11 October 2008


Why I like ___Obama___

I second a lot of what Ceri said. Specifically;
  • He was a college professor
  • He believes health care is a right, not a privilege
    • Matthew 25  "I was naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me ... Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me."
  • He is cosmopolitan having traveled widely
    • unlike some another candidate that didn't even have a passport until two years ago. Inspite of living right next to Russia. 

I also like him because;
  • He supports a balanced and diverse energy policy which would lead us to independence as well as make us economically and ecologically responsible. 
    • Although I disagree on his stance on off shore drilling. There is very little factual support that off shore drilling would benefit our economy or make us more independent
  • He is calculated and reflective
  • He has style
  • He has religious beliefs that I can respect
  • He believes in personal freedoms
  • He listens to facts no matter what side of the aisle they come from
    • a fact is a fact
  • He gives pointed answers questions instead of skirting around
  • He supports getting out of Iraq. 

We have got to get out of Iraq. Hasn't anyone read/heard about the Lancet article on Iraq casualties? Please look into this. It is sound science and it basically says we, us Americans, are responsible for between 400,000 and a 1,000,000 causalities in Iraq, or about 650,000 dead with 95% confidence. How can we ever hope to improve our standing in the world unless we get out of there? The longer we are there, the more causalities we will be responsible for and the more they will learn to hate us. We have to leave. 

Please, please look into this. If nothing else, just listen to the This American Life piece. If that doesn't convince you then you may not have a soul. 

Finally, if McCain is elected I could loose my job. 
  • Although he may never have actually tried to reduce funding for the grizzly bear population surveys he seems unable to stand up to peer pressure to the idea that science is a pointless endeavor.  I assume he would consider research on desert tortoises for the USGS to be the same as research on Grizzly Bears for the USGS. 



07 September 2008

Palin on wolves

I had to break my internet silence for one little public service announcement.

Wolves are beautiful. Vote for Obama.

"Hoping to boost the number of wolves killed this year by permitees, Palin announced the state would pay $150 for each kill. According to an Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) news release, the bounty was instituted to "motivate permittees to redouble their efforts and to help offset the high cost of aviation fuel, ADF&G will offer cash payments to those who return biological specimens to the department." The state's press release, issued last Wednesday, indicates that "Permittees will be paid $150 when they bring in the left forelegs of wolves taken from any of several designated control areas." (Defenders of Wildlife)

Watch the video for a better understanding of wolf hunting in Alaska.


23 March 2008


This is a post about the changing nature of life, decisions, diversity and open mindedness.


I am about half way through Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope" and I am very impressed. He is articulate, thoughtful, collected and centered. The thing that sticks out to me the most is his respect for people of different opinions. He is willing to listen and find common ground. He recognizes that we are all constitutionalists. That;

for all out disagreements we would be hard pressed to find a conservative or liberal in America today, whether Republican or Democrat, academic or layman, who doesn't subscribe to the basic set of individual liberties identified by the Founders and enshrined in our Constitution and our common law: the right to speak our minds; the right to worship how and if we wish; the right to peaceably assemble to petition our government; the right to own, buy and sell property and not have it taken without fair compensation; the right to be free from unreasonable searches an seizures; the right not to be detained by the state without due process; the right to a fair and speedy trial; and the right to make our own determinations, with minimal restriction, regarding family life and the way we raise our children.
So why does it seem like there is so much controversy? Aside from the media, which is not happy with a story of cooperation and compromise, it's because we disagree on how best to protect these rights. I think most people believe that they are right and that they act ethically, but the reality is that we all work with an extremely limited and different understand of what the world is and how it works. Should we then abstain from making decisions until we have all the information? Waiting until we completely understand a problem before making a decision would result in a state of utter paralysis and nothing would get accomplished. If we waited for science to tell us what is and is not healthy to eat, we would all starve to death. We have to eat and we have to make decisions. The lesson is to find a balance between progressive and conservative decisions.


Currently, there is a law suit pending which may inhibit us from doing our work on the desert tortoise. Let me say right now that I am not a spokesperson for USGS nor am I involved in the administration and I don't claim to know much about the situation at all. The Center for Biodiversity is suing to stop a project in Southern California to move tortoises off of Ft Irwin Military Reserve across a fence onto BLM land. Now the reason I am a biologist is because i believe in protecting biodiversity so you would think I would agree with the opinions of an organization called the Center for Biodiversity. But I think this is a dangerous move. The danger is that Ft Irwin may decide to disregard environmental law in the interest of homeland security and start training on the land without moving the tortoises, which is a bad precedent to reinforce. The temptation is to vilify the opposition, which i see done all the time amongst scientists. Because they have an opinion that we disagree with they must be stupid, or ignorant, or evil. But maybe they really do want to see the desert tortoise survive and feel this is the best way to go about it. It doesn't seem to be constructive to put them down as inferior human beings.

I think that our strength as humans comes from our diversity. The founding fathers disagreed vehemently about the role of government in our lives, the role of religion in the government, and many other things, and after the constitution was drafted they continued to debate in the Federalist Papers. And it doesn't stop there. New bills are passed every day. Obama explains that the majority of those bills are not new laws but clarifications of old laws either strengthening or weakening a position for or against something. Nothing is really final and people change their minds all the time. I believe in competition and capitalism, economics and ecology, evolution and the survival of the fittest. But I also believe in tolerance and compassion. In nature it's all red in tooth and claw, existence or extinction. But for humans life is less permanent and dichotomous. This is getting long and I have more to say about diversity but for now I will close by asking that we be tolerant of other peoples views and forgiving of their decisions. They are just decisions made under a certain set of presumptions and circumstances. Embrace diversity and we may be better off for it.

