About Lif Strand

I write, therefore I am. Unless I'm taking photos. Or sewing. Or not.

I’m over there!

I finally went live with my Patreon Creator account after a lot of dilly-dallying about it.  Asking for money to support my creative efforts was a high bar for me to leap.  I bashed against that obstacle for a year before finally just hurling myself over it because… after some point it’s either put up or shut up.  It’s part of the creative process, this money thing.  It’s not about starving artist, it’s about validation.

Believe me, many artists would rather be validated than eat.  Chocolate or approval of my work… chocolate or approval of my work…  

Please, take my chocolate.  It would be a fine thing if you went over to Patreon and gave me a thumbs up with your patronage.  Thank you!

The one solution that’s not been tried

Female Mexican wolf

A female Mexican gray wolf, seen upon her release in Arizona in 1998 as part of the federal reintroduction program, eventually died in captivity. (Source: Arizona Game And Fish Department)

The Mexican wolf program is supposed to reintroduce wolves to the wilds of Arizona and New Mexico. In my opinion, the project been doomed to failure from day one, but that’s a topic for another day. What I’m considering today is the one approach to management of Mexican wolves that’s never been tried, the one approach that actually might have a good chance of succeeding. The one that’s never going to happen, not in today’s world.

That is, stop messing with the wolves.

Really. Leave them alone. Wolves have absolutely no problem breeding and spreading out in any area that’s suitable for them. The government’s given them the place, so now why not give them a chance to do what comes naturally?

Wolves are intelligent. They’re highly successful apex predators that live and hunt in close-knit groups called packs. In the wild, packs are stable hierarchical structures, with an alpha male and female that typically mate for life. Pups grow up with pack members teaching the young everything they need to know about how to be an apex predator. When they’re old enough, young wolves move out of the pack to join other established packs or create new ones. Mother Nature (time/natural selection) has cleverly created a perfect system to ensure species survival — genetic diversity and increasing population are achieved through the reward of a highly social life for pack members and a higher chance of survival for individuals. And intelligence. Did I mention that wolves are smart?

Mother Nature knows best. But for twenty years the Mexican wolf program has done it’s best to ignore the nature of wolves. For twenty years the program has done everything possible to create dysfunctional packs.

And people wonder why the program has been so unsuccessful.

Consider this: The very things that it takes to make for cohesive, successful wolf packs — packs being the very heart of wolf survival — are all disrupted by the management practices of the Mexican wolf program.  Maybe the reason the program has such poor results is because the program is driving the wolves crazy.

Breeding animals are chosen by the program for their genetics, instead of by wolves who lead packs. Here is a species where alpha pack animals usually mate for life — but the Mexican wolf program doesn’t give their breeding animals that option.  Some of them don’t even get to mate.  Semen is harvested.  Females are inseminated.

Wild wolves don’t examine each other’s genetic makeup before bonding.  They prove themselves within the pack structure, they lead by having the right disposition and skills, and they breed because they have proved their suitability through doing.  There is more to individual, pack, and species success than a biologist’s determination of ideal genetic structure.  Success in the wild depends on brains and the strength of a pack.

There are no packs for captive breeding wolves, so the wolves that are transferred to the wild from captive breeding programs have not been educated to hunt.  They haven’t been educated, actually, in any way to be normal mentally healthy wolves.  Humans can’t give that to wolves.  Only wolves can.  But the wolves are ripped away from any familial type relationships they might manage to develop.  If they are lucky enough they’ll be dumped into the wild with other “genetically suitable” wolves that aren’t necessarily pack members.  But they will still need to fumble their way to a successful hunt (for how do they learn to hunt in captivity?) in strange country they have not been raised in and for prey of a type they may never have encountered before.  And on top of that, they are trespassers in the territory of another pack.

Then, supposing they survive — meaning they haven’t started hanging around humans for a handout, or killing livestock or pets — the wolf program never allows wolves to gradually get wild.  No, they’re trapped every few years to be vaccinated, to have physical exams, and to have their tracking collar batteries changed if they’re going to be left in the wild.  Or they’re moved to a different pack that biologists have determined would be better, or taken back to captivity to be used for breeding.  Whatever happens to them, they are handled by humans, fed by humans, and the wolves get used to being around humans.  They lose their fear of humans — if they ever had any to start with.

