Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall...

After today's performance I do not expect a box of those luscious pears from the BGDthis Christmas!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Our Old Beaten Down World...

The other day I drove through Huntsville, Alabama. Beside the freeway is the Space and Rocket Center, and I could easily see the Saturn V, other earlier rockets, and Space Shuttle on display there.

I thought, "It's like driving past the Victoria."

We think of our civilisation as old and beat down sometimes. But if we survive, a thousand years from now those things will be like Gutenberg's first printing press, Leeuwenhoek's microscope, or Euclid's pen. Art, technology, desire, purity, compromise, all the things that make us us.

Think about it- when you start naming people who lived more than five centuries ago, who are they? Explorers- mathematicians, travelers, artists.

From the century we were born in, Goddard might be the remembered name when Obama and Hitler are obscure Wikipedia entries.

We are just getting started.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Lobotomy...

In the book store, I went to the Psychology section to find a couple of books you might like, and some of the other titles caught my eye.

I liked "My Lobotomy" the best. It was a fairly thin book, and a glance through it didn't show any very long words...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Shiny and new no longer...

When I drove this over to get a haircut the other day, my hairdresser looked at it and said, "Oooh, that's a chick magnet".

I told her not for long...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pond Day Wit Stag Hounds in France...

Up early for the first staghunting day in France.

They use
boneless hounds.

Hounds moved off and drew, as my companions talked at the rendezvous I walked in towards the draw- had a feeling the stag might head my way. And, pow! Here he came- and another! And two more! Four strong spring stags- no hinds, which was strange to me. Perhaps the old man had run them off, and they had a little herd of their own.
I swear, there were stags there just before the camera clicked...

Hounds settled on one, and were off. This day set a pattern, R. was driving and made the decisions about where to go. To start with,
into the headlight of another car at the meet. Fortunately an old one- put a note and some euros on the windshield, and off!

We waited a long time on a hill over a marsh, hearing nothing. This pack hunts a somewhat less manicured part of the forest, on more vertical ground. These pictures show examples, it is very like the terrain at home.
Then a bunch of hunting cars came by, so we followed.

Into the main street of a little village!

All the cars were parked and their occupants out, so out we ran- to see…

That’s right, a stag and half the pack in a garden pond!

Round and round they went, the hounds tried to get to the stag but he evaded them every time. The banks were too steep for him to get out easily, and the hounds who didn’t care to swim kept running around the bank.

I particularly liked this one volunteer supervisor-

The stag did not yet seem tired, more mystified than anything to my anthromorphic eye.

“Why are you people pestering me? Go away, I have stag responsibilities to perform!”

But of course eventually he would have become exhausted.

The staff did the right thing…

Five minutes law and hounds were put back on. Is it just me, or does the huntsman make one want to send the army to Brussels?

Well, hound- only ONE managed to hold the line! It may have been intended not to keep hunting this stag, I don’t know. But if they meant to, it was an interesting display of the vagaries of scent.

And he got away clean. Well, as clean as he could get in a garden pond...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Who'd Be A Sailor?

From "The Arethusa", by Frederick Chamier:

In such moments there are thoughts which steal over us and win us from ourselves; and those who have braved longest the perils of a sailor's life, feel most exquisitely the glory of the calm night, when the stars are reflected in the vast deep, and when the sea "takes the moods, and wears the colours of her mistress—the sky."

He who first perils his existence on this mighty and immense mass of waters experiences a solemn feeling of awe, of wonder —nay, often-times of fear. And yet, lost in the very magnificence of this image of eternity — this throne of the Invisible, man feels himself a prouder being, in the knowledge that the science of his fellow-creatures has taught him to explore its wondrous depths,—to steer uninjured by rocks or islands through its pathless desert, and to draw a higher and a better notion of the glory and divinity of his Maker by the never-ending wonders which are presented to him.

The poor in pocket and in mind, condemned from youth to age to toil, perhaps in the darkness of a mine, excavating the ore, and returning when oppressed with fatigue to the shed which serves him for shelter ; the mechanic, who from daylight to dark continues his labour in one city ; the husbandman, who ploughs the field and sows the seed, who reaps the harvest and who stacks the hay,— can never have that exalted notion of man, and of man's works, as he whose whole life is one scene of continued change ; who is associated today with the dark, sulky negro of the Gold Coast, —with the gay Frenchman to-morrow; who sees the pigmy race of Mexico or the giants of Patagonia,—much less can he form a just estimate of the power of the Divinity. The wonders of creation are to be seen in the ocean, and in the stupendous mountains of the Andes, or the still prouder Himalayas.

It is in sights like these that man is convinced of his own insignificance, and yet of his own power: it is when standing on the Andes, and seeing a city Like a speck, that he feels his vast inferiority. But he becomes conscious of the greatness of his intellect when he measures the heights above him with mathematical exactness, or looks for the moment — the well-calculated moment, when a comet shall return and be visible.

Oh the delight—the calm delight of pondering on such sublimity, supported by the still ocean! When the mind, in harmony with the scene, calmly surreys the greatness of the works of God.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Zombie Coyote Hounds From Beyond The Grave...

Even back in 1887, SoCal had zombies running around. According to Frederick Remington, that is...

