On June 27, 2008, I found myself in the Snowy Range portion of the Medecine Bow National Forest in southeast Wyoming. I am fairly familiar with the area. On this particular Friday, I was looking for a secluded campsite where my guitar playing and singing wouldn't likely bother anyone else. So after considerable searching, I found a road that was technically off-limits for motor vehicles, but the road had been driven-on so much that it was essentially a two-track. So I tucked back in there among the conifers and found a perfect campsite complete with firewood, a hearth, and seats around the hearth. And there was a good place for a small tent. So I pitched my tent and decided to look for kindling to start my fire.As I was walking back towards my camp with an arm-full of small sticks and branches, a bird literally dive-bombed me. It didn't make contact, but it was close enough for me to feel the wind from its wings. It flew back up into the trees and began squawking at me. The area where I was had obviously experienced a recent forest fire, since there really was no undergrowth, save for grouse whortleberry. This resulted in a fairly heavy canopy, but a relatively open underbrush. My first thought was, 'Holy crap, that's a big falcon!' I spent the remainder of the evening at my camp with the bird squawking in the background.The next day, I awoke and broke down my camp. I went driving around the area and ended up deciding to camp at the same spot that Saturday night. The bird didn't show up until just before dusk that night. The only reason I knew it was around was the squawking noise it kept making. Now, I have seen raptors being aggressive before, but I have never actually seen one make physical contact with its source of distress. I am not a large animal, but I might be placed in the mountain lion category, due to my small size and the dreadlocks hanging down to my waistline.On that Sunday, I had been sitting around all morning just enjoying myself. I ate lunch and decided to walk around a little. I was walking down that same 2-track road back towards my camp when it happened. Now the incident occurred in less than five seconds, but I will attempt to narrate my thought processes during the attack.I was walking and, suddenly, I saw something approaching me with a good deal of speed at head-level. Seeing this, my reflexes allowed me to begin turn to the left slightly before the impact occurred. Prior to the impact, I didn't know what was going on; I thought someone might have thrown a log at me or something. But then I heard the rustling of feathers and saw the stupid bird flying away from me making that same squawking sound.Immediately, I put my right hand to my right temple, where it had made contact. I pulled my hand away to see if I was bleeding. Sure enough, my hand was dripping with blood, so I put my left hand against my head with quite a bit of pressure and made my way to my car where I had a roll of paper towels. By this time, blood was cascading down my face. After I stopped the bleeding and had a look in the mirror to make sure that part of me was still intact, I went back out with the slingshot that I had with me. Now, I consider myself an expert marksman with a slingshot. The bird was still around squawking, so I took the slingshot out and began shooting rocks in its direction. I didn't have the heart to actually hit the bird, but I did send plenty of screaming rocks past it without phasing the bird. These birds have all of my respect.I drove back to civilization and called an ask-a-nurse number to see what, if anything, I should do about the injury. I ended up going to the ER and getting cleaned up there. The doctor who saw me said it was his 2nd raptor injury during his 30-year career. The other one happened when a golden eagle failed to get out of the way of an oncoming vehicle. In other words, I was the only raptor attack during his career as a physician. Yay, me.Anyway, I've been back to the spot since then, and I did find a nest near where I was camped. But seriously, bird, I didn't mean any harm!And sorry to whoever read this post, as it is probably not as entertaining to read as it was to write.If you want to hear that insidious squawking sound, go to: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/audio/Northern_Goshawk.html. I think this link requires Quicktime.Otherwise, check out: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Northern_Goshawk.html.
What has come to my attention in the past couple of years is the language curriculum in American schools. The consensus among cognitive social scientists is that language learning occurs much more readily among children. Other countries begin teaching their children foreign languages when they are still in the single-digit age-group. Here in America, we generally wait until 14 or 15 years of age to begin teaching foreign languages to our children.After spending a month in Peru last summer, I have become very aware of how important knowing a second or third language can be. I don't speak Spanish, so luckily I was with someone who did. Had I been alone, I would not have been able to get around as well as I would have liked.I began learning French in high school, but I would say that I am far from proficient in it. I continued French college for four semester and then dropped it when I had taken the requisite amount. These days, I might be able to communicate on a rudimentary basis with a French speaker, but it would be a bare minimum.Why do we not begin teaching foreign languages when our children are still very young--say in elementary school? Several large nations in Asia are developing at a rapid pace, and many of the people responsible for that success have been educated in American universities--thus, they must be multilingual.What I'm wondering is why we are not trying to be more competitive on the world stage. Having a young generation that is skilled in multilingualism should be one of the primary goals as a society if we are to truly compete on the international stage. But it seems to me that we have many folks among us who want to teach only 'American' things to our children. We don't want them speaking another language because it is un-American. Is this true or an exaggeration?I guess I'm just trying to figure out why we do not feel that a viable and fecund citizen future should include an emphasis on multilingualism. It seems to me that the broader our sources of knowledge and information, the better we can be.Any ideas? Do any of you speak foreign languages or wish you did?
Alcoholic beverages have been around probably nearly as long as civilization. The practice (or consequence) of allowing a substance to spoil through yeasts that produce ethanol has become a modern art-form. Today, we have fine wines, beers, liquors, brandies, etc.The state of intoxication is likely one of the most ancient behaviors of humans. Some archaeologists who study rock art hypothesize that some petroglyphs and pictographs represent so-called 'entoptic phenomena,' or 'closed eye visuals' in modern psychedelic circles. These are abstract patterns such as those that one might notice immediately after rubbing one's eyes.The Vikings had mead. The Mediterranean had/has beer and wine. Some tropical groups make an alcoholic beverage from the interior of the sago palm. The Japanese have Saki. The Germans have beer. The Incas had chicha. The Aztecs had pulque. Heck some northern Mexican aboriginal groups (i.e.--the Cora and Huichol) had devised rudimentary stills to concentrate the alcohol produced in pulque--the fermented sugary juice of various agave species. Essentially, they invented tequila.Today we have a liquor store or bar in nearly every podunk town in America. No doubt, alcohol has been a contentious substance in America's history. In modern times, we still have 'dry counties' where no alcohol can be obtained.What is your favorite alcoholic beverage? Personally, I'm a beer drinker. IPA's and other hoppy beers are popular in the US right now, and I have to admit, I purchase them often. I also like pale ales and stronger ales like barleywines, imperial, and double styles of beers. I've been known to enjoy dark rum and homemade Kansas wine, as well. How do you like your drink?[This entry is not intended to promote the consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. It is merely an inquiry of curiosity regarding the beverage preferences of individuals of legal drinking age.--RWC]
The antiquity of humans in the "New World" was something that perplexed prehistorians for much of the 19th century. During the early days of the United States, the going theory was that the natives (who many referred to as 'savages') were a population that came in and destroyed an earlier and greater civilization. The many eathworks and mounds that people were encountering as they explored further and further west were thought not to have been created by the current inhabitants. This earlier civilization that the natives were supposed to have destroyed was attributed, among other things, to the lost tribes of Israel. Finally, people realized, through archaeological and skeletal analyses, that the 'savages' and the Moundbuilders were one in the same.This realization led to further questions. The primary question was how long they had been here. Secondly, where they had come from? During the late 1800's, there was a concerted effort to determine the length of time that humans had been present in North and South America. The first site to suggest that humans did in fact exist alongside extinct Ice Age (Pleistocene) animals was the 12-Mile Creek site in Logan County, KS. The site was originally a paleontological excavation of extinct Bison antiquus (1/3 larger than modern buffalo). Within this bonebed, the investigators found what was undeniably a human-made projectile point. Realizing what they had, the investigator (Samuel Williston) returned to Lawrence and held a meeting to reveal what they had found. At the meeting, Williston passed the artifact around the room so that people could see for themselves. The point, however, never made it all the way around the room. The popular rumor is that a pharmacist's wife from Baldwin City, who was especially sensitive to the Biblical implications of the find, pocketed it. Paleontologist Larry Martin allegedly spotted the missing artifact at a garage sale sometime in the 1990's. He ran home to get some money, but the point was gone by the time he returned. Thus, the antiquity of humans in North America remained unsettled.Finally, in 1926 near the town of Folsom in NE New Mexico, a bison bone bed was excavated that settled the issue. An African American cowboy named George McJunkin had found the bones eroding from an arroyo after a flood in the early 1900's. Sadly, McJunkin was no longer around by the time his site was excavated. The excavators were recovering distinctively human-made stone tools in direct association with extinct bison. Ales Hrdlicka, a physical anthropologist who primarily studied skeletal traits, had issued a strict set of criteria that a site proving the antiquity of humans should meet. Many people visited the site just to see for themselves. It became the first unequivocal evidence that humans had existed alongside and had hunted extinct animals.Then, in the 1930's, another site in New Mexico, now known as Blackwater Draw, began producing these same artifacts--now known as Folsom points--in association with these same extinct bison. More importantly, however, human artifacts began turning up in layers below the Folsom materials--artifacts that were in direct association with extinct mammoths. These artifacts were name Clovis points, after the nearby town of Clovis, NM. Slightly prior to that, these same artifacts had been found with mammoth bones at the Dent site in eastern Colorado. Had the folks at Dent realized what they had, Clovis points, like Folsom and 12-Mile Creek, would have been named Dent points. Clovis and Folsom still stand as the names for both the distinctive projectile points and the people who made them.The Clovis and Folsom 'cultures' or 'complexes' has been dated at numerous sites through radiocarbon and accelerator mass-spectometer (AMS) dating of organic materials from archaeological sites. Clovis is generally thought to date between about 11,500-10,800 radiocarbon years before present. If one looks at it in terms of actual calendar years, this roughly equals about 13,400-12,800 actual calendar years ago. Clovis artifacts are found in every continental US state and from Canada southward to Mexico and Central America. Clovis-like artifacts have even been recoved from Venezuela at the Taima-Taima site. The Folsom people came immediately after the Clovis people, and lasted for about 500 years. Folsom points are found primarily on the High Plains from Canada south to Texas. Recently, researchers are beginning to realize that Paleoindians (the term archaeologists use for humans who were here during the Pleistocene or Ice Age) also utilized mountain environments.The debates surrounding how Clovis people first arrived here, or even whether they were actually the first to arrive, is a stinging debate within anthropology today. I will go into those various debates in later posts.For images of Clovis points (from a semi-scientific view) go here:http://lithiccastinglab.com/gallery-pages/2003novemberdrakecachepage1.htmFor a some images of Folsom points go here:http://www.smu.edu/anthro/QUEST/Projects/Folsom/FolsomPointsCAVO.htm