Mexican wolf pup born in captivity, the result of artificial insemination

A three-week-old Mexican gray wolf pup, born as a result of artificial insemination.  \ ENDANGERED WOLF CENTER

If they’re born in captivity, they’re handled and fussed over.  They’re usually raised in facilities that let humans come and view them.  And the wolves view back.  What natural, healthy fear will a grown wolf have if it has grown up being carried around by humans as a baby?  What will prevent a grown wolf from seeking out the first “pack” they knew — the company of humans?

The worst thing that has ever happened to Mexican wolves is the Mexican wolf program.  

I just wish they’d put the whole program on hiatus for ten years.  Or forever. Stop capturing them to vaccinate, change collar batteries, give them physical exams. Stop raiding dens and planting pups that are the result of captive breeding programs.  Stop releasing wolves.  If wolves are trapped or removed from the wild because they are livestock-killers, or they’re nuisance wolves (meaning they hang around humans) then put them in captivity and never ever release them into the wild again.  Just stop it all.

It’s been 20 years since this fiasco of a program was started.  If wolves haven’t managed to thrive in the wild by now, maybe it’s because of the wolf program.  Maybe if the one approach that’s never been used was taken — leaving wolves alone to develop naturally — the Mexican wolf population might not just grow, but thrive.  Maybe if mentally healthy individuals were allowed to form functional packs without human intervention, livestock killing incidents would go down on their own.

Maybe all it would take for Mexican wolf reintroduction success would be to allow wolves to become wild and mentally healthy on their own.

But we will never know, because too much money is made off the Mexican wolf program. Agencies wouldn’t get their funding. The lawsuit-crazy enviro groups would have nothing to sue about, and couldn’t appeal to the public for more donations.  Follow the money.  It always tells you where the problems are.  RIP Mexican wolves, the least important factor in the Mexican wolf program.

US Air Force OK with destroying the Gila Wilderness

Gila Wilderness 1922



“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”  Wilderness Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–577)

The Gila Wilderness was designated the world’s first wilderness area on June 3, 1924.  If the US Air Force has its way, it’ll become a burning trash dump.

A Holloman Air Force Base proposal would create a new military operations area (MOA) over the Gila and Aldo Leopold wilderness areas of the Gila National Forest (and over into Arizona, too). The Air Force wants up to ten thousand F-16 flights per year (that’s more than one an hour 24/7), dropping  flares and chaff as they fly over.

The Air Force didn’t think to bother notifying the public* where the MOA is proposed (Grant and Catron County in New Mexico) about this idea.  Instead the Air Force held meetings in other municipalities nowhere near the directly affected area.

Pretty sneaky, if you ask me.

So what will happen if the MOA goes through?

You mean the screaming of jet planes constantly zooming over what’s supposed to be wilderness (“in natural condition” 11 U.S.C. § 1131(a)) isn’t enough?  Well, there’s more.  Such as the trashing of the forest.  Literally.  The Air Force wants to drop chaff and set off flares (military aircraft often combine chaff with flare dispensers), carpeting the forest with military debris and maybe just burning the place down.  How much chaff and flares I don’t know… maybe that is in the Air Force’s environmental impact statement (EIS).  But with up to 10,000 flights a year I’m thinking we’re talking tons.

Chaff

Chaff is meant to confuse radar.  It’s made of millions of tiny aluminum or zinc coated fibers that are ejected from a jet and then are blown around by the turbulence of the jet’s wake and from whatever wind there is that day.  It can end up far from the release point.

Chaff fibers are about the thickness of a human hair and range in length from about a third of an inch to around three inches long.  The fibers are dispensed in cartridges or projectiles, so it’s not only chaff, but the debris from the containers (paper, cardboard, styrene caps, pistons, and other stuff) that ends up on the ground.

Once the chaff and debris is on the ground, it can be blown around by wind and updrafts from wildfire.  While inhalation is not considered to be a major issue (by people who don’t have to breathe it), wild animals will inevitably consume the chaff because it will be everywhere.  It will blanket the forest floor, the plants, and the animals themselves (not to mention hikers, bikers, hunters, and campers) with metal coated glass fibers.  And let’s not forget that these fibers and associated debris will also pollute the streams… water that ultimately will end up in Phoenix, AZ.  But hey, they have water filters over there, don’t they?