PS to Jeff: Feel free to syndicate if you think it appropriate.


02 March 2008


I walk.

I ride.

I drive.

I scoot.
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01 March 2008



10 November 2007



14 October 2007

Please don't confuse my action for decision

After much deliberation and hesitation, I have accepted a permanent position for the USGS here in fabulous Las Vegas, NV. They are offering me a raise (more money than I've ever made before), a dependable income, and very valuable experience (lots of projects and some more responsibility) at a fairly prestigious institution. The commitment is scary and I would prefer a different biome but in the end I do enjoy my work and the prospect of not having work at all was too scary. It has significant implications but I think it will be good for me.

The idea of living in Las Vegas is really more strange than actually living here. It's an "honest city not pretending to be anything but what it is." There is always something happening and good food of every nationality, many places are open 24hrs. I've become something of a vampire here; avoiding sunlight, staying out late, sucking blood and what not. The weather is becoming more tolerable as we approach winter. It's in the 70's and 80's now but after July and August even temperatures around 105 seem cool. I have a cheap apartment in a good location, right on UNLV campus. It's not the Bellagio but it's close, literally 4 Las Vegas blocks. I still drive to work but on the weekends I can bike to anything I need. I plan on getting a smaller car for trips to the mountains though. Some of my liberal and conservative habits have changed along with ideas and ideals.

So anyway, that's life. Not always what you expect but generally good.


05 July 2007

Buy it, use it, break it, fix it, Trash it, change it, melt-upgrade it

I purchased a new computer this week and since it's 113°F outside I've been spending the days with it in Panera under the a/c. My old computer had become so unreliable I didn't want to do any work on it. At least that was my, I think justifiable, excuse. Everything was broken on it. I'll try not to spill coffee on this one. It feels good to have a dvd burner that I can back up my data on. Also, half the weight and a smaller size mean fewer bruised thumbs from picking up the computer with one hand.

It's been sometime since my last post. I'm still in Las Vegas, still working in the Mojave. One of my life goals since high school has always been to become an itinerant biologist and it's something I've spent 10 years in college to become. It's still a goal for me but the allure of a dependable income is hard to resist. Being out of school and with no serious notions of returning I am now faced with the necessity of creating an enjoyable career and lifestyle for myself in an economically sustainable way. So I've decided to stay on at USGS until the end of September to make a bit more money in a position I enjoy. Unfortunately, I seem to be increasing my spending lately so I'm going to have to get serious about my budget and stick to it to get my credit cards paid off. Once those cards are taken care of and I have some money cashed away I will feel at liberty to quit my job and move on to the next place.

Small living.

One big expense I am anticipating soon is an apartment. During the week I have and expansive desert floor and infinite ceilings but on the weekends I've been living in a mobile 32 square feet with 4 foot ceilings. Since I spend most of my time in the field sleeping under the stars, I felt it was unnecessary to depart with $500/month for a weekend shower. But with the extreme heat advisories lasting until midnight recently, I am beginning to seriously reconsider this position. I feel like a vampire here sometimes as I watch the sun creeping into my shade and I inch back to avoid frying alive. Hard plastics melt, fruit rots in a matter of hours, and trim is falling off of my truck.

It's been almost a year now since I had a permanent residence of my own. I've learned a lot from the experience. For example, I can shower with between two and three gallons of water. I've also learned that there are lots of other people that live in their cars. I'm still sleeping on the same full sized bed I was when I had an apartment and even when I had an apartment I didn't like spending time there so my life isn't that much different. My most missed conveniences are a private bathroom and kitchen.

Gandhi said "Live simply so that others may simply live." I try. I've been wondering if I would leave less of a footprint by not living in an apartment or by not driving. I think it's a toss up economically as well. Certain things just cost more if you can't purchase them in bulk. I'm considering joining the Small House Society. I believe I have an "unconventional spirit coupled with down-to-earth practicality". In contrast, the scale of things here in Vegas is ridiculous.

Other thoughts.

I had lost 25 pounds since moving to Nevada and reached an acceptable 159#, that was until Fourth of July BBQ and mild beverage consumption. The fireworks on the strip were disappointing but the Bellagio had an impressive water show with patriotic music. Work is still good. We've complete perennial surveys for burned habitat. Plant identification is sometimes frustrating. Soon we will be working on tortoises. Vegas will effect me much more than California did. I may need to wander.

Favorites of the moment;
casino: Mandala Bay
internet access point: Panera
internet tool: del.ic.ious
books: The Sun Also Rises, Religions of the World series by Chelsea House publishers
word: ridiculous
bands: Sexy Champions; Project Jenny, Project Jan; The Broken Remotes; Apes and Androids
Unexpected favorite drug of the moment: j├Ąger and coke
plant: YUSH - Yucca shadigera
technical advancement: a/c
experience: Unexpectedly running into someone I know in town. Even better because I only know three people here.

P.S. -- Personal notes to distant friends:
  • Thanks to Mandy for posting the picture of us at graduation.
  • Sorry to Jeff, I am no longer planning to be in Colorado in August, maybe October.
  • Thanks for the comment Melinda. I'm not sure I'll ever have an affection for the desert the way a native would.
  • Chels, We will talk again someday, I promise.