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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Category Archives: Recreation and Relaxation
I’ve been shirking my blogging duties again, a bit. Lots going on and it seemed like a good time to just quiet down a bit and relax. Laurie and I have our PVR subscriptions up to date — a bit of a quiet period, other than Battlestar Galatica — so we’ve been working our way through the Netflix queue a bit.
Tonight’s gem was Hellboy II with Ronald Perlman with a suntan. Very well done, good humor, don’t think about the plot too damn hard. Extra credit for the sheer steampunkiness of the movie. I can give it no greater honor than to say that I liked it as much as the original. Sequels rarely do that for me.
A few others we’ve seen recently that I liked include Tropic Thunder, which was just wonderfully gonzo, Groundhog Day with Bill Murray showing an ability to handle a surprisingly complex character long before anyone really believed he could act, and Wall-E — how did it NOT win best picture? Just a stunning piece of work.
We’ve started experimenting with the live Netflix streaming to the Xbox. It seems to work great; the only two complaints are (surprise surprise) the relatively limited selection, and that if a work is episodic (like TV shows), you can’t currently see them on Xbox even if they’re available for instant watch on other platforms. Which means I need to get my Billie Piper fix elsewhere for now.
Chuqui-bob says “check ‘em out”
Another more subtle alternative has been proposed by the Harvard economist Michael Kremer. This approach to rhino conservation incorporates elements of both of the schemes you describe in your question.
Why do poachers kill rhinos? Because they get well-paid by middlemen. And why are middlemen able to offer handsome rewards to poachers? Because rhino horns sell for huge sums in the Far East, owing to the scarcity of available horns. So it is high prices that ultimately drive poaching activity.
Now, suppose the government were to announce the strict enforcement of anti-poaching laws and higher penalties rhino killers. Rhino middlemen would quickly realize that supply will grow even scarcer – and hence prices even higher – in the near future. So they’ll buy up as many rhino horns as they can in anticipation of this future of low supply and high prices. But this rush to poach before laws go into effect could itself drive rhinos into extinction.
Professor Kremer’s proposed solution is that the government put together its own stockpile of rhino horns, either from seized contraband or from, as you suggest, controlled harvesting.
As it happens, I was down in Southern California last week and spent time at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in Escondido, and one of the topics that came up was the upcoming extinction of one of the populations of black rhinos. Another was some of the success the park has had in working with the Masai on protecting lions.
One of the assumptions made by Kremer is that there’s enough of a stable government that it’s not only willing to take on these issues, but they’re capable of it. In areas where this is true — South Africa, for instance — it has happened, and there’s been some progress protecting lions and elephants and the reserve lands.
But in other places where governments are unstable (at best) or locked in a civil war, not only might they not see this as a priority, it’s rather hard for them to enforce laws in lands they can’t even visit because the rebels have control over it. That’s been a significant problem both with Rhinos and Gorillas in various areas, especially in Western Africa.
it’s hard for the government to stop poaching when they can’t even send troops or workers into an area without them being shot. The civil instability of the area makes these problems exceptionally difficult to solve — at best.
The second problem with the idea of a legitimate stockpile of horn is that it really doesn’t solve the problem, but it creates a legitimate pool of material that the poached material can infiltrate into. A similar attempt was made to disrupt ivory poaching and trading by filling the market with certified ivory; all that does is leave the poached ivory one forged certificate away from being sold safely. you can look at similar situations in blood diamonds and in the antiquities market (where if you can show that the artifact was expatriated before the restrictions were put in place, it’s okay to keep or sell — and hence there’s a thriving market in falsified histories for poached antiquities). The bottom line is, you don’t solve the problem by replacing an illicit trade with a legal one, you simply give the poachers one more avenue for creating pathways for their product.
The alternative? In places where it’s not safe for anyone (government, NGO, etc) to operate — not much. It’s a tough deal, and seems too late for some populations of rhinos, period.