There have been few to no peer-reviewed studies examining the impact of chaff on wildlife and the environment, or humans either, for that matter.  Little is known about the breakdown of chaff in soil or in water.  It doesn’t take a study to know this:  given what chaff is made of, it’s not going to go away soon.

But hey, the Air Force is pretty sure that the stuff won’t hurt anything.

Flares being deployed from a F-16

Flares being deployed from a F-16

Flares are used to confuse heat-seeking missiles. Most are magnesium pellets ejected from tubes to ignite in the air behind the aircraft. The flares burn at temperatures above 2,000° F.   As hot as magma ejected from a volcano.

The flare pellets burn as they fall to the ground.  To the dry trees and brush below.  The place where there are no roads because it’s wilderness, so fire fighters can’t even get there unless they hike in.

If the flares don’t burn the forest down when they land, at minimum what their deployment will do is add to the feeling that there’s a war’s going on.  Jets screaming overhead.  Explosions blasting day and night.  Blinding lights destroying dark skies.

Bye by peace and quiet.  Farewell tranquility.  Too bad, wilderness.

Wildfire burning in the Gila National Forest

The future of the Gila Wilderness?

What could  they possibly be thinking?

I’m guessing the Air Force is thinking only about the Air Force.  They’re relying on people being so fearful about war that sacrificing the world’s oldest wilderness so fighter pilots have another place to train is an acceptable price.

I don’t know what they’re really thinking, but I do know that the decisions will be made by people who don’t value wild places.

Just think:  the Gila National Forest is where the endangered Mexican wolf is supposed to survive.  Where are the studies on the impacts on the wolves?  And what about the endangered spotted owl.?  And all the other threatened and endangered species in the Gila?   Let’s not forget the impact on the Cosmic Campground (the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary on National Forest System lands and also in North America, located between the Gila Wilderness and the Blue Range Primitive Area).  Has anyone bothered checking into potential damage to the Gila Cliff Dwellings from the vibrations of hourly (or more frequent) low flying jets and/or flare explosions?

No matter who you are, rancher, environmentalist, Continental Divide Trail hiker or biker, hunter, wildlife photographer, or just someone who likes to walk in the woods, it seems to me you’d be as outraged by this Air Force proposal as I am.

While I am not an advocate of petitions, for those who are unwilling or unable to take personal action there is a petition sponsored by the Gila Conservation Coalition at https://www.change.org/p/holloman-air-force-base-military-overflights-threaten-the-gila-wilderness

Better yet, write your legislators.  Write to the Air Force.  Call them.  Email them.  Make a noise in this world.
Holloman AFB Public Affairs Office
Mr. Tommy Fuller
(575) 572-1831 ext. 5406
tommy.fuller@us.af.mil

* Edited due to information received from Catron County Commissioner Anita Hand (District 1) and further research:  The Catron County Commission received a letter about the EIS too late to act on before the scoping period had closed (the Notice of Intent was published August 25, 2017; there should have been a 45 day comment period but the comment deadline was September 15, 2017).  Holloman airspace analyst Alan Shafer has stated that Holloman also sent letters to both Grant County Commission Chair Brett Kasten and County Manager Charlene Webb but Kasten said that he had no recollection of receiving any letter.  Grant County Commission did hold a special meeting to address the issue. but this was after the comment deadline  The only public scoping meetings were held by the Air Force in Carlsbad, Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces.  No scoping meetings were held in Grant or Catron County. [return to top]

Note also that the draft EIS is not available on the Holloman AFB EIS website.  If it exists somewhere, this writer sure can’t find it.  

Further reading:  Gila National Forest weighs in on Air Force’s airspace proposal

Potato Soup

Blessed moisture (c) 2018 Lif Strand

Not potato soup ingredients

Yesterday it rained for the first time in I don’t know how long.  Oh, I could readily find out — I do keep a weather journal.  It didn’t rain much the last time.  As of yesterday morning I had recorded under half an inch since the first of the year and as of last evening I had just 0.2″ more to add.

Last night it snowed.  I woke up to two inches of wet white stuff.  I have to be happy for that, because we so desperately need the moisture.  But I had to cancel a trip into town.  I wanted to pick up a load of alfalfa hay, and get some cat food.  I’m out of bananas, and getting low on peanut butter.  And [gasp!] I’m out of wine.  But more importantly, I had to cancel the appointment for a massage.

