Backyard Visions


The Bear Up There

Arbor Ursus Backyardus

There’s a one-tooth bear that lives in our tree,

When I go outside, it growls down at me.

Just to be clear its sound only I hear,

A reassuring grunt not sent for fear,

Only to remind me, “I’m still up here.”

 [Portage, January 31, 2011]

Fish on (deck)
Broke Rabbit
Flicker on the Feed
The Ozark Weather Stick Gives Hints above and beyond showing high and low pressures.

An Important Health Reminder for All Women

Jambe Longue is wife Lonnie’s handle in my blogs and various writings. Long ago we decided she didn’t need public exposure, but something happened recently and after some discussion, we decided a blog was in order in which she is featured. To make sure all our friends were on the same page informationally, we sent out a note by email to let them know what’s going on. The sole intent of this blog entry is to remind everyone that mammograms and self examination continue to be important for women of all ages, and that cancer, which was an automatic death sentence when Lonnie and I were kids, is no longer that way. In fact, even with my extensive experience around pharmaceutical sciences for decades, I was amazed at how far things have progressed. This said, it seems important to talk about these things, and not keep them in closets of privacy. Here’s the note, which we sent out yesterday, January 29:

Consider this a Horse’s Mouth Note:  As alarming as the next sentence may sound, the news is good. We want you to know that Lonnie had a lumpectomy to remove a very small malignant tumor from her right breast yesterday, Friday, January 28, 2011.

Here’s the sequence of events as they unfolded:  Lonnie had a mammogram Dec 22, and the docs saw something un-Hoyle (something they felt they ought to take another look at); she went back for another check on December 29 and a small tumor was confirmed. Interestingly the tumor was not detectable with breast manipulation (self-examination, either by Lonnie or her surgeon. This experience  is a good reminder that self examination alone is inadequate as a warning aid for cancer. Women need to have their mammogram, too.

On Jan 5 Lon had a biopsy. Result came back as invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common kind of breast cancer. We met with her surgeon  Jan. 12, and Lonnie had a round of MRIs on Jan. 19,  to be sure there were no other tumors in the breast area (none were); yesterday she  had the lumpectomy to remove the tumor, which was quite small, and of  a nonaggressive nature. It was an outpatient procedure: We checked into the outpatient surgery at 0945 and were home by 1530. [Had to drive her car because the infamous Green Streamer, which lives outside year-round, was encased in a half-inch of clear ice.]

During the surgery, the doctor (Nancy Kalinoski) checked her two sentinel glands, both of which were negative, and removed them. There was no mastectomy or removal of muscle that can accompany the more radical surgeries. This procedure is targeted smart bombing, rather than carpet bombing. Lon has not needed pain meds other than tylenol since the surgery. [Course, women are just one helluva lot tougher than men. We all know that.]

The tumor was sent to pathology during the surgery, and over a period of days it will be shaved and observed as will some surrounding tissue samples to see exactly what is there and we will know pathology results by Feb 1 or 2. On Feb 9 we go to the cancer center to meet docs there. This sort of breast cancer is automatically treated also with radiation [duration can vary] and because her cancer is driven by hormones, there will be hormone suppression therapy. Tumors driven by hormones tend to be easier to treat than those that are not. Depending on what pathology reveals, there could be chemotherapy as well. If she has to have the whole shebang, the order of therapy will be chemo, then radiation, and finally anti-hormone. At this point the surgeon, who specializes in breast cancer, is thinking it’s more likely it will be just radiation followed by anti-hormone, but we will know for sure Feb 9.  The bottom line prognosis is excellent: it has been caught early, and it’s not of a raging nature, and we are looking at this as just one more bump in the road of life. She is of course tough as a hungry junkyard dog. Yesterday they inserted a wire via ultrasound and infused her with blue dye to check if there was transportation into tissue outside the breast. There wasn’t.

However she has a pretty blue breast for a while and is peeing blue (should be done by this afternoon) and, of course all of  this provides her no end of bodily functions to laugh about. [It’s nice to have my flatulence off the front burner of her zingers, at least for a while.]

She came through the procedure very well. She was semi loopy last night, but slept well after we got her settled in and she is back in the world this morning, putting together a honey-do list. She has taken no pain pills yet, but I suspect she might dip into that supply later today.  The hardest thing with her is to get her to sit still and not be up poking and putzing around. She is taking next week off from teaching, but will go back the following week. The doctor said she can resume normal activities today, depending on her energy.

Naturally, this whole thing was alarming and  a real attention-grabber for us and reminds all of us the importance of regular mammograms for all females of appropriate age.

