Daily.

Here is the USA.gov website where you can get information to contact your representatives in Government, from the President down. Each hand written letter has the impact of thousands of emails and phone calls. But emails and phone calls are still better than nothing.

Enjoy the intartubes' ability to rally awareness and resistance against yet another attempt by big money to control their competition -- US,


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Little Dudes: Hispaniolan solenodon

This little dude, a Hispaniolan solenodon [Solenodon paradoxus], is a shrew-like mammal with a poisonous bite, and has mammologists all in a tizzy. It's not particularly handsome, but it is particularly rare. Months of trapping attempts only produced this one individual. It was trapped in the Dominican Republic, though this species is also known in Haiti (the other side of the island of Hispanionla).

This species and its lineage trace back to end of the the time of the dinosaurs.

Here is some brief footage from the BBC of the animal before it was released.

Enjoy ugly little dudes that get geeks all worked up,


[via my faithful Canunistani operative, "Yuri," -- video credit in BBC article]

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stewart Vs. Cramer -- Unedited

In case you have been living under a rock (I was, I didn't find out until after the fact) -- the Daily Show has had a momentous event. It's definitely the best interview I've ever seen on the Daily Show, and if you are a media analyst or sociologist, it may be the best television you will see (or have seen) in years.

To be clear, what makes it great isn't even necessarily explicit in the interview, it is the whole situation that made the interview necessary, who is doing it, and why. It's a contextual media whiplash that deserves serious attention.

Stewart had Jim Cramer on his show, host of the CNBC show Mad Money. Cramer came on (to his credit, I must say) after the Daily Show had been lambasting him and his recently-horrible financial advice, to the point where the MSM (main stream media) started saying there was a feud between them. It became a media circus, apparently.

There is so much I could say, but really -- you should just watch this if you haven't yet. If you've only seen the T.V. version, these uncensored videos may be of renewed interest to you as well. I'm very curious to hear your reactions too, if ya'll feel like sharing.

Below is the first of three videos showing the uncensored, unedited interview. [HERE is part two, and HERE is part 3] You have to get to the 2nd and 3rd part to get to the good stuff.

Enjoy a comedy show living up to the term "the 4th estate,"


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hard To Tell If Wikipedia Entry On Dada Has Been Vandalized Or Not

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND—The Wikipedia entry on Dada—the World War I–era "anti-art" movement characterized by random nonsense words, bizarre photocollage, and the repurposing of pre-existing material to strange and disturbing effect—may or may not have been severely vandalized, sources said Monday.

"This is either totally messed up or completely accurate," said Reed College art history major Ted Brendon. "There's a mustache drawn on the photo of Marcel Duchamp, the font size keeps changing, and halfway through, the type starts going in a circle. Also, the majority of the actual entry is made up of Krazy Kat cartoons with abstract poetry written in the dialogue balloons."

The fact that the web page continually reverts to a "normal" state, observers say, is either evidence that ongoing vandalization is being deleted through vigilant updating, or a deliberate statement on the impermanence of superficial petit-bourgeois culture in the age of modernity.

Enjoy elitist humor,


[via The Onion online]

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Quote: Brief summation of the history of the Universe

The history of the Universe has been summed up thusly: ``Hydrogen is a light, odorless gas, which, given enough time, turns into people.''

John P. Wiley Jr., quoting Edward R. Harrison (a cosmologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst) Smithsonian Magazine, December, 1995.

Enjoy uber pithy statements,



Songs Stuck in my Head Series: The Black Keys -- I Got Mine

I dig this song. More specifically, I dig this guitar hook -- simply awesome.

I blame my father's obsession with the rock/blues scene in my younger years. Something about the music is just so straight up and guttural, it gets me every time. The 70's style big-guitar Gemetzel solos (i.e. noodling) isn't my thing really, but in most of their songs they keep that to a minimum.

If you want the studio version of the song, click here. I appreciate the subtleties you can catch on that version. For some visuals as well, below is the band on Letterman:

For another awesome bluesey piece, check out Keep Your Hands off Her.

Enjoy the music of a couple throwbacks from Akron Ohio,


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Vampire skull found amongst plague skeletons

Apparently, back in the day, one "method" of exorcising (killing?) vampires was to force open their mouth with a brick. The skull pictured above was found near Venice, Italy, according to this National Geographic article. There are some interesting tidbits and extra photos in the article if you are feeling so inclined.

Enjoy not living in the middle ages, amongst plagues and vampyres and abbots (oh my!)


[image credit in linked article]

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tea Kettles, Plastic and Aluminum poisons, and the Precautionary Principle

Ever since The Wife's pregnancy, the fact that our electric tea kettle (which gets scads of use from the tonnage of tasty tasty Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants teas that get brewed here every day) has an aluminum heating tray and plastic water reservoir has been bugging me.

[Why yes, that was a blatant plug for our friends' tea business]

Are studies absolutely conclusive that aluminum causes Alzheimer's? Well, not conclusive no -- it's probably multi-vector, etc etc. Is it conclusive that heating food substances in plastics is dangerous? Well -- if they have Biphenol A it probably is, but I'm not sure our kettle does.

Regardless -- a father frets.

I decided to go with the Precautionary Principle on this one. I did some research looking for stainless steel electric kettles. I found out that many have stainless on the outside but not the inside. Many still have plastic water reservoirs. No go.

The Aroma Stainless Steel Electric Water Kettle has neither. The only contact water makes with plastic is a little bit goes into a side reservoir to display your water level in the kettle. Considering all the other options, I'll take it.

I'm sure there are sexier (and much, much more expensive -- this one is only $30) stainless kettles out there, but I just need functional, not fancy. Plus, the customer support lady from Aroma was very helpful, responsive, and friendly when answering my questions. That clinched the deal.

Time to go have some Bombay Breakfast with this new non-toxic water.

[Yep, another shameless plug]

Enjoy not poisoning your family,


Monday, March 9, 2009

Speaking of Socialism for the rich, dregs for everyone else

When you're living in a plutocracy (ok, maybe an oligarchy -- you decide), amazing things happen. Like folks yelling about "personal responsibility" and "pulling yourself up by the boot straps" who are themselves benefactors of ginormous amounts of government handouts.

The other amazing thing: many of the folks who are flipping the bill for these handouts INSIST that the money go to the already-rich, and DEMAND that it not go to everyday folks. Because when it goes to folks who made bad decisions (or were duped by experts) about their mortgages -- you see -- that's a HANDOUT. But when taxpayer money goes to enormous institutions that over-leveraged themselves due to an utter lack of oversight (I.E. made bad, no HORRIBLE decisions) -- THAT, somehow, "fiscally conservative."

The mind reels.

Here's the daily show on the same subject:

Enjoy laughing whenever you can,


[original idea via Idea Whiplash blog, thanks sir]

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Saturday Morning Awesome: Hammer girl

With a kid on the way I have feverishly strange dreams like this on occasion.

I am thinking frame 7 of the comic would make a stellar t-shirt, actually.

[remember, you can click on the image for a larger version]

Enjoy cartoons that help you contemplate parenthood,


[via buttersafe.com comics]

Friday, March 6, 2009

Geek Test: XKCD comic version

If you get the cartoon below, and most especially if you think it's funny, then you are a geek. Welcome home, you are amongst brethren here.

Enjoy moments of clarity,


Pink Dolphin spotted in Louisiana

In case you don't cruise the intartubes constantly, I thought I'd better post these pictures of the awesome Pink Dolphin spotted in Calcasieu Lake by Capt. Erik Rue. They've gone viral both on the internet and through email, but I had to jump on the band wagon, it's just too cool.

It is an albino dolphin, very rare but not completely unknown.

Here is a link directly to Captain Erik Rue's Calcasieu guide service page
with all the photos he's posted. I just grabbed a few:

For more reading here is an article about the pictures and Captain on Hoaxslayer.com.

Enjoy notices of unicorn-level animules still trotting around this planet of ours,


[photo credits in linked article]

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ben Harper -- When It's Good [live]

Here is a video of Ben Harper performing 'When It's Good' live at Top of the Pops, broadcast on March 12th, 2003. The song is off the album Diamonds on the Inside.

This is one of my favorite of his songs.

Ps: This video is a good chance to get a close up look at his awesome Weissenborn slide guitar. A big part of why his music is so unique and haunting.

[Warning and apology: the last few seconds of that video show a rated "R" cheesecake photograph promoting some website or another. I figured the video was worth posting anyway, with a warning that it's not really SFW.]

Enjoy watching Ben do his thing live,


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Billy Badass (a.k.a. Fredde Norgren) making and shooting primitive bows

Although it hasn't showed up on the blog lately, I'm very interested in making wooden bows, especially without power tools. The Luddite patiently walked me through my first one a few years ago, and it shoots like a charm.

Fredde Norgren is from Sweden, therefore his blood is made from digested rotted fish and can stand temperatures that would break my face. In the first video he makes a bowdrill fire and a greenwood longbow, and in the second he (very handily) shoots another wood bow to show what it can do.

The videos are worth watching just for his brisk, stoic demeanor as much as the skills being displayed.

Enjoy watching different kinds of geeks in their native environments,


[original link via Patrick Gracewood, of the world-famous Gracewood Studios]

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ford's solution to a zombie apocalypse

Here is Jalopnik's pick for the Post-Apocalyptic bests at the Chicago auto show. A hilarious concept for a blog post.

"Yuri," my faithful Canukistani operative, pointed out the New Scope Ford F-650 XUV as the car on the list which is of particular interest. Not only for it's Zombie-protection potentials (check out that front grill) but for the obvious fact that it is yet another example of Ford having its finger RIGHT on the pulse of the times.

Thank for Ford for creating a car with fuel economy in mind -- making this bulletproof would have set the gas mileage way too low to be useful in a Zombie apocalypse. Considering the 4wd F150 is getting 9/12 MPG, I'm betting this baby is squarely in the single digits, even on the freeway.



Monday, March 2, 2009

Squashed Philosophers

Here's a great site for informationovores -- Squashed Philosophers. There's a pretty comprehensive list of (primarily Western) philosophers, with a one-line quote/paraphrase from each.

The real work, and interest, on the website is on the right side of the page. There are links to at least one major work by each philosopher in condensed form.

I would say that Cliffs notes of anything should always be approached with caution, used as an introduction or exploratory gesture, but you can always read the full work if it catches your attention.

Enjoy expanding your vocabulary and possibly horizons,


[via my Canukistani, Ex-Pat Uncle Ted]

Bailouts explained in one witty phrase

Enjoy pithy explanations of seemingly complicated circumstances,


[found stumbling to here]