Tragedy!

Okay, it’s not a great tragedy but it is a bit of a disappointment.  I’m not in dire need of the massage and I won’t get to hang out in the coffee shop this afternoon with a book, a cup of coffee, and a pastry.   The massage has been rescheduled and the coffee shop will be there next week, so it’s not the end of the world.  It’s just one of those things when you go rural.

Living out here in the middle of nowhere means knowing that there could be days or weeks when going anywhere is not possible.  It means thinking in advance, replenishing supplies before running out, and making do.  If a person isn’t into the mentality of  preparedness and self-sufficiency then this is not the kind of place to live.

In my case, today is more like a schoolkid’s snow day than anything else.  I get to stay home.  Yay!  (That’s the hermit in me talking).  And of course, I have what I need here to make the day even better.  None of the things on my shopping list are things I’m in danger of running out of unless I couldn’t drive out for a good long time.

Except for the wine.  A wine cellar’s on my To Do list, but I’m not there yet.  I rarely have back-up wine.  I’ll tough it out.

It’s a cold, dreary day, today.  The snow has stopped and the melt has begun.  It’ll be a snotty mess out there in a while.  A good excuse to stay inside and snuggle up near the wood stove with a book.  And maybe some comfort food.  I’m thinking potato soup.

Look Ma!  No recipe!

Making do happens when you can’t follow a recipe.  Maybe you don’t have the ingredients, or the time, or that recipe just doesn’t appeal.  In my case it seems to mean being constitutionally incapable of following directions.  Oh, not because I couldn’t if I wanted to, but because it just seems so… um…

Let’s just say that some of us make our own excitement in life.

I’ve always been attracted to stories of people pushing the envelope of their very existence.  Doesn’t matter where or when.  It could be anybody, at any time, on whatever ocean or continent… or planet or galaxy.  Shipwrecked folks, lost folks, explorers, pioneers — people who went where no others had gone before and who made do with what they had and what they could invent.

It takes a special kind of person to do that.  I’ve always wanted to be a member of their ranks.  But you know, I’ve got that hermit thing going, so that has put a crimp on what I might do.  The thought of being stuck on an island or in a spaceship with a bunch of people who are in my face all the time is just too ewwww.  Plus I’d get claustrophobic without wild, open spaces to roam.

So hey — I could be a mountain man, like Grizzly Adams as portrayed by Dan Haggerty (I met him years back, seemed like a nice guy).  Except I don’t live in the mountains and I’m a woman, and no training bears for me, thank you very much.  Anyway those are just details.  The point is a life of doing whatever I can for myself by myself.  Not living by the book.  Not just marching to a different drummer — but to my own drummer: me.  Even if I can’t drum.

It’s a life of choosing to take a different road, maybe one that requires giving certain things up in order to have other things that are more important.  From the outside it might look a lot like living a hard life for no reason, but from the inside what it feels like is playing.

Yes, playing.  By that I mean, having fun doing something I’ve chosen to do the way I want to do it and enjoying what I’m doing just because I can.

So about that soup

Even if I had an excellent potato soup recipe I wouldn’t follow it.  (I do have an excellent book of soup recipes entitled Soup, by Coralie Castle; 101 Productions; distributed by Scribner, New York 1971.  It is out in a second edition published in 1996, too.)  I don’t need to look in the book to know I probably don’t have all the ingredients, or if I do, I won’t want to use the ingredients called for.  More importantly, seems to me that recipes are guidelines to someone else’s idea of what food should taste like.  It’s like making a quilt using the exact fabrics and pattern that someone else has created, or painting-by-numbers.

Not saying that there’s anything wrong with doing those things, just that it’s not for me.

You know the supposedly ancient Chinese saying about giving a man a fish vs. teaching him how to fish?  Well, teach me not only how to fish, but how to light a fire, and how to clean the fish, and how to fry or broil or stew, and you’ve taught me something truly useful.  Which, by the way, is why the early editions of The Joy of Cooking are so wonderful — Irma Rombauer provided not just recipes but an explanation of the basic principles of cooking.  That’s why that cookbook has been in print continuously since 1936 with over 18 million copies sold.

