Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Poacher Wars

Kevin Coolidge

A game warden came upon a duck hunter who had bagged 3 ducks and decided to “enforce the laws pending." He stopped the hunter, flashed his badge and said, "Looks like you've had a pretty good day. Mind if I inspect your game?"

The hunter shrugged and handed the ducks to the warden. The warden took one of the ducks, probed the anal cavity with his finger, pulled it out, sniffed it, and said, "This here's a New York state duck. Do you have a New York state hunting license?"

The hunter pulled out his wallet and calmly showed the warden a New York state-hunting license. The warden took a second duck, inserted his finger in the bird's rectum, pulled it out, sniffed it, and said, "This here's an Ohio duck. Do you have an Ohio state hunting license?"

The hunter, annoyed, produced an Ohio state-hunting license. The warden took a third duck, investigated the bird’s southern exit with the same finger test, and said, "This here's a Pennsylvania state duck. Do you have a Pennsylvania state hunting license?"

Once again, only this time more aggravated, the hunter produced the appropriate license. The warden, a little miffed at having struck out, handed the ducks back to the hunter and said, "You've got all of these licenses, just where the hell are you from?"

The hunter dropped his pants, bent over, and said, "You're so smart, YOU tell ME!"

Yep, every ridgerunner has at least one story involving a game warden. There are times when they can be annoying, like that time you hit that deer at 1am, only the deer was still twitching and the tire iron was only to put it out of its misery. After all, if you were going to jacklight deer, wouldn’t you have a spotlight and a loaded tire iron, and still have an intact radiator? There’s no sense letting all that good meat go to waste.

Of course, lots of poachers like to make the claim that a deer was just “road kill”, and to portray themselves as down-on-their-luck rascals just looking for meat to feed their hungry family. The hardcore poacher is often a serious outlaw with an extensive criminal record, and little respect for life. Illegal hunting to meet the demands of an international trade in wildlife and wildlife parts is a major problem facing those concerned with the protection and sustainability of wildlife populations. Many of the people involved in the trade of illegally hunted animals are the same people involved with organized crime --such as drugs and prostitution. They want to be where the money is. The trade in bear's gall bladders is a good example. The bear gallbladder trade is similar to the heroin business, except that bear organs are harder to come by and harder to smoke. There is money in wildlife.

If you want to know more about poaching, ask a poacher, or better yet, ask a game warden who has pursued poachers on foot, by vehicle or boat. Or you can just read Poacher Wars, A Pennsylvania Game Warden’s Journal by William Wasserman. Bill was a Pennsylvania game warden for more than thirty years, and was responsible for patrolling 400 square miles of rugged mountain terrain.

He’s encountered a number of poachers who were convicted felons including murderers, drug addicts, dope dealers and outlaw bikers. He’s seen men shot in the woods, with their blood seeping from wounds, and put his own life at risk. In his book you will find sixteen true short stories about these dangerous and unpredictable men.

If you want to know what working wildlife law enforcement is like for a Pennsylvania conservation officer, this book is a definite must-read. Game wardens are police officers with full arrest powers: they solve poaching cases with many of the same forensic skills that police investigators use to solve murder cases-such as DNA analysis and ballistic evidence. Crimes against wildlife can be more difficult to solve than crimes against humans, because there is often a lack of witnesses to interview, and Bambi can’t or won’t talk.

Hunting season is meant to protect animal populations and breeding cycles. So if you love the taste of venison, polish up the rifle, or your car, and bone up on the latest game regulations. Now where did I put my shotgun???

Guns? Game? Or is meat just tasty, tasty murder? Email me at frommyshelf@epix.net Miss a previous column, check out past columns at www.frommyshelf.blogspot.com Hobo swears he had a valid hunting license for that mouse, he can check it out in his book “Hobo Finds A Home”, a children’s book about a cat who wanted more out of life.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Tin Man Was Smarted and Braver than He Thought

Kasey Cox

Dar Williams, a folk singer whose popularity began in the coffeehouse and folk festival scene of New England in the early 1990’s, wrote these words: “And when I talk about therapy, I know what people think/ That it only makes you selfish and in love with your shrink….”

I ruefully smile at these lyrics as I go about my review for Andrew Seubert’s new book, The Courage to Feel: A Practical Guide to the Power and Freedom of Emotional Honesty. Andrew Seubert, co-founder of The ClearPath Healing Arts Center in Corning, NY, has been a licensed psychotherapist for the past 25 years. He and his wife, Barbara Hale-Seubert, practice out of offices in Mansfield and in Corning, and I daresay have probably worked with a great number of the folks in the Twin Tiers. Lately, Andrew’s expertise has lead him to more seminars and workshops where he trains other therapists, as far away as Holland and England.

Perhaps I’m not the best person to write this review, because I’m not sure how many people will take me seriously. Why? I am completely biased. I’ve known Andrew, and his family, for almost a decade. I think Andrew is a great person, and an amazingly talented, effective therapist. I’ve already learned the techniques he outlines in his book, most of them in the privacy of Andrew’s office and in my own life as I struggled to grow through very rocky soil. Therefore, I can’t come to this book with a fresh perspective. I read it as one cheering Andrew’s success, hoping that it is everything he wants it to be, and also as one for whom the explanations for these concepts are already well-ingrained. For me, this book is a refresher course as much as anything.

