Monday, February 28, 2011

Hemingway's Elephant Gun for Sale

Looking for a new gun? Do you have an extra $150,000-200,000 lying around? If so, you're in luck. Ernest Hemingway's 1913 .577 caliber, double barrel Nitro Express elephant gun is for sale! This is a big gun, weighing in at 16 pounds. It was made by English gun makers Westley Richards, who continue to make some beautiful firearms even today. This particular gun accompanied Hemingway on a safari in 1953.

Read more on Garden and Gun and check out some more photos too. Auction starts March 14 through James D. Julia!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Free Baja Arizona! America's 51st State?

Sometimes the best ideas start out sounding pretty weird. For instance, I was taken aback when I read this AZ Central article just now that some residents of southern Arizona want to break off from the rest of Arizona to form the 51st state, Baja Arizona.

The movement's Facebook page presents arguments for the succession of the area south of the Gila River. If you're unfamiliar with the ideological geography of America's most needlessly belligerent state, then let me take a moment to explain. About 60% of Arizona's residents live in Maricopa County. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, is actually the fourth largest county in the country with over four million residents. The population of Arizona is 6,595,778. That means that what Maricopa says goes. This presents a problem for residents of the other counties, particularly Pima, the second largest county in Arizona with Tucson as county seat.

Pima County is not an unpopulated stretch of desert. With a population of 843,746, that makes Pima County alone more populous than Wyoming (563,626), Vermont (625,741), North Dakota (672,591), Alaska (710,231), and South Dakota (814,180). If we factor in Cochise, Santa Cruz, and Yuma Counties, we find that the state of Baja Arizona would boast a population of 1,205,000, making it bigger than Delaware (900,877), Montana (989,415), and Rhode Island (1,052,567). That's a lot of people basically unrepresented in government.

Maricopa County is a ridiculous place and a pretty big embarrassment to many residents of Arizona. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, SB1070, Jan Brewer...all possible because of Maricopa County's population monopoly. Democracy favors the majority, of course, but the problem with Arizona is the geographic disparity in political representation, culture, and ideology. As illustrated above, Pima County, though less populous, is a reasonably populous area of the United States without the power to legislate or look out for its own economic or political well-being because Maricopa only cares about Maricopa. Imagine if the only people who got a say in how your state ran were the residents of the state's largest city and that's what it feels like to live in Arizona.

Pima County cares about preserving history; Maricopa has torn down most of its history already. Pima County elects Democrats and moderate Republicans, all of whom are summarily ignored by Glen Beckian Republicans from Maricopa County. Pima County embraces a diverse community, while Maricopa tries to hunt down and persecute Mexicans. The loose gun laws that let a Pima County resident shoot a U.S. Representative from Pima County in the head reflect the ideological standpoint of Maricopa County much more than Pima. Former State Superintendent Tom Horne even stooped so low as to meddle in what the Tucson Unified School District taught its students, doing so on grounds with no foundation in pedagogy or education, but rather on white supremacy. He is, of course, a product of Maricopa County. And the list goes on...

Will Baja Arizona ever catch on? Probably not on a large enough scale to lead to actual succession, but we can dream. As someone who has lived in Maricopa and Pima Counties, I can say that Baja Arizona would encompass the best of what the Southwest should be. At the very least, I hope there is a movement afoot to let the rest of the country know that Arizona isn't just here to store the Grand Canyon and house the country's wackiest, most idiotic demagogues. South of the Gila River, Tucson will be there, a close-knit community proud of its history and its people. Whether its as the capital of the 51st state or as a beleaguered outpost of decency in the desert, Tucson will be there. I just ask people to remember that it's a different place than Phoenix, a better place. And when you read about Arizona's latest repugnant escapade, remember that many of us here are just as disgusted as you are, but much more affected.

EDIT: I just wanted to add a couple extra notes here about some stuff I discovered after writing this post. First, there is an organization called Start Our State spearheading the effort to forge the 51st state in the Union. They are not committed to the name "Baja Arizona" for the new state yet. "South Arizona" and "Gadsen," a reference to the area's origins as part of the Gadsen Purchase, have been floated as possibilities. Check out their Facebook page and the interview with SOS co-chair Paul Eckerstrom below. There's another interesting article on AZ Central on the succession movement too. Apparently state senator Paula Aboud included an amendment to SB1422 that would have allowed Pima County to secede. She proposed the amendment to mock SB1422, which is a stupid posturing bill the Arizona legislature came up with so the state can waste more of our money going to court and losing to the Federal Government. She might have intended it as a tongue in cheek gesture, but it sounds pretty damn good to some of us.

Monday, February 21, 2011

How Did the Bighorns Cross the Road?