Teach me the principles of soup and I’ll make my own recipe.

Potato soup ingredients

So in case you want to know what I did, here it is, today’s recipe for potato soup, with annotations.  Next time I won’t make it the same way.  As for trying my recipe?  Do what you will, that is the only advice (apology to Mr. Crowley)

Ingredients

  • 5 potatoes of varying sizes I grabbed some potatoes that I forgot I had.  They hadn’t gone green yet and that didn’t have lots of sprouts.  Most of the rest will get planted when it’s warmer if they don’t go into the compost, darn it
  • 1 onion It needed using before it needed to join the potatoes in the garden
  • 3 large carrots because I like carrots
  • 1 cup chopped kale because I had it, because it doesn’t store well and the horses won’t eat it, and because it would make the soup photo pretty
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 TBS cumin because I love the taste
  • 1 TBS Golden Paste (turmeric) because it’s good for me.  You can use plain turmeric if you don’t have Golden Paste handy, or don’t put any in the soup at all
  • Some veggie oil
  • A big blob of butter
  • Secret ingredient:  Left-over coffee from this morning
  • Water

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a deep pan or a soup pot.  Melt butter in the oil.  Don’t let it get so hot it smokes!
  • Chop the onions into chunks and saute in the oil/ butter.  While that’s cooking, do the potatoes. Don’t forget to stir every so often so nothing sticks to the pan.
  • Chop the potatoes into chunks and add to the onions.  While that’s cooking, do the carrots.
  • Chop the carrots into smallish pieces and add to the onions/carrots.  While that’s cooking, do the kale.
  • Chop the kale and stir into the rest.
  • Add the pepper, and the other spices if you like them.
  • Add the coffee (it was about 8 oz).  I like coffee in my sauces and soups because it adds a nice dark color and some depth and richness to the taste.  I tend to not bother with meat broths, which would do the same.
  • Add water to cover all ingredients and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and simmer on low till it’s getting mushy.  Leave the lid cocked a little so the liquid reduces some, but watch that it doesn’t reduce too much and burn your veggies.  My soup was started on the gas stove and finished on the wood stove.

OK, here’s the fun part.  After the soup’s cooked a while but before it’s done you can start adjusting the taste.  Be advised that it’s all subjective.  I like to taste what I’ve got, imagine how it might be better (unless it’s perfect already) then add a few things that call to me.

  • Add salt.  Or maybe soy sauce.  Or not.
  • Try these (they’re in my soup right now):  Tarragon, basil, coriander.
  • Heavy cream, if you’re into cream of potato soup.  I’ve got powdered heavy cream I might add later.   Or not.

My soup’s cooking right now.  It needs a few hours of simmering, but it’s already tasting interesting.  But you know the best part of this?  However it turns out, it doesn’t matter.  It wasn’t only ever about the eating part.

I’ll report later how the soup turns out,  good or bad!

EDITED: same evening.  I had a bowl of my soup straight, with some added salt.  If I make it again I’ll add salt in the beginning  It tasted fine, but it was more like a veggie stew than a soup.

For a second bowl I mashed the veggies and then added plain yogurt.  Oh my, now that’s good.  But also, I felt that the whole dish would have been improved with the addition of lentils early on.  I think more potatoes would have been a good idea.

I’m too full now for a third bowl, so that experiment is for tomorrow.  I’m going to run the soup through a blender and add the heavy cream instead of yogurt.  Actually, I think I’ll add the cream (powdered) tonight so it’ll have a chance to blend in with the other flavors.

EDITED: next day.  Oh boy oh boy oh boy.  YUMMY!  I can’t decide whether I like the yogurt version or the cream version better.  I’ll have to make this soup again to find out because it’s all gone now!

I’m giving this soup 4 of 5 stars!  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ☆

Loser!

Weight.  Too much, too little — it seems to be a problem almost everyone has to deal with.   For some it’s a matter of looking good.  For some it’s because they want to achieve a goal that the weight issue gets in the way of.  For others it’s about health.

John Ordover holding a photo of himself before he lost weight

John Ordover before & after

Whatever the reason, it ain’t easy to do what you’ve decided to do.  I know from personal experience that when it comes to losing weight it’s damn hard to take it off and keep it off.  And worse, the older you get, the harder it is.