Click on the picture to expand it to full, creepy size.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

2009 Hunting Reflections Two...

Radios are wrong.

By radios, I do not mean the use of electronic devices to deal with emergencies like injuries or obstruction to roads. That makes perfect sense, might save lives, and it's wrong NOT to!

The problem is that no one I’ve yet seen sticks to that limit.

Very quickly, people start using them to guide hounds, staff or field in hunting.

“Huntsman, I just saw the quarry cross the triangle field toward the barn.”

“Whipper-in, go around to the bridge and wait there, I’m coming up the creek.”

“Field Master, we’re about to draw clockwise around the pond.”

Radios are wrong for lots of reasons. Certainly for members of the field. Much of the pleasure of a day with hounds is trying to figure out what’s going on. Radios eliminate that challenge. I can live with that hunting solo, because I don't have one shouting to me. I can take my own line and foul up if my mad skillz lead me to.

But lots of people are trapped beside one.

As to staff having radios. This is a bit more complicated. It's fair to say that the purpose of a whipper in is to get to where the huntsman needs him and do what the huntsman requires there, including transmitting information back. Radios make this MUCH easier for everyone concerned. At least right now they do. If you figure they are here to stay, radios aren't TOO terrible in this specific application.

But, radios discourage, if they don't prevent, learning about what hounds and game do. They get in the way of development and testing of initiative and game sense in staff. That has goods and bads.

Initiative and game sense are work, and decisions carry risk. A huntsman wants to give his hounds their best chance. A radio report of game at a particular location and moment is far better intelligence than a yelp out of a covert or a holloa from someone unknown at somewhere in that general direction. You can always decide what to do with the information from a radio, if you want to let hounds keep working rather than lifting them, you can.

More than a few huntsmen would far prefer that their whippers in never engage in any thought process of any kind. Or rather, a couple of huntsmen I've whipped in to have preferred that I specifically not do any thinking. With them, I often feared being in the same pasture as a decision. Because if I were wrong, look out... A radio protects everyone from that sort of problem.

Using a practical and useful tool depends in part on what your goal is.

The worst thing about radios is that they are cheating.

The whole point of hunting with hounds is for hounds to use their natural abilities following game, and us to use ours to try to keep up.

The game has distinct advantages. It’s his home territory. He can hear hounds from a lot father away than hounds an smell him. His best advantage is that he knows where he is going. That means that he can run the OODA loop, at least for a while.

Radios change it from a reasonably fair contest into a battue.

Many years ago, in the early days of electronic battlefield surveillance and night vision, I wrote a "hunting report of the future". In it, hounds were marked for overhead identification and r/c command and punishment. Game could be seen via infrared. The huntsman sat in a room with transmitters and receivers, while the field watched a display monitor and drank.

That hunt was technically possible for the services even then.

And as XKCD has pointed out, We live in a world where actual fleets of robot assassins patrol the skies. At some point there, we left the present and entered the future.

Using omniscient technology is just fine when it comes to killing jihadis or mapquesting the route to that new restaurant. But hunting is different, intentionally archaic and difficult.

We don't use motorcycles to run the marathon, and live concerts still sell out even though CD sound quality is far better.

If we just want to make dead animals, radio hunting is fine.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

2009 Hunting Reflections One...

After a month of English and French hunting this year, what have you learned, Dorothy?

First, specifically about the deerhound packs in England.After three years of the two hound system: it’s a wreck. This stag season, one of the two hound system packs killed a record 30+ stags. When I heard people talking about the season, this number was often mentioned. Not great runs, not particular hounds' or stags' performances, but body count.

This carries out the sad prediction of these pages two years ago.

The first problem is that as R. said three years ago, “If we could do it with two hounds instead of forty, we would have been doing it that way for a loooong time.” Two hounds have an awful problem settling to and hunting one deer.

First, as I admit I have had impressed on me by the two hound system, scent is incredibly variable from place to place, weather to weather, animal to animal, and hound to hound. Most importantly, these all change constantly. When the particular scent of this deer at this moment in this spot appeals strongest to only a couple or two hounds, they are far more likely to be present if there are forty out than if there are only two.

When two hounds CAN hunt, they are slow. A full pack moves much more quickly. Hounds encourage one another, and pick up their fellows’ slack. They move at the speed of the most locked-on-target hound of forty, not of two.

The next problem is that two hounds just don’t provide the interest to followers. Or should I say to this follower. I like to see a pack work, to see that team of individuals work out that line. Especially if we know those hounds, their personalities, their natures, their arcs.

Imagine how stadia would empty if football were suddenly restricted to two man teams.

If nothing else, it’s awfully difficult to even see them!

Finally of course is the whole moral thing we talked about before. First we resisted, and they showed us how we could go along to get along. Then once we took that route, we had to try to make some sort of virtue out of the compromise.

Now we have decided to cooperate. At what point do we become collaborators with our, and the deer's, enemies? And when are we actually their allies?

But from now on I’ll call it the shootup system. No euphemisms, that is what it is.

Monday, January 04, 2010

No Longer the Gayest Lurchers EVAR!!!1!!

A classic hunting day yesterday. Painful, made me reflect a bit.

Like the first one for these dogs, by invitation only.