This photo, captured by a remote camera set up by Arizona Game and Fish Department, shows a desert bighorn sheep crossing one of three newly constructed overpasses built just for them. U.S. 93 crosses right though their habitat, isolating the Colorado River on one side. Though a few sheep have crossed the highway in the past, many were too afraid. The population was split, making it more susceptible to disease and diminishing the gene pool.

The overpasses span the highway. They are paved with dirt and not connected to a trail or other roadway. They're just for the sheep. It's uncertain how or when or if the sheep will use them extensively, but early signs look hopeful. Desert bighorns are rare and endangered. The Black Mountain population, those near the Hoover Dam expected to benefit from the overpasses, accounts for a large percentage of the remaining population. Read more here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, Arizona

Not only is today Valentine's Day, it's also Arizona's 99th birthday. President Taft officially made The Grand Canyon State the 48th in the Union on Feb. 14, 1912. Feb. 12 was originally slated as our first day as a state, but it conflicted with Lincoln's birthday.

I don't know why, but this picture looks like a perfect metaphor for Arizona's 99th birthday. I like it.

Happy Valentine's Day

Hey! Happy Valentine's Day everybody.

This photo is from the Feb. 1963 issue of Arizona Highways. We used to have these cacti in our yard in Tucson. The flowers were really that color, too.

Make my day and follow Making Owls Cool on the new Facebook page.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin

Two-hundred and two years ago today, Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England. Fifty years later, he published "On the Origin of Species," a work proposing and outlining his theory of natural selection. Like Galileo and Newton, Darwin figured out a piece of knowledge that allowed us to truly understand of the workings of the natural world. Though the religious community still tries to paint Darwin as a divisive figure, the scientific community has expanded on his work in myriad ways.  One could even argue that we've learned more about biology and natural history in the last 150 years since the publication of "On the Origin of Species" than in the previous millennium.

Some dedicated Darwin fans have come together in an attempt to establish International Darwin Day. Democratic representative Pete Stark of California has even introduced House Res. 81 to establish Feb. 12 as Darwin Day. The idea of Darwin Day is not only to celebrate Darwin's birthday, but also to remember "the importance of science in the betterment of humanity." That's something I can get behind. Read the text of Stark's beautifully crafted resolution here.

Check out the International Darwin Day website see what the movement is all about.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ocelot Sighting in Arizona

According to this article on Arizona Central, an ocelot was recently spotted (pun intended) near the Huachuca Mountains in Southern Arizona. This photo was taken by Tony Battiste. This is pretty cool; I'd love to see an wild ocelot.

Ocelots are bigger than house cats, but smaller than most other wildcats. They live primarily in Mexico, Central, and South America. They're protected by the Endangered Species Act in the U.S., or at least as long as that legislation still means anything.

Apparently, a man was working in his yard when his barking dog called his attention to a large cat up in a tree. He called Fish and Game it reported it. They showed up and confirmed that it was an ocelot. They gave the animal some space and it eventually went away. Right now it hasn't been confirmed whether the cats is wild or an escaped exotic pet. Let's hope it's wild and stays wild. Let's also keep our fingers crossed that  AZGFD doesn't try its particular brand of "wildlife management" on this one.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Look What I've Got....

Yessir! Still several months away, but I sure am excited. The Grand Canyon Rim to Rim is a bucket list kind of hike. I've been in Arizona for nearly four years; I've been waiting a long time for this one. Man, I'm wicked stoked...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Vegan Backpacking #2

A while back I wrote a post about vegan backpacking featuring a sample menu for a three day trek. I've received interest and positive feedback for that post, so I thought I'd do another vegan backpacking post, only this time I'll put up what I brought on a shorter hike (only two days and just under 20 miles) that I took in the desert during a period of limited water availability.

When I go backpacking, I always bring a few food items that may need to be reconstituted (oatmeal, tea), but on some desert trips you can't rely too heavily on foods that require water. Luckily for us, we found water on the hike I describe and that's reflected here. I'm also a little burnt out on energy bars, even my beloved Mint Chocolate Clif Bars and Nutz Over Chocolate Luna Bars (Yes, I'm a man who eats Luna Bars...), so this menu includes the secondary challenge of excluding store bought energy bars.

Contrary to some common myths, a proper vegan diet provides plenty of protein, calcium, and even vitamin B12. I can fuel a backpacking trip as well as anyone without getting hungry. Here's how I did it:

Day 1:
Breakfast at home - Tofu scramble, toast with Vegemite, orange juice. Nutritional yeast in the tofu scramble and the yeast in the Vegemite gives me a huge boost of vitamin B as well as other nutrients.
In the pack - trail mix (peanuts, chocolate chips, cranberries, raisins, sunflower seeds, almonds)
1 Tofurky sandwich with hummus and Vegemite
1 almond butter and jelly sandwich
Tasty Eats Soy Jerky
Sqwincher Fast Pack x2
Date Rolls (recipe here)
Tasty Bites Bengal Lentils - These sorts of meals are available at most supermarkets. Trader Joe's has good ones, but visit your local Indian food store to find a huge variety of cheap vegan entrees. They come in a silver pouch. The idea is to boil the entire pouch which makes it heat up real quick. If you're short on water, you can ditch the pouch and heat the food up directly in your pot. These weigh a bit more than a dehydrated backpacking meal, but not much and they're tastier.
peppermint and eucalyptus tea

Day 2
Oatmeal - We did find lots of water, so I could make oatmeal and tea.
Yerba Mate - All the caffeine of coffee, not jitters!
More soy jerky
More trail mix
Sqwincher Fast Pack x2
Date rolls
Sunflower seed "tuna" sandwich (recipe here)
Dinner at home - Lovin' Hut!

This was a pretty short trip, but the you could carry a lot more of these types of foods and go for more time. The drawback is that carrying food that's not dehydrated is heavier; but in the desert you already need to carry a lot of water and worry about finding sufficient water to drink, so you don't want to have to rely on a water source to eat too.

Whether or not you're vegan, the Indian food store should be your friend before backpacking trips. They carry a lot of healthier prepared food items. Whole wheat Maggi - while not healthy per se - is a better option than Ramen and super light. They have a huge variety of ready-to-eat options in the silver pouches as well as dehydrated soups and curries. You can eliminate most of the packaging before your trip, too.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Going Native? - Pendleton and Opening Ceremony

There's a lot good to say about Pendleton Woolen Mills. They're a family owned company and their clothes are made in the U.S.A. Their distinct styles and patterns are easily recognized. If you've own a Pendleton garment, you know that their stuff is very well made. As a vegan, I don't buy wool products, but I have a few old Pendleton shirts and flannels that I really like. I doubt that a woolen mill will ever make a cotton or synthetic line, but we vegans can dream, right Pendleton?

In any case, Pendleton has recently done some interesting collaborations with Levis and with Opening Ceremony, both of which accentuate Pendleton's famous Native American style prints. Some of it looks pretty cool, some is a little too busy for my taste.  Looking at these lines, particularly the Opening Ceremony collaboration, I started wondering if the patterns were authentically Native American or if Native American people had any stake in clothes designed to express or imitate their traditional patterns. Put a different way, I wondered if is it problematic to have a major purveyor of a style modeled upon Native American culture designing clothes and accessories for a market (rich hipsters) that excludes many Native Americans?

I started researching Pendleton's relationship with Native Americans and I found a couple of great articles on the Pendleton collaborations by Native American scholars who study Native American fashions. Here are their posts - Native Appropriations' piece "Let's Talk About Pendleton" and Beyond Buckskin's "Pay No Attention to the Man Beneath the Indian Blanket" both acknowledge that the relationship between Pendleton and Native Americans is traditionally positive, but they find it problematic when Pendleton uses Native American designs to produce very high-end fashions marketed to non-Native people and unaffordable to many Native Americans. Read their posts. Neither is what I would call radical - both are very thoughtful and revealing.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Quieter Canyon

The National Park Service has an interesting plan to increase flights over the Grand Canyon (that right, increase flights), while making the Canyon quieter overall. The plan calls for an end to non-tourist flights over the Canyon and the implementation of noise reducing technologies on low flying aircraft over the next ten years. Read more details here.

This is just another chapter in the ongoing saga in our National Parks' quest to balance recreation and conservation. Animals will certainly benefit from the quieter, more natural environment and hikers, who have often griped about the intrusion of noisy aircraft into their backcountry solitude, will appreciate it too.

Of course, the air tour companies and their lobbyists are upset. Ask the greedy bastards to make less noise with their aircraft and they start making more noise with their mouths. They're complaining about regulation, saying that it is unfair and will negatively affect their profits. This A.P. article cites the president of the United States Air Tours Association here:

"Steve Bassett, president of the United States Air Tour Association, said setting the goal at more than 50 percent is "unconscionable" and would drive the industry out of business."

Interestingly enough, a search for the United States Air Tour Association doesn't find a website for the USATA. The first link is a law suit they filed against the FAA, in which the court rejected the USATA's case. You should read the outlandish stuff they claim, such as their assertion that only half the Grand Canyon's visitors see the Canyon on foot. 

If air tours lose some money because of this noise regulation, too bad. The way I see it, they're lucky to make a profit off of a National Park in the first place. It's not just their land, it's ours. Parks should be run in such a way as to make them as pleasurable as possible for the largest number of people while keeping a close eye on the environmental impacts of recreation; those who wish to profit off parks do so at their own risk, knowing that environmental and recreational regulations will occur differently than with private land. They have no greater claim to the Grand Canyon skies than the people and animals on the ground.

I've taken a helicopter tour of the Canyon and it was terrific, but it wouldn't be any worse in a quieter helicopter.