I have a few friends who were significantly overweight and who decided to lose the excess pounds– and they did it.  Not only did they lose those pounds, they shed lots of them.  Each of them did it differently.  None of them found it easy, but they did it.  Because it can be done.

I’ve decided that no one method is right for every person, but that with enough effort and by finding what really fits for you and sticking with it, the excess weight can be a thing of the past.  Finding that method can be tough, though.  For one thing, if you try something and it doesn’t work, you can become discouraged enough to give up.  And if you lose the weight you had in mind and it comes back and you have to do it all over again…

But let’s keep positive here.

My friend John Ordover has not only lost weight — a chunk of it — but he wrote a book about doing it (Lie There and Lose Weight, pre-order now for March 25 publication).  You might find the answers you’re looking for by doing next to nothing.

LIE THERE AND LOSE WEIGHT
How I Lost 100 Pounds By Doing Next to Nothing
John J. Ordover

In the Fight to Lose Weight, Exercise is the Enemy…

…or so John Ordover discovered as he set out to lose one hundred pounds and recover his health. In this insightful, endearing and surprisingly funny look at weight-loss, Ordover takes us inside his struggle to stick with his diet, lays out the constantly changing strategies that kept him on target, and details how he coped when working out made everything that much harder.

Ordover’s week-by-week notes on his struggle, combined with his clever commentary and good-hearted grouching show how a sense of humor, focus and old-fashioned stubbornness kept him going week after week, month after month. Delightful and inspiring, in Lie There and Lose Weight: How I Lost 100 Pounds By Doing Next to Nothing, Ordover explains how he avoided the traps and temptations that threatened to knock him off track, and details how he lost over one hundred pounds while hating every minute of doing it.

These included:

  • Facing Hunger Straight On.
  • Avoiding Food Pushers, Food Pornographers and Diet Saboteurs
  • Telling Good Health Care from Bad

Praise for Lie There and Lose Weight: How I Lost 100 Pounds By Doing Next to Nothing by John J. Ordover

“Losing weight is hard for everyone, but few can write about it with as much warmth, humor and honesty as John Ordover does in this remarkable book. He takes us along as he loses more than a hundred pounds, relating every step of his journey with refreshing candor and insight. His experience should serve as an inspiration to anyone looking to lose weight and keep it off.”
– David K. Randall, New York Times Bestselling author of Dreamland.

About John J. Ordover
John J. Ordover is a noted editor, writer and activist, well-known for his expertise in the publishing community, work on the Star Trek franchise, for autism advocacy, and now for his personal account of losing the bodyweight of an adult human being. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his beautiful wife, special needs education advocate and political activist Carol Greenburg, and his handsome and athletic son Arren.

Ordover has written television episodes and commercials, comic books and short-stories, and developed new marketing concepts while advising political campaigns and running fundraisers. Most days he can be found on Facebook, on twitter as
@quotableordover and answering reader questions on liethereloseweight.com.

National Media Tour
John Ordover regularly appears on local and national radio discussing a topics including special education, community activism, and genre fiction, and will now also be discussing both his personal weight loss experience, and strategies for losing weight and keeping it off. Wilder Publications will be expanding his presence to local and national morning and afternoon television.

National Author Tour
Wilder Publications will be supporting the book with a 20 city cross-country media and signing tour including New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City, Lawrence, Kansas, Boulder, Denver, Phoenix, Tuscon, Portland, Seattle , San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Virginia Beach, Raleigh-Durham, Myrtle Beach, New Orleans, and Houston.

For all information, questions, media inquiries, or bookstore appearances, contact Eleanor Lang, Vice President of Communications, 917-553-6658, email Eleanorlang@wilderpub.com

 

I got the blues

Title pageI have a sad case of postpartum blues. No, I haven’t given birth to a squalling, pooping little bundle of joy, but I did send my manuscript — supposedly the final edit — off to my professional editor. Now I wait till she goes through it and (hopefully) tells me it’s good to go.

I thought I’d be bouncing around today with a big weight off my shoulders. Last night I couldn’t sleep for going through all the things I’d be free to do today now that I wasn’t shackled to my manuscript. My house looks like a crash pad. And why not? That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the past few months while I focused on this book.