But one thing that came up at the park I found very interesting. The culture of the Masai is based on the cow. Status and wealth is based on how many cows you own. In Masai culture, when a lion killed a cow, the warriors would hunt the lion in return.
The Wild Animal Park as part of a conservation group worked with the Masai, and agreed to pay market value for any lion-killed cow, if the Masai wouldn’t hunt the lions. What they’ve done is change the dynamics of the relationship (social and financial) and worked with the Masai to become protectors of the lions. According to the people I talked to, it’s been very effective.
This seems to be the trick needed. Poachers are, ultimately, trying to feed their family. The best way to change their idea of how to do this is to change the economic views of the value of the animals; make those animals more valuable alive than dead.
For a number of years, I’ve donated money to an organization called RARE. It’s primary purpose is to help preserve endangered habitat by working with the locals to teach them how to use those habitats in sustainable ways — a key tool is eco-tourism, and they’ve had some good success in South American, and in the last few years have expanded into southern africa. The idea is to teach the locals non-destructive ways to use the resources at hand, to give then incentives to WANT to preserve the resources, not exploit them.
That’s a strategy that seems to work well in some situations. Again, however, it’s not something you can do in the middle of a civil war. In some ways, it’s a carrot vs. stick situation. If you create a context that helps the locals WANT to protect those resources (habitats, species, etc), it’ll happen. Solutions that try to force those changes tend to fail.
more on this from Salad is Slaughter:
I visited the San Diego Wild Animal Park on the 22nd, and during the Asian Photo Caravan Safari they discussed one of the methods used to save (I think it was) the Southern White Rhino. Instead of putting the poachers in prison, they hired the poachers to protect the rhinos. The poachers didn’t hate the rhinos, they just needed the money. Money from the government or from a conservation society is just as good as from the people dealing contraband. Also, the poachers knew the rhinos’ habits better than anyone, and so knew best how to find and protect them.
One problem they discussed about breeding white rhinos in captivity: the discovered that you need two females before one will go in to heat. That’s because the females actually control their reproductive cycle because they want a girlfriend around to help protect the young.
SF fan writer Mike Glyer, in his fanzine File770 (.pdf link), leads the second wave of fannish horror that a professional writer (that would be me) has somehow been nominated for the Best Fan Writer Hugo (the complaint starts on page 17). His horror is amplified by this fellow, who feels I should withdraw from the field entirely.
In a word: No. I have no intention of withdrawing, because there’s no good reason to, and lots of good reasons to stay in. My concerns about the fan/pro schism specifically are largely assuaged by a look back at the history of the award and the discovery that not only am I not the first person to be nominated for this Hugo after his book was nominated for the Best Novel Hugo, there was a year in which a fellow (Piers Anthony, if you want to know) was nominated for Best Fan Writer and was the author of a Best Novel Hugo nominee. The response to this particular line of argument seems to boil down to “well, it hasn’t been done recently,” but inasmuch as perennial Best Fan Writer winner Dave Langford won a “pro” Hugo in 2001 and was nominated for another in 2006, I don’t think this argument has much merit.
Some things never change…. This all sounds similar to what happened when I got the nomination for Best Fan Writer at Noreascon 3, and OtherRealms made it for Best Fanzine that year (and there were similar rumblings earlier when OtherRealms was close to making the cut, and there was serious discussion about defining it as a semi-prozine rather than a fanzine).
Only back then, it was because so much of the work involved was — gasp — online, and not really part of “real” fandom, whatever that is. I’m happy to announce that I finished above No Award in both categories that year, which tickled me pink — and still does.
The parameters of the discussion change, but the underlying reason for it doesn’t: it’s old-guard vs. new-guard. And if the old-guard guys like Mike were honest with themselves, what John’s doing is nothing different than what Mike Resnick’s done for the last 30 years or so, only he’s doing it online. I don’t think anyone anywhere in fandom would consider Mike anything but one hell of a pro AND one hell of a fan.
It really sounds, honestly, like Mike and a few others have decided that John hasn’t “paid his dues” enough yet, or something.