Please no calls, and no visitors until the scars are healed (not that she might flash her boobs – though with enough wine she might); the doctors want her to stay away from people to prevent infections and complications, so we will comply and in a week or so we’ll be rolling back to normal.

She wanted everyone to know what’s going on  so that information doesn’t go out piecemeal and,  as private a person as she is, she thinks it’s very important to talk about it —  if this helps other women to catch similar problems early on.

This is a good reminder that it behooves us to live every day to the fullest. And to be brave when the moment calls for it.

Feel free to share this email with others who you think might be interested, or who may ask what’s going on. We will be back in Deer Park in the UP this summer crawling around trout streams and collecting agates off Lake Superior.

Our Best,

Joe and Lonnie


State of the Nation

Did you watch the State of the Union speech tonight? If not, shame on you. I watched with interest and found it without much eloquence and very uninspiring. I like the call for all colleges to reopen to recruiters and ROTC. If they don’t open to recruiting at least, how about they get no federal funds until they do? (My idea, not the President’s.) Military recruiting is either a national priority of importance to all of us, or it’s not. 

I was bothered to notice those times when substantial numbers of people did not stand up. The first  instance was when the President said he did not want to go back to a time when health providers screwed the public by denying policies or payment for pre-existing conditions. Health care insurers have screwed millions like this for years, everybody complains about it, why weren’t all the legislators standing?

I’d do away with all ovations, if it were up to me, but it isn’t they do it and it clearly stands out as a way  to wonder what’s going on in their heads.

I also like notion of freezing all domestic discretionary federal spending for five years. By the way, do we still pay farmers to not produce? If so, this should get the heave-ho, and I mean right now. I also wondered tonight how many kids of US Representatives and Senators attend and/or  graduate from public vs private schools, and how many of these progeny have served or are serving in the military. I’d like to know what percentage of reps and senators served in uniform, by party.

 I liked thePresident’s  call for increased respect for teachers, but the response sounded pretty hollow.

I’m glad gay men and women can now serve openly. I was a kid in the USAF when it became racially integrated, and females in cockpits came after my time, but even in my day almost all the men I flew with thought it was only a matter of time for women, and so too does this apply to gay folks serving their country.

It also seemed to me that when the president made a statement relative to American Muslims being Americans too, that a large portion of the elected folk sat on their cans and this bugs me:  Are we THAT close-minded?

I also think the President should remind folks that despite China “owning” our debt, our economy is more than 3 times larger than China’s, while they have three times our population.

I like his call for not penalizing kids of illegal immigrants, people who have been born and raised inside our borders. They are part of our national treasure. That their parents cheated the system is irrelevant.

Also, maybe my memory is failing, but it’s been my understanding that the internet was “invented” by the government as a way to help scientists collaborating on important projects to have a more convenient means to talk to each other and confer without traveling or phone tag. There were academic scientists involved in this, but it was the government primarily that brough the thing to life and then people like Jobs and Gates took it and ran with it.My impression, anyhoo.

Supreme Court Justice John Roberts last week called the State of the Union Speech a “pep rally.” If so, then this was one not for a team pushing hard to win, but for a team stumbling along. My take. Others will no doubt disagree.

The speech was described as thematic and different. Prolly so, and like I said, uninspiring. We keep waiting for a leader who can step up and say “Follow me,” and we will. 

To conclude, and not to dip too far, Speaker of the House Behner looks like a dead ringer for Edgar Bergen’s Mortimer Snerd No? Take a look for yourself. Over.


Rhythm of Love

The neices, Meggan&Liz, just cut a video with Plain White T’s, singing Rhythm of Love. If you want to tap your toes and smile, type in  Meggan& and enjoy. The girls are seniors in high school and soon off to tour. What talent, and they’ve got both feet planted firmly on the ground.  Fly the dream, and congratulations lades!

Wrangling Riverine Rodents At Night

Obsession, like a virus, is a demon that creeps in and takes hold before you understand you’re had. For example, I now find myself creeping from hole to hole on creeks and rivers on moonless nights, throwing gobs of feathers into the ink, seeking big fish. I don’t care what species, just big. But my favorite is brown trout.

 I’m also addicted to the annual hex hatch, but then you have to wait for the bugs. With mouse-chunking, its game-on nearly every night.

I was sure I’d outgrown this big fish thing in the far-back. Newp. Summer fishing the Upper Peninsula I’m content to catch small brook trout all day, but several times each summer I feel compelled to make contact with big browns.