Envelopes are piled up on my desk. I shudder to think what might be in them that I’ve been ignoring. Dirty clothes are spilling out of the laundry baskets. When was the last time I changed the bed sheets? Stacks of books I’ve used as references, or read in the evenings and never reshelved, or borrowed and never returned are on top of my sewing table. One the rare days when I felt like I had to swamp out the house but didn’t want to take the time, I just put things in empty Amazon boxes. Who knows what might lurk in them.

Ick, the cat boxes need emptying. No point in scooping. They’re beyond that – gotta just dump the contents and replace with fresh… um… I do have more kitty litter somewhere, don’t I? I did do dishes almost every day, but the clean ones are piled high in the dish drain.  Why bother putting them away? I just kept using the same ones over and over.  Other than baking a few loaves of bread, I haven’t cooked much of anything since Christmas. I can go a long time on peanut butter sandwiches, salads, and wine.
Fabric
I look around the house and there is stuff everywhere! Not only stuff that needs to be put away, but projects that need to be completed. Fabric that I’ve purchased but not stored for the wall hangings I’ve started but abandoned. Houseplants that need repotting sit on windowsills and on the kitchen counter and on the floor. Tools that I’ve used to band-aide things that broke that I had no time to fix while I’ve been living in the dream world of writing need to be put away. And of course, the interior walls of my tiny little straw bale house still have not been plastered.

I have so much to do and now I’m free to do it.

But no. I’m sitting here feeling no motivation at all. I’ve got postpartum depression. I’ve had my creative baby, so to speak. The creation process took all my psychic energy and now I’ve hit the post-creation let-down.

Or maybe not.

Maybe it’s just the massive amount of work that I need to do to get my house back in order that is off-putting.

Maybe I should write about it instead of doing it.

Hey – I feel better already!

Still coming to a bookstore near you…

Last May I wrote on my Mage Music blog about a book I’ve been wrestling with since 2009, Evolution Device.   It is vaguely inspired by Jimmy Page — but it’s absolutely not about him at all, as you will see when you read the book.

I had hoped to get at least a digital version online before now, or preferably find a publisher, but that hasn’t happened.  What happened instead was a professional editor.

Bwahahahaha!  Read more

One of the book covers I dreamed up.

I’ll have some science with that, please

A December 28, 2017 Albuquerque Journal editorial about the new Mexican wolf plan states “The state commission last week also approved Fish and Wildlife permits to allow the cross-fostering of up to 12 pups in New Mexico in 2018 and for some pups to be moved into captivity in New Mexico from Arizona to promote genetic diversity of the wolf.”

Um.  I don’t think that’s going to work, buttercup.  You can’t create something from nothing.  It would be like saying you were going to segregate all the red and white molecules from a bucket of pink paint so now you have more colors, and then expect you can paint your wall blue with what you’ve created.  Not gonna happen.

Image illustrating how breeding two horses together won't end up with a unicorn

Breeds ≠ species genetic diversity

Mexican wolves in the US have all been bred from just a few ancestors, all captured in Mexico in the 1970s.  There are now many hundreds of Mexican wolves in the wild and in captive facilities in the US, and they all are descendants of those few ancestors.  So what I want to see is some science that explains how there could be genetic diversity created from that limited gene pool.  Where, exactly, are the new, diverse genes supposed to come from when all Mexican wolves in the US are descended from only a couple handfuls of ancestors?

12,000 years is a blink of the evolutionary eye

Cheetahs were nearly wiped out in the recent past, evolution-wise (about 12,000 years ago). All of today’s cheetahs are descended from probably more ancestors than the  captured US Mexican wolf population’s are, and yet today there is no more genetic diversity in the cheetah gene pool than there was 11,999 years ago — even though cheetahs have bred freely for all that time. So if over a span of 12,000 years diversity has not miraculously developed in one species, how could diversity develop in another over just a few decades’ time, even with human oversight?

Breeds ≠ species genetic diversity

All the Mexican wolf program is doing is inbreeding — mixing and matching the same genes to create  artificial diversity,  akin to breeds in domestic animals. The artificial diversity of inbreeding, of course, simply disappears as soon as animals cross-breed.  Breed two purebred dogs together, for example, and you can be pretty sure the offspring will be like the sire and dam.  But throw a bunch of different breed dogs together and let them have at, and after a while all the pups will be… mutts.