On the other hand, maybe that makes me particularly well-suited to recommend this book. After writing several articles in the last year in which I publicly disclosed my struggles with manic-depression (bipolar disorder), I have had a staggering number of people call, email, or come to the store to ask advice on books on mental health, and to thank me for speaking up. While I can now speak up about my feelings and experiences, suggesting books that give good advice to people in dealing with their feelings is difficult at best. Each person, each family’s situation is so different. The Courage to Feel, however, allows me a more solid recommendation, since it is advice for everyone to use.

Seubert’s book is exactly what the title describes it to be – above all else, a practical guide to feeling our feelings, which takes a great deal more courage than most of us imagine. After all, feelings are just there, right? They happen to us, they’re part of life, and growing up means learning to deal with them – essentially, at least for most of us, that means shoving them away, tuning them out, so we can deal with life. Not so fast, Andrew says. That is not really dealing with feelings at all. Feelings are life: they are the vital energy that keeps us engaged with ourselves, the people and the world around us. When we shove them aside or tell ourselves they’re not important, we are missing crucial messages that are built into our physiology for essential reasons. And most of us were never taught to interpret those messages, or, in fact, to “deal” with them at all.

Most of The Courage to Feel shows us, step by step, in clear, practical, down-to-earth words, how to unpack the years of feelings we’ve stuffed away, and how to begin to learn from our feelings now, in our day-to-day lives, instead of pushing them into the background like some kind of dirty secret. Andrew explains how we will find incredible energy in this process, a new passion for our relationships and our work, better physical health as well as mental and emotional renewal. There are many books out there, and practitioners, who promise the same kind of things, but that are too easily dismissed as “New Age” or “psychobabble.” I believe you’ll be really pleased with Andrew’s style. There is very little of the language that makes therapy-shy people squirm. For those who need the imaginative, there is the fable of Simon the Turtle woven throughout the book to guide their way. For those who are more business-like, trained as we are for most of our lives to respond to steps and outlines and how-to’s and outcomes, Andrew also provides this.

So which is it? Am I an excellent choice for this review, or should my thoughts on it be taken with a grain of salt roughly the size of Rhode Island? I once asked Andrew a similar either/or question, when I was struggling to decide which part of my life was most real – the achiever or the hospital patient. The simple wisdom is an answer that applies much more universally, to many situations, to many a person, place or thing – “you’re both”.

Hobo isn’t the cowardly lion – he tells everyone his feelings. His photo has been absent lately because he’s been in negotiations. He wanted more pay and fewer public appearances, and he’s certain his photo is worth at least as much as those first photos of Brangelina’s twins. He has currently settled for a break from the summer tour he’d planned – sorry, local senior centers – but his thoughts are still available online at frommyshelf.blogspot.com. He’ll also answer email at frommyshelf@epix.net.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Falling Stars

Kevin Coolidge

The nighttime sky is truly a wonder to behold, and for a young boy just starting a lifetime of discovery, my dad’s old binoculars were all I needed. When you read about the latest discovery with the Hubble space telescope, you might think that the only things worth looking at are with the biggest, best, and most expensive equipment, but it simply isn’t true. If you are just getting interested in astronomy, you might want to consider Binocular Stargazing by Mike D. Reynolds.

Why start with binoculars? 1. A pair of binoculars of reasonable quality can be bought for under $100; a telescope of reasonable quality can cost twice as much, or much more. 2. Binoculars are easier to learn to use than a telescope. 3. Objects are easier to find with a standard pair of binoculars than a telescope, and allows a novice to begin to learn the night sky and navigate from object to object. 4. If you decide that astronomy is not for you, you can always use the binoculars for other things, and 5. Two eyes are simply better than one.

Many amateur astronomers keep a pair of binoculars when out observing. Binoculars can be useful for first examining a part of the sky before an object is located. And when that occasional fireball appears, a pair of binoculars is useful for examining the smoke trail, or train, often left behind—and if you are quick enough, the meteor itself.

Most of us have looked up at the night sky and seen what is commonly called a falling or shooting star. These momentary streaks occur when meteors, objects ranging from the size of dust particles to fist-size masses, enter the earth’s atmosphere and are heated to incandescence. Few of these objects survive their encounter with our atmosphere.

What we see on earth is a streak of light that lasts about a half second on average -- generally speaking, the larger the material that enters the atmosphere, the brighter the meteor. Brighter meteors will occasionally leave a smoke trail in their path lasting a few seconds; trails produced by very bright meteors, referred to as fireballs, may last minutes. Fireballs that appear to break up, or produce sound, are called bolides.

One of the most prolific meteor showers known as the Perseids occurs in August. The Perseids are so called because the point they appear to come from lies in the constellation Perseus. Meteor showers occur when Earth moves through a meteor stream. The stream in this case is called the Perseid cloud and it stretches along the orbit of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the greatest activity between August 8 and 14, peaking about August 12. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. To experience the shower in its full, one should observe in the dark of a clear moonless night, from a point far outside any large cities, where stars are not dimmed by light pollution-such as Cherry Springs state park.

If you are looking for a good introduction to the wonderful world of meteors and meteorite collecting, check out Falling Stars, A Guide to Meteors & Meteorites by Mike D. Reynolds. There are a number of good books out there on this subject, but this one is a handy quick reference guide for novices and those interested in learning about the origins of these interesting pieces of rock from space. It gives a brief overview of meteors and comets, descriptions of major meteor showers, major impact craters, and famous meteorite falls, as well as a breakdown of the various types of meteorites.

Backyard astronomy can be easy and fun. I’m going to make myself a big bowl of popcorn, drag my Barcaloungerä into the backyard and catch a FREE midnight show.

Kevin Coolidge wishes for clear skies at www.frommyshelf.blogspot.com