Part of each winter I spend moving from water to water when the landscape is undressed, looking for likely holes that may hold summer fish. Winter, if the snow isn’t totally ridiculous, is the best time for such scouting. Come spring, after ice-out and runoff, I return to the same places to see how they look. If still promising, I make it a point to day-fish the hole and immediate environs. Not important to catch fish during these excursions, but seeing them is. I usually visit the potential sites at various times and while trying to tempt fish into sight, wade around to get a sense of the footing, pratfalls, traps, other potential hat-floaters. Getting to know the area is critical to your safety.

The interesting thing is that big browns often become exclusively night feeders, so even living here in southwest Michigan in a semi-urban environment I can find big old trout at night, willing to play cat and mouse.

It’s said in some parts of the country that the best such fishing is during the full moon, but that’s not the way we play the game here in Michigan. We may shine a small green or red  pencil light at the tree tops to get a rough gauge on distance and scenery at night, but this game is meant to be played dark, and the darker the better. We wait until there will be no moon at all, and that’s when we go.

The best mousing seems to be for the first two hours after dark. Then there is a lull and it seems to pick up again from 2 a.m. until 4 a.m.

We use short, three-to-four foot leaders, with 15-20 pound test mono. With total darkness and big browns hot for chow there isn’t much finesse in all this.

You need to stay focused. Every single cast at night has the potential to be the one that brings an attacking gorilla.

The thing about mouse fishing is that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or even an accomplished caster to be successful. What it requires is a certain degree of stealth, the ability to listen, and some way to hardwire your striking reflex to the sound and to some connection to your fly. You have to discard imagination and seat yourself firmly in reality, given that wandering in rivers in total darkness probably is not exactly a good representation of reality. Or good judgment. But hey, we’re fishermen, safety is relative and if you don’t take some risks you don’t catch fish. 100 percent of the casts you don’t make, don’t catch fish. To work a mouse, you need to leave your house.

There are probably lots of techniques, but I know only two and have caught fish with both.

In either method, you want to get the fly as close to the bank as you can, and you want it to slap the water with an audible splat.

The first technique involves using a Garside Gurgler. (Or a soft Tex Mouse) You slap the fly out close to the bank at 90 degrees, and start stripping slowly, in 18-inch strips. Most casts won’t be more than 20 feet, and sometimes they will be less than a dozen feet from the bank. With the Gurgler,  you are stripping upstream. Not to worry. If the trout strikes and you don’t feel it, keep casting. The fish will keep attacking until it takes the fly, or decides it’s not worth the pain. Remember, rodents do not swim like torpedoes in the water, so slow stripping is essential.

The second technique features the use of a Houghton Lake Blaster (or Houghton Lake Special) or even  a heavily greased zoo cougar (color not an issue, though black is probably best for silhouette purposes). Here you make the same cast, only the fly will be swept downstream and you simply hold the rod tip high to make the fly wake and count to 7 or 8 as the fly goes to the bottom of the pull-drift. If casting right handed to the right bank, you sweep your arm and rod across to the left and up above your left shoulder. If casting right handed to the left bank, rod tip up an sweep from your left shoulder to up above you right shoulder.  As with the other technique, strike on sound or feel. I’ve also found that sometimes you can actually delay the strike, lift the rod tip slightly (if you have all the slack out) and feel the fish before you cross it’s eyes. I’ve heard that some guides in Alaska believe Rainbow trout attack mice tail first and that’s the first tug you feel, and the second bump is the full-body-take. I don’t know what the real facts are, but I know that sometimes if you resist the heavy strike-right-away, you can still hook the fish.

Kelly Galloup once told me that big browns head-butt bait fish to stun them, and then turn leisurely to pick off the floating victim, thus if you can delay your strike and let the brown make the full-body pickup, you can slam him with great vigor. I’m simply not wired for such patience. Kelly’s assertion came from snorkeling and observing fish over a long periods. There might have been mescaline in that water. I can’t say.

If one believes the fish hit the rodent tail first, then fishing with a fly that has no tail means no delayed strike on your part. Duh.

The thing about this sort of fishing is that you need to be comfortable in total darkness. If you’re not, stay home.

If you’re the kind of person who imagines all sorts of creatures closing in when you are in darkness, don’t even bother going out.

The big bugaboos in this thing are that strikes are so few and far between, thus, you may find it hard to pull the trigger when you’re moment arrives. Not to worry. You will usually get more than one chance as you move from hole to hole. Sometimes a nice gravel flat near a hole and cover is also good in the darkness, but you need to scout all this before you start trying to night-fish the water. Don’t fish 6-inch skinny water or fast riffles.

Most strikes come early in the fly’s drift, but some will not happen until right at the end. Brown trout know a mouse in water is an easy target and apparently they sometimes observe before indulging. I used to do the same thing in bars when I was young and looking for whachamacallit in all the wrong places. I’m too damn old for whatchamacallit nowadays.

