Wild fire smoke, East Rim, Steens Mountain, Oregon

Why We’re Stupid: Another Reason


Researchers in China have meticulously documented a reason for diminished cognition – stupidity – in old men: bad air. Seriously. Air pollution, including the PM 2.5 fine particulates, has been shown to impair cognition, especially in the elderly. We find that long-term exposure to air pollution impedes cognitive performance in verbal and math tests. We…

Thermokarst Pond. UAF photo courtesy of Katey Walter Anthony Found in the Arctic and cold mountain regions,

More Bad News on Climate Change


While much of climate science is pretty firmly established, whatever Donald Trump may think, climatologists are still puzzling out some of the details. And some of those details are turning out to be very important. Feedback is one such critical detail. Feedback occurs when outputs of a system are routed back as inputs as part of…

Water meadows in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Payette, August 2018

The Forests Will Return


It’s hard to be outdoors in the Western United States right now. It seems as if we have been in a cloud of wildfire smoke for months. Your eyes water and the back of your throat burns. Your clothes smell like a a drowned campfire. And thousands of fires have reduced too much of Western…

Wilson's Snipe. The perch is some kind of rubber bag, not a rock.

It Was a Snipe Hunt


WC was unable to completely escape the smoke of wildfires. The effort was basically a snipe hunt. But the smoke – and the start of the school year – combined to give WC and Mrs. WC one of their few times in Idaho when they had an entire camping area to themselves. Regular blog posts…

Common Nighthawk roosting on a porch railing, Malheur Field Station, Oregon

Five Views of a Common Nighthawk


They aren’t “common” at all. They have a widespread range, from northern Yukon Territory and the northern Canadian Maritimes to Florida and southern New Mexico. But within that range, they can sometimes be quite hard to find. And in other places ubiquitous. They aren’t really a “nighthawk.” They don’t forage at night. They are crepuscular,…

Donald Trump, photo by Vic Berger

Trump’s Awful, Terrible, Dreadful, Really, Really Bad Day


As you have no doubt heard, yesterday President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted on eight felony counts brought against him by the Mueller investigation. And President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, plead guilty to felony tax evasion charges and felony campaign law violations, directly implicating Trump in the…

Photo shows Alaskans who traveled to Washington, D.C., for congressional hearings on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in December 1971. Standing from left are George Cardner, Roger Connor, Emil Notti, Flore Lekanof, Cliff Groh, Barry Jackson, congressional secretary Thoda Forslund and Morris Thompson. Seated are Alaska state Rep. Willie Hensley, Alaska U.S. Rep. Howard Pollock and Laura Bergt. (ADN archive; Anchorage Times photo)

R.I.P. Barry Jackson, 1930-2018


WC wasn’t going to write about Barry Jackson, who died July 31 after a long struggle with cancer, dementia and other illnesses. At least in the final years of his legal practice, he caused a lot of harm to a lot of people. But after reading Dermot Cole’s article on Jackson, WC feels compelled to…

Wooten jamming some funk (Mrs. WC photo)

Simply the Greatest Bassist Alive


WC and Mrs. WC had “Meet and Greet” tickets for Victor Wooten’s show in Boise Thursday night. Everyone in the small group had a chance to talk with Wooten before the show. WC eavesdropped as a woman ahead of his told Wooten, “I’ve been playing the bass for 25 years, and when I hear you…

WC should get a new photo for this recurring topic.

Following Up and Following Down: August 2018


It’s time for one of WC’s irregular nods to journalism and diligence. While the Magpie Principle usually rules around here, sometimes foggy memories of WC’s one journalism class emerge and you get a post like this. So here are some follow-ups, nods and quibbles on stuff WC has written about earlier. No less venerable an…

Melissa Howard posing with he mother and her forged diploma. Mom must be awfully proud.

It’s Not Just Republican Men


While WC was off photographing birds, two stories broke, both involving Republican candidates and both involving women, proving that despite President Trump’s egregious and unapologetic sexism, the Republicans are all about equal corruption, with no regard to gender. The first exhibit is Melissa Howard, a Florida state House candidate. She has achieved infamy, or t least…

Juniper Slash Pile, Steens Mountain Loop Road, Oregon

Juniper Madness


The smoke of burning juniper wood was said to aid clairvoyance, and was burned for purification and to stimulate contact with the Otherworld at the autumn Samhain fire festival at the beginning of the Celtic year. Maybe dubious contact with the “Otherworld” is the source of the “evidence” behind the campaign to remove Western Junipers…

Coyote, Center Patrol Road, Malheur Nat'l Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

No Regrets, Coyote


WC and Mrs. WC encountered a coyote along the Blitzen River in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this month. He was mooching along the dike on the westerly bank, across the little river from us. Looking for breakfast, no doubt. He gave WC these poses for free. He ignored us at first. But the camera…

WC’s Closing Argument


WC’s fantasy: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the purpose of closing argument is to provide you with a summary of the People’s case challenging the validity of the election of President Donald Trump. My words to you now are not evidence. The evidence is the weeks of testimony you have heard and 300-plus exhibits…

“The Immigrants”


WC’s buddy Ray Funk, a highly respected music scholar and writer (and another unsuccessfully retired lawyer), pointed WC to a timely, powerful Gaby Moreno cover of David Rudder’s 1998 song, “The Immigrants.” Here are the lyrics. An acoustic version of Moreno’s cover is below the lyrics. WC likes both the metaphors and the very clever…

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 25: (L-R) Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler (L) listens to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai testify before the House Judiciary Committee about Internet regulation in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill March 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. Wheeler faced a tough line of questioning from the committee's Republicans about the FCC's recent move to regulate broadband Internet service like a utility using Title II of the Communications Act. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Ajit Pai: Rhymes with “Lie”


Ajit Pai was appointed to the Federal Communications Commission – the FCC – by President Obama in May 2012, at the recommendation of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Another effort by President Obama to reach out to the Republicans that ended in failure. He was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate on May 7, 2012, and…

Yellow-bellied Marmot, Steens Mountain, ORegon

Photography 101: Context Is Important


WC greatly enjoys the superb avian photography of his friend, Ron Dudley, whose blog is a masterpiece. It’s one of the few avian photography blogs that gets a spot in the sidebar of Wickersham’s Conscience. But a few days go, Ron posted a beautiful shot of an Eared Grebe, saying, “Sometimes I think simple is…

Who Knows What Donald Trump Is Hearing

Tariffs, Trump and Econ 101


Trump reportedly graduated from the Wharton School of Business with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics.1 It’s hard to believe. On Sunday, Trump tweeted, So how can a guy with a degree in economics spout this kind of nonsense? There are so many misstatements, lies and half-truths in these two tweets that it would…

Steens Mountain: Good News and Bad News


Steens Mountain, in southeast Oregon, is the largest fault block mountain in North America. 30 miles across on the rim side, and 25 miles long on the gentler westerly slope, it reaches an altitude of just under 10,000 feet, 6,000 feet above the surrounding terrain. Steens Mountain is like a giant 30 mile-wide trap door,…