Thus all the human-bred genetic “diversity” of wolves released into the wild will simply breed out because the resulting offspring will have the same genetics as the original wolves they came from back in the beginning of the Mexican wolf program.  When all the Mexican wolves in the US are related, what one is vulnerable to all of them are vulnerable to.  That’s what a limited gene pool gets you.

It might be a noble thing that Americans are doing, trying to “save” the Mexican wolf.  Unfortunately, real science indicates that all that we’re doing is creating a sort of outdoor zoo for a subspecies that may never be genetically viable enough to thrive on their own.

 

 

Great Expectations. Not.

Today was the winter solstice, that is, the first day of winter.  Here in my part of New Mexico it was all gale force winds and, well, wintery.  I was chilly all day long.  So naturally my thoughts turned to warmth:  Warm layers, cozy fire, and a nice hot toddy.

Accordingly, on the way home from town I stopped in Western Drug and General Store, which really is an amazing place that sells just about anything a human being could want.  My pretense was that I needed to pick up a birthday card (and I did do that, got a nice one) but I also wanted to get some whiskey because it seemed to me whiskey would make a proper hot toddy.

Now here’s the thing:  While I don’t like the stuff, I feel like I should.  Every damn mystery and science fiction book these days seems to have characters who drink single malt and double malt and hey — I love chocolate malts so shouldn’t I like whiskey?

So far, I never have.  It tastes like paint thinner.  Nasty, nasty stuff, no matter how aged it is and how many malts it is.  Whatever that means anyway.  But I had noticed a while back that Western had whiskey in little metal flasks (375 ml to be precise, but as a die-hard non-metricentric, it is little to me) and it was labeled Apple Crisp Whiskey.

Oh wow!  I like apples!  I like apple crisp (that is a dessert, isn’t it?).  How bad could whiskey be if it was Apple Crisp Whiskey?  And on top of that, the label also said America’s Finest.  And a cute, candy-apple red metal flask!

Well, I had to have it.  I had visions of an incredible hot toddy after the evening’s chores were done, the cozy fire blazing in the wood stove, me bundled up in my jammies and bathrobe. But no.

You knew that, right?

First hint:  I could have sworn on the way home I smelled whiskey in the cab of the truck.  And, well, yes, when I picked that flask up in the store, it did stick to the shelf it was on.  But such a cute, candy-apple red metal flask it was, I had to have it!  Probably some other flask had leaked, right?

The seal was still intact on the little tiny cap (so cute!).  And maybe there were some kind of sticky droplets on the side of the pretty candy-apple red side of the flask, but that could have come from anywhere.  At home I gave a moment’s thought to returning the flask unopened, since it seemed that maybe the flask wasn’t quite as full as it might have been but… no.  I was determined to have that damn toddy.  Tonight.  The fire was roaring, I was warming on the outside and I wanted that hot comforting drink to warm my innards.

I opened it.  I sniffed it.  Kind of.. ewww.  Paint thinner with a hint of rotten apple, overlaid with the tang of metal.  I poured some hot water into a cup, added a big tablespoon of honey, and a slug or two of Apple Crisp Whiskey.  Stirred well.  Tasted.

Have I said ewww yet?  I thought maybe I was mistaken.  I mean, I never have liked whiskey or any of its relatives.  So I took another sip to be fair.

But that metal taste.  Really.  Bad.  In the lingering aftertaste I was sure it was less apple and more compost that coated my tongue, compost liberally tainted with steel.  Was this the normal taste for something that claimed to be America’s Finest?

OK time to read the fine print.  Proprietary all-natural recipe.  Estate-grown corn.

Corn?  Where are the apples?

Traditional copper still.  I sipped a bit more.  No, definitely not pennies I was tasting, but steel.  Remarkably mellow flavor and smooth finish… wait, what about the apples?  I read the other side.  Aha!  Corn whiskey infused with apple crisp liqueur.  Whatever that is.

Maybe I’m too picky.  Or maybe I simply have an uneducated palate.  But I think that maybe somebody accidentally put some kind of solvent in that flask and it’s dissolving the welds.  Because I swear, I rinsed the outside off and dried it and there are sticky droplets along the seam again.

So… happy solstice.  Winter has come.  Meanwhile, I’m drinking Merlot, the fire is cozy, and after I recover from the toddy I’ll get my jammies on.