Rules of the road. Do NOT wade at night where you have not waded in the daylight. Know the limits of your area and abide by them.

Check your fly and leader after every strike or fish caught and released.

Slack line is your enemy. Keep it tight at all times.

If you’re in a boat, somebody can get out and hold the boat and ease it down the river, and by easing, I mean very very slowly — so you can smack every inch of the target bank.

Because this sort of fishing takes place in summer when river temps are warmer, get the fish in, and released as quickly as possible.

What  precisely are the fish eating? I’m not sure: Rodents. Hell how many different ones can YOU identify?  I have been told with great authority of a certain water vole that has a territory on two sides of the river and swims back and forth all night from bank to bank, and these being (allegedly) the chosen night-meals of brown trout. From an evolutionary standpoint this behavior seems suspect, but I’m a simple writer, and clearly not a scientist. Some fishermen also talk about plain old mice, moles, lemmings and even rats. But I’m not sure what’s in our waters other than generic rodents and the fish seem to eat these with laudable gusto.

Funny thing : I’ve never caught a brown trout at night on a fly designed to look like a realistic mouse – you know, little eyes and little ears etc. I think all those design elements are to catch anglers, not the fish. The things I look don’t look like anything in the light and apparently only look like rodents in the deep night.

Oh yeah, one more caveat. It’s not probable, but it’s possible you could bump into bears, bobcats, moose, or wolves at night. Not to worry. Just keep fishing. Even if the worst possible scenario unfolds, continued focus on your casting will keep you happily and productively engaged until you die.

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.




Sure Is Purty

You're behind a car and you see what looks like blood on the bumper.

Five degrees here this morning, one day before Packers and Bears grapple in the freeze. Perfect Midwest football weather. Outside in the elements. This morning we had one of those soft floaty snows and I could hear wind chimes singing on porches accompanied by the pop-pop of snowblowers in the neighborhood. The Cooper’s hawk blasted into the tree where the cardinals nest and picked off his or her breakie. Yesterday we had two in the yard and one on the ground with a kill and the dog standing back growling and snarling but smart enough not to charge. Jambe Longue saw the Cooper’s this morning with talons extended right before the attack collision.  Some photos today from various michigan conservation officers. This time of year they are working ice fishermen, snowmobiles, trappers, small game hunters, a little bit of all those things that attract the hardiest of our species. Plus the usual trespass, illegal deer hunting, lumber theft and illegal fires. COs are busy year-round, especially with the force so small and the amount of territory each officer must now cover. Enjoy the pix. And FYI, there are some captions mission here because this damned softward is being a jerk. You’ll find Warrior CO Jason Smith with Bambi, CO BJ Goulette with a great horned owl.  And some of our fine officers patrolling the Detroit River. Over.

CO Kellie Nightlinger had to euthanize this moose in the UP.
Illegal deer case succesfully made by CO Jeff Goss in Calhoun Co.

CO Chris Simpson with Long-tail duck (formerly called and Oldsquaw)

CO Kellie Nightlinger with Ontario wall-hanger.

Sgt. Troy Bahlau providing service at Native American gathering.

Haiti’s Between A Hard Place and Rock and Into This Comes Baby Doc.

The more the world changes, the more it stays the same. Baby Doc Duvalier has returned to Haiti. Don’t remember him. I’m putting up some facts, which all boil down to blood-thirsty, greedy asshole who has never been held accountable for his criminal activities. If I tried to create this as a fiction, nobody would believe it. Over.


1971 – Haitian constitution is amended in January to permit Papa Doc Duvalier to name his son, Jean-Claude, as his successor. Jean-Claude comes to be known as ‘Baby Doc’, echoing his father’s nickname.

François Duvalier dies on 21 April in Port-au-Prince. Power is transferred to Jean-Claude, who, at the age of 19, becomes the youngest president in the world.

However, Jean-Claude is not interested in the details of government and leaves much of the running of the country to his mother, Simone Ovid Duvalier, and his dead father’s cronies.

Bending to pressure from the US, and at home, Jean-Claude agrees to economic and judicial reforms, the reopening of the military academy, the release of some political prisoners and the easing of media censorship. But no political opposition is tolerated and the president retains the power to appoint officials and judges.

Though US aid is restored, Haiti remains diplomatically isolated. Corruption reaches new heights. The US Commerce Department reports misappropriation of 64% of Haiti’s government revenues. Tens of millions of dollars are diverted from public funds for “extra-budgetary expenses,” including deposits to Jean-Claude’s Swiss bank accounts.