John — you’re doing the right thing here. Relax, have fun, and just hope you finish above No Award. If you did, it’s a victory. And just enjoy it, and don’t worry about the others. It’s ultimately about politics, and people who want to maintain the old (and dying) “traditional” fandom, while fandom moves forward into the future with or without them.
And yes, you’re fannish enough. Well, for most of us, at least.
A First Nations group in Ontario is trying to dissuade Americans from buying Canadian diamonds this holiday season, saying the jewels are mined at the expense of its people.
Alvin Fiddler, deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, said De Beers Canada in particular is causing environmental devastation and disrupting his community of 45,000 Cree and Ojibwa in northern Ontario.
“They’re not clean diamonds; they’re not conflict-free diamonds,” Fiddler told CBC News. “People are paying a price for these diamonds and it’s our people in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. Our people, our children, are languishing in poverty while these resources are being extracted from their territory.”
I’ve talked about blood diamonds in the past, and canadian diamonds, so I thought I should point to this piece.
Trying to look behind the complaint, it seems deBeers is working with the Canadian government and not the Inuit, and to be honest, is more about what cut the Inuit get out of the land deals — but at the same time, it IS their heritage lands, so they really should be part of the decision process and should benefit from the revenue the mines generate to some degree. It doesn’t seem to be nearly as destructive as the blood diamond problem is in Africa; but I believe the INuit have some real issues here the Canadian Government needs to take seriously.
Wally Boag, Betty Taylor and company made the show fresh for close to thirty years. During times of amazing political and social change and upheaval in the real world, the show continued to shoot from the hip. Despite the onset of several wars, civil rights, feminism, hippies, disco and rap, the girls of the Golden Horseshoe kept kicking their heels to the delight of the most diverse audiences… Into the 80′s, Pecos Bill was still spitting teeth, the girls were still posing for the Police Gazette and Sue was still looking for her Big City Beau. Audiences never seemed to tire of the show.Even though history had marched on, the old west remained the same — and so did the burlesque. It was, after all, supposed to represent another era. As spectators and participants, we learned about what that era may have been like. We didn’t look for our own social reflections and moog synthesizers in their frontier antics.But the coming of political correctness and entertainment expense cutbacks (as well as the retirement of the original cast) finally called a halt to the old time fun. Sadly, Frontierland has gone from boomtown to ghost town in the process. The Golden Horseshoe was the gold-digging, gunslinging heart of Walt’s old west. Now Frontierland more evokes Boot Hill.
Here’s one of the places where I think I disagree with Re-Imagineering.
For all of the flaws in the current Disney corporate environment (and the quality of the theme parks — and cost of entry — are just the starting point of the discussion of how the theme parks have been abused and neglected….), we have to remember that Disneyland is an amusement park, not a museum.
Times change. I was stunned the first time I walked into Adventureland and say Tarzan’s treehouse where the Swiss Family used to be — but let’s be honest. How many people under the age of 30 have HEARD of the movie, much less seen it? And let’s be honest. If you do try to watch it, won’t you admit it, ahem, hasn’t aged well? There are some things that are universal and forever — and then there’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People. And Swiss Family is a lot closer to Darby than Bambi, if you catch my drift.
And no offense to Betty Taylor (aka “Diamond Lil”), but — the Golden Horseshoe was Wally Boag. Growing up, and while I worked there, this was one of my favorite places in the park — it was fun, they somehow kept it fresh and interesting (I can’t say how many times I saw it — 75? 100? But I never saw it phoned in…) — but it was really about Boag. I saw half a dozen performances when he was off (as well as performances with the other understudies), and honestly, when Boag wasn’t there, it just wasn’t the same.
And even by the time I left the park (1980) it was clear it was winding down. It’s just as well they let it go. You could bring it back, but it won’t be the Golden Horseshoe Revue, it’ll be another Disney Entertainment performance. You might as well bring in Woody.
And — think about Swiss Family vs. Tarzan: those of us old pharts who know and appreciate the history of the park “get” this, but — what about the other 99% of the visitors? Isn’t a good show starring Woody more interesting and relevant (and able to draw larger crowds) in today’s world?
I don’t think I have a problem with this. It’s important for Disney and Imagineering to be sensitive to history and tradition — but not rigidly tied down by it. I’m not sure anyone really misses the Swiss Family Treehouse, and the Treehouse, the Revue, and the end of Abe Lincoln (well, the LATEST end of Abe Lincoln) were all, as I understand it, driven by one thing: dismal attendance. an attraction may be close to our hearts — but if the rest of the visitors don’t go to it, shouldn’t it be replaced by something else?
Capacity has always been a big issue for Disney — the days when a “full” park was 35,000 are long gone. That was a driving issue for replacing the Mine Trains with Big Thunder (oh, don’t get me started!).
dropping the Revue is a sin, but a minor one. It was expensive, it really depended on a couple of key performers to make it work, and perhaps the greatest sin at Disney: low capacity. The bigger sin is they haven’t really done anything better with the space, not that they stopped the show…
But then, Disney’s been doing that for decades….
If you’re going to buy diamonds, I’d recommend you do what you can to avoid buying “blood diamonds”, diamonds that come from African areas where they’re being sold ot finance various wars. This is, however, easier said than done, since while De Beers has recently been trying (under pressure from customers) to better track and account for the source of its gems, many “clean” diamonds coming from Africa are laundered.
A growing option are Canadian diamonds — in fact, Tiffany has just cut a deal to work with the Canadian mines and to expand their cutting center in Yellowknife. There are currently two live diamond mines in Canada, and diamonds are now a $1.7 billion (CDN) business, with a significant benefit to the Inuit and other natives.
There are three or four more mines under development in Canada that I know of, and in the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard of one being developed outside of Anchorage (they’ve already discovered microdiamonds in there and are going to be doing more extensive tests), and now, they’ve found kimberlite in Montana that contains microdiamonds (kimberlite is the rock formation where diamonds can be found).
If you’re buying gems, ask your jeweler. Specify diamonds that are certified to not be tainted — or better yet, specify canadian diamonds. If your jeweler claims to not be able to tell or won’t cooperate, get a better jeweler.
The gem you buy might pay for someone’s education — or their death. Choose carefully, there’s more to diamonds than color, clarity and price.
interesting piece at Marginal Revolution on Diamonds, and the state of the market — and the growing loss of dominance by the De beer’s cartel.
I’m a bit of a jewel geek, and as it turns out, one of the books I listened to on the trip to LA this last week was Diamonds: a journey to heart of an obsession by Matthew Hart.
On the same subject, with a lot more background info (like, why is it the De Beers cartel, when there are no de Beers involved?) and even more info on how the market is changing, and some interesting background on blood diamonds (diamonds funding various insurgencies in africa), and the growth of the canadian sources (which I’m very interested in, and try to use when I can)
there’s an added issue in the diamond market: tehre are now labs that are claiming (and I’ve heard some in the business say they’re correct) that they can create lab diamonds that are indistinguishable from natural ones without expensive equipment; loupes and scopes won’t do. Where this is likely to nail the diamond market is the low end: people like myself and laurie won’t buy lab stones or enhanced stones (knowingly) — but if the typical customer at Zales can buy a 50 point natural diamond or a 2 carat lab diamond for the same price, what do you think they’ll do?
of course. and once the GOOD lab stones start rolling into the low end of the market, it’ll drop prices and affect everything. There are already places where non-treated stones are limited to collectors and geeks, where irradiation or heat treating is common — when that hits the diamond market, watch out…
collector-caliber stones will still see their value maintained; if you expect your average stones or low-end or moderate jewelry class stuff to maintain value or go up, you’re crazy… (if I were investing in diamonds, which I think only idiots would anyway, I’d be investing in high quality certified canadian stones, where the provenance away from the blood diamonds and their natural status would make them less risky…but if I were investing in this stuff at all, it’d be in other gems, not diamonds, or jewelry with high-quality stones in it…)