Following Up and Following Down: June 2021


The hottest June in Boise history is behind us. An even hotter July looms. Even sizzling, record heat and the science know-nothings in Idaho still deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Suicidal. But hot or not, criminal stupidity or not, it’s time for WC’s monthly look back at followups to stuff WC did write…

The Importance of Reading Fine Print


As usual, Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman got it exactly right. Crowley, a demon,1 actually read the fine print warranty that came with his personal computer: Along with the standard computer warranty agreement which said that if the machine 1) didn’t work, 2) didn’t do what the expensive advertisement said, 3) electrocuted the immediate…

Field Notes: Long Valley, Part 3


You’re right. There were only going to be two parts in this series. But Mrs. WC, an enthusiastic paddleboarder, brought back photos from parts of Sugarloaf Point that are only accessible by water. The geology she captured in those photos is so remarkable that it deserves a blog post. The thing to remember about the…

Tales from Wasilla: David Chisholm and White Privilege


If Wasilla, Alaska didn’t have enough problems already, it turns out the community also had a pill mill doctor operating there. In his plea agreement to a single count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, Dr. Chisholm admitted he had [I]llegally prescribed his patients thousands of pills of highly addictive controlled substances, including oxycodone,…

Karma Is a B*tch


It’s the wrong kind of mine, in the wrong kind of rock, in the wrong place. Really in the wrong place. WC is talking about the proposed Pebble Mine, of course, an incipient disaster area in the world’s most productive salmon habitat. And WC is absolutely delighted to catalog all of the blows that Pebble…

What to Do About Trump


As President Joseph Biden works to undo and repair the damage done by Donald Trump and his cronies, and the ex-President himself sulks and fumes among his gold-plated bathroom fixtures in Florida, the question of what to do about Trump’s behavior needs an answer. No President lied more, no president committed more crimes before and…

Male Greater Sage Grouse in full display, Snake River Plain, Idaho

A Modest Victory for Greater Sage Grouse


There was another modest victory for Greater Sage Grouse via the federal courts last week. Readers may recall that the Trump Administration had repudiated the painfully negotiated multi-state, multi-agency Greater Sage Grouse Management Plan and proceeded with a series of oil and gas leases in critical sage grouse habitat across the Intermountain West. It was…

Treasure Hunt


For ten weeks, WC engaged in a treasure hunt. WC strove to find and photograph as many different state license plates as he could find in Boise, Idaho’s North End. Bounded on the east by Hill Road, on the west by State Street, on the north by 31st Street and the south by 6th Street,…

The Pillars of Rome


It’s just a little over-hyped. Rome, Oregon – a country store in southeastern Oregon – is probably best known as a launch point for raft trips down the main stem of the Owyhee River. The place was named by William F. Stine for the nearby hoodoo formations that suggested to him the ruins of Rome, Italy. It’s a…

The Dunning-Kruger Effect Meets Social Media


WC has written about the Dunning-Kruger Effect several times before. The thesis is simple: If you are dumb enough, you don’t know how dumb you are. The implications are not simple, and if you live in a democracy, the implications are pretty concerning. Benjamin Lyons et al. have taken the implications one step further and…

R.I.P. The Capitol Steps, 1981-2020


The Capitol Steps didn’t invent musical political satire. But in the tradition of Tom Lehrer and Mark Russell, they popularized it, maybe more successfully than anyone else. The Capitol Steps were founded by a group of Washington, D.C. staffers to perform in December, 1981 as entertainment for Senator Charles Percy’s Christmas party.1 It turned out…

Trump Loses to a Walrus


Pacific Walrus, the largest member of the Pinniped (“fin-foot”) family of sea mammals, is in serious trouble. The species depends upon Arctic sea ice as a platform for foraging, resting, breeding, pup-raising and transport to new foraging ground. As Arctic sea ice vanishes, the jeopardy to Pacific Walrus increases. The risk isn’t new: the species…

The Evolving Understanding of the Yakutat Terrane


Long-time readers of this blog may recall that WC has written about the Yakutat Terrane before. The terrane, one of the smallish variety sometimes called a “microplate,” is the most recent terrane to plow into the southern belly of Alaska. It has been hugely influential on the climate, hydrography and topography of the 49th state.…

DESI 3D: A Very Cool Toy


DESI is the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument. It’s the most sophisticated attempt yet to understand Dark Energy, the label given to the mysterious and very poorly understood force that is accelerating the expansion of the universe. At the risk of oversimplifying, DESI is the world’s most sophisticated spectroscope attached to the 4-meter Mayall Telescope at…

Rice Crispies™ in the Owhyees


They aren’t a cricket. So far as WC knows, they aren’t Mormons. But the Mormon Crickets are swarming in Idaho’s Owyhee Mountains. Driving the back roads last week, the car wheels generated a sound a lot like a bowl of Rice Crispies™ , as Mormon Crickets got squashed under tire tread. You know, “Snap, crackle,…

Return of Bird of the Week: Gila Woodpecker


The Gila Woodpecker doesn’t quite have to have Saguaro Cactus to survive – an “obligate” relationship – but it’s the species’ preferred habitat. Nest cavities in the big cacti are preferred; saguaro fruit are a favored food, and there’s some suggestion that the saguaro are themselves dependent on Gila Woodpeckers for pollination and to disperse…

World Population: Moderately Good News


WC’s last post of every calendar year since at least 2010 has been an itemized list of wishes for the coming year. Dominating that list for those eleven-plus years has been WC’s concerns about overpopulation, and the danger that our seemingly ever-increasing world population has been and is imposing an insupportable burden on our planet.…

Maybe the Rarest Bird


WC was recently asked what was the rarest bird he had photographed. That’s hard to say; so little is known about so many New World species that it’s hard to know what species are rare, let alone the rarest. But a candidate, certainly, would be the Jocotoco Antpitta.1 WC has written about this species before,…

Gaslighting


gaslighting (v) To manipulate (a person) by psychological means into questioning his or her own sanity. Etymology: The title of George Cukor’s 1944 film Gaslight (a remake of Thorold Dickinson’s 1940 version, in turn based on a play by Patrick Hamilton, first performed in 1938), in which a man psychologically manipulates his wife into believing that she…