1980 – In May Jean-Claude marries Michéle Bennett. The lavish wedding, estimated to cost US$3 million, and marriage alienate much of the population. Bennett is considered to be an elite mulatto and her family is implicated in corrupt business ventures, including drug running.

1983 – On a visit to Haiti in March Pope John Paul II declares that “something must change here.”

1985 – Jean-Claude gets 99% of the vote in a fraudulent election. Popular demonstrations against high unemployment, poor living conditions and the lack of political freedom break out late in the year and early in 1986, beginning in the provincial capital of Gonaives.

On 28 November 1985 soldiers in Gonaives chase demonstrators into a schoolyard and shoot and kill three schoolboys who were not involved in the protest. The incident leads to more demonstrations and riots.

1986 – With the Tonton Macoutes unable to repress the mounting social unrest and the military pressing for his resignation, Jean-Claude and his wife accept assistance from the US and flee the country for France on 7 February. The couple take up residence in a villa in Mougins, near Cannes. They will later divorce.

Jean-Claude leaves behind an impoverished and ruined country. Well over half of Haiti’s workers are unemployed. Over 80% of Haitians are illiterate. Almost a third of Haitian children die before their fifth birthday. Life expectancy is 53 years. Per capita income is US$300 a year.

US$6 million held in Duvalier family bank account in Switzerland is frozen.

2002 – In a television interview broadcast in the US on 17 December Jean-Claude reveals that he would like to return to Haiti. “It is my firm intention as soon as conditions allow,” he says, adding that he wants to take part in “rebuilding” Haiti.

According to Jean-Claude, there are no legal reasons for him not to return. He claims that Haiti has “gone backward by 50 years” since he fled the country and calls on the current president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to retire.

“(Aristide) does not have the possibility of ruling Haiti any more,” Jean-Claude says, “He has been rejected by the vast majority of the population. He should, according to me, retire. …

“People are suffering a lot. It is not bearable. It is revolting. I know parents who can’t have their children go to school any more. Some families eat every other day.”

When questioned about his alleged misappropriation of tens of millions of dollars of Haiti’s state funds, Jean-Claude challenges his accusers to provide the evidence.

2003 – Jean-Claude tells the ‘Wall Street Journal’ that he neither stole state funds nor organised the murder of opponents. “If I were dictator, I would have done everything in my power to stay in power,” he says.

“I laugh when I hear the amounts: $400 million, $800 million. It’s a lot of blah, blah, blah. … There were the children to care for, school expenses, other bills. … We were not perfect. Perhaps I was too tolerant.”

2004 – On 29 April President Aristide is forced out of office by an armed rebellion. Jean-Claude quickly restates his wish to return to Haiti, telling a French journalist on 1 March that he wants to put himself “at the disposal of the Haitian people.”

“I think I’m getting close and that I will soon have the opportunity to go back to my country,” Jean-Claude says, revealing that he had requested a diplomatic passport several weeks earlier.

According to Duvalier, while he is in constant communication with contacts in Haiti, he is not involved with the rebel movement and is not planning to run for president if he returns.

Meanwhile, on 25 March the international anticorruption organisation Transparency International (TI) places Jean-Claude at number six on a list of the world’s most corrupt political leaders of the past two decades.

According to TI, Jean-Claude is alleged to have embezzled between US$300 million and US$800 million from Haiti.

2007 – In September the Transparency International estimates are quoted in a report by the Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative, a joint venture of the World Bank and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.

“According to the numbers … Jean-Claude Duvalier allegedly stole the equivalent of 1.7 to 4.5 percent of Haitian GDP for every year he was in power,” the report says. “The only other two kleptocrats to come close as a percentage of GDP were Ferdinand Marcos (of the Philippines) and Sani Abacha (of Nigeria).”

At the same time, Jean-Claude makes another appeal to the Haitian public. “If, during my presidential mandate, the government caused any physical, moral or economic wrongs to others, I solemnly take the historical responsibility,” he says in a prerecorded statement. “(I) request forgiveness from the people and ask for the impartial judgment of history,” he adds.

Jean-Claude is reported to be living alone in a one-bedroom flat in Paris, his money apparently spent.

2010 – At the start of February Switzerland’s federal supreme court rules that Jean-Claude can reclaim most of the US$6 million frozen in his Swiss bank accounts since 1986.

2011. Baby Doc arrives unannounced in Haiti. When asked why he has returned, he says, “Why not?”

Thai Food and TGIF

Ice-squid stalk the studio window....
Fried tofu and peanut sauce — appetizer
Singha beer, breakfast (lunch & dinner) for gray-green Nomex flