Thursday, March 30, 2006

I & The Bird #20 Carnival

The 20th edition of the "I & The Bird" blog carnival is now online. This issues includes a link to my very own blog. I submitted my Belted Kingfisher photo and entry entitled "Love is in the air". Enjoy.

i & the bird #20: birdicious is hosted at Bootstrap Analysis.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Carnival of the Green

Here is another blog carnival. As you can probably tell, blog carnivals are communities of bloggers that get together and aggregate their stories into a given theme. There are different approaches, but one common approach is for a different person of the community to host it on their blog each time. Readers and bloggers are asked to make recommendations for the best content to be linked into the carnival.

Carnival of the Green 20 is hosted at Greener Magazine.

I believe that this carnival is always hosted at Greener Magazine.

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Tangled Bank Blog Carnival #50 now online


Tangled Bank #50 is now online at Island of Doubt.

"Herewith the 50th edition of the Tangled Bank, the fornightly showcase of good weblog science writing, selected by the authors themselves."

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Messier Marathon

This is the week for the Messier Marathon. As described at the link above, "Messier marathon is an attempt undertaken by amateur astronomers to find as many Messier objects as possible during one night. The Messier catalogue consists of 110 relatively bright deep space objects (galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters)". All 110 objects can only be seen on nights near the new moon closest to the equinox.

We plan to go to our local observatory, Bruneau Dunes State Park, to see at least the first few hours worth of objects.

Here is the Bruneau Sky Clock if you are interested:



The clock shows the forecasted viewing conditions. Darker colors are better. Click on the clock to get instructions for reading it.

See the Clear Sky Clock Homepage for 2687 other sky clocks.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Seattle Commission Turns in Recommendations for Meeting Kyoto Targets

In a very impressive show of political leadership, Seattle mayor Greg Nickels continues his campaign to curb his city's impact on climate change. Through his leadership he is also influencing many cities across the country to follow his lead. I personally have requested on two occasions that the City of Boise take up the challenge to no avail.

Here's a writeup on Green Car Congress on his commission's conclusions: Seattle Commission Turns in Recommendations for Meeting Kyoto Targets

I think there are some excellent recommendations from the commission that apply to most any city. I think the key will be the leadership from the mayors office. I am sure that many people will complain about the price and inconvenience. These arguments are based on two critical, and often wrong, assumptions. First, everyone assumes the price of public transportation is too expensive. This is because they don't factor in the price of their single occupancy vehicle, of the roads to support that vehicle, of the impact on the environment of that vehicle, the advantage for them for others to ride public transportation (less congestion), etc. Second, people believe that traffic congestion can be solved by just building more roads. While more roads can have an impact, there is a point where wider roads causes diminishing return.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Idaho Peace Coalition - The last anniversary

On Sunday I participated as part of the Idaho Peace Coalition's The Last Anniversary rally at the Idaho Statehouse. I did not take my camera, so here's a link over to a great summary and some photos of the event at the Red State Rebels blog: Red State Rebels: The last anniversary

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Boise Politics

A particularly humorous and sad, yet accurate, account of Boise politics, thanks to the Bosie Guardian.

Boise Guardian: Evolution: Humans to Monkeys, Chimps, Gorillas

MIT OpenCourseWare

With my strong interest in wildlife and natural ecosystems, I recently started an OpenCourseWare Biology class from MIT. MIT has been posting recordings of many of their classes, with quizzes, exams, and reference materials on their OpenCourseWare website. The classes are free to download and view. Of course, you do not receive credit or professor support. The coursework can be accessed at: MIT OpenCourseWare

Many of the classes are available in both video and audio format. I have been using the audio format as I listen on my ipod during my walk and bus ride to and from work. I have only completed 4 sessions so far, but it has been quite valuable. The lack of video has complicated the learning as the instructor uses many visual aids. I plan to continue with the audio format supplementing it with some video sessions. I expect I am catching at least half of the content.

A number of Universities are following suit - University of Michigan and Stanford being two others that I looked into. I think this is a positive move for the world. It illustrates the democratization of education. I believe it can only help the world.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Court deals blow to EPA's relaxed rule on air emissions

It has been difficult lately to find encouraging environmental news. Here is a positive example of at least one court that believes that the law applies to all, including big business.
Court deals blow to EPA's relaxed rule on air emissions | csmonitor.com

Friday, March 17, 2006

Love is in the air

Bird mating season has returned to Boise. In the Hull's Grove area just North of downtown, and near our house, a number of birds converge each year to reproduce. Last year the Great Horned Owls raised 3 chicks, the Redtail Hawks raised three chicks, two mating pairs of Belted Kingfishers raised an unknown number of chicks, a pair of Coots raised 7 chicks, and lots of ducks. We also saw a Pied-billed Grebe and a Northern Harrier looking for mates, but do not believe that they were successful, at least in this area.

Well the Owls are back, a Harrier is common in the area, the Redtails are on the nest, and the kingfishers are chattering away. Here is a recent photo of a female Belted Kingfisher perched above the lower Hull's Grove pond.

 

Photo taken with an HP PhotoSmart 945 digital Camera through a Swarovski spotting scope using a Scopetronix digiscope adapter.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mike Crapo, the distinguished senator from the Virgin Islands?

Apparently Mr. Crapo is more popular in the Virgin Islands than he is in Idaho!

SR.com: Crapo donations questioned

While I understand the free speech argument of campaign contributions, I have a philosophic issue with entities far removed from the issues in Idaho providing campaign contributions, basically interfering in Idaho politics. The barriers presented by these external entity's contributions are essentially disenfranchising potential candidates in the state. This would seem like there would be a legal argument against restricting equal access to candidates. I don't know what the solution is, but I am confident that this is situation that was not intended by the framers of our constitution.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Idaho Fish and Game Ignore Feedback

It comes as no surprise that shortly after the close of the comment period regarding the controversial Idaho Fish and Game's wolf kill proposal, that the IF&G commission voted UNANIMOUSLY to proceed with their mis-guided plan. They have moved forward and requested permission from the federal government, which I expect to be quickly granted.

As you can see from other posts in my blog, I have significant issues with this plan. I have further issue with the IF&G process for managing the public comments. First, as you will see in the report linked below, they essentially ignored the 41,569 comments received from the Defenders of Wildlife action network campaign. Second, the IF&G apparently have violated their own stated objectives.

From the IF&G report: "The objective of seeking public comments for a management action such as that proposed by the Department might be viewed as twofold: (1) look for additional knowledge that would strengthen the proposal or cause its modification and, (2) measure public sentiment for or against the proposal and identify groups or numbers of individuals who hold various points of view."

The IF&G made the following violations to their objectives:
(1) 25% of the opposing comments pointed, as I did, to the bad science and conclusions in the plan. They did not look for additional knowledge that would strengthen their proposal.
(2) Public sentiment spoke resoundingly against the proposal, yet they still voted unanimously to approve it as is.

If you would like to review the summarized results of the public feedback:

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Monday, March 06, 2006

The infinite war

You will note a number of blogs linked in the left hand panel. These are blogs that I regularly read, that you might be interested in. One of the more impactful blogs is the Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald. To give you a example of his writing, here is a paragraph from an excellent article on the government trying to prosecute some non-government employees under the Espionage Act, titled "Bush's attacks on press freedoms escalate"

"We somehow managed to get through the 20th Century, win two world wars, and vanquish the Soviet empire without imprisoning journalists who inform Americans of the actions of their government which the government wants to keep secret. But along with the rule of law, due process, and so many other defining American principles, a free press is being thrown overboard in the name of the Administration's claimed inability to fight "The Terrorists" within the system of government we have had for more than 200 years."


This has been the question I have been asking myself for the past few years. This government has used the 'time of war' excuse to break the law, change the law, exploit the country for personal gain, and violate much of what I think America is about. They say the measure of a leader is how he/she acts under pressure, whether they stay true to their values, whether they stay on the high road of morality. Our president has failed this test on nearly every front! The country has failed as well. We should be setting the example for the rest of the world, instead we like bullies. It is our responsibility to speak up, to demand change, to return to our core values, return to being a positive example for the rest of the world. Instead we sit back and watch our values erode, most of us not even paying attention.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Idaho wolf kill proposal update

Further down in my blog you will find my letter to the Idaho Fish and Game in opposition to their proposal to kill 75% of the wolves in two district of Clearwater National Forest in Idaho. Well, the results of the public comment period are in - 42,419 comments. 41,738 were opposed to the plan! All of these except 681 came from a Defenders of Wildlife Campaign. Of the 681 letters that did not come from the Defenders campaign, 2/3 were opposed to the plan! I found this statistic very surprising and encouraging. It is yet to be determined if this will cause the Idaho Fish and Game to change their proposal.

It is great to see that so many people participated in the Defenders of Wildlife campaign from around the country and around the world, although I am not convinced it is a good thing. While the comments cannot be ignored, many in Idaho have a fairly independent philosophy and are generally offended when others outside the state, including the federal government, try to tell them what to do. This response will likely cause even more engagement from those in support of the plan.

Another comment on the IF&G statistics. IF&G is promoting this statistic in all of the news reports - "wolves have been responsible for 32 percent of the elk deaths in the Lolo region since 2002". This is carried on by the media as if this is a outrageous statistic. First, people hear it and think that 32% of the elk have been killed (which in an of itself is not unreasonable as elk generally live 12-14 years). No the statistic simply says that of those that died, 32% were killed by wolves. Wolves generally kill the old a sick elk. A strong healthy elk has little to worry about from a wolf pack. I personally have witnessed an adult elk hold off a pack of 5 wolves. This statistic does not say how many of these elk would have died anyway. People need to remember that in a healthy ecosystem, very few animals die of old age, they generally die from predators. Before wolf reintroduction, we had more animals dying of old age, broken bones, and other accidents. Now we have wolves that keep the healthy elk healthier, by reducing disease, and keep the old and sick from a long suffering decline. That is how nature works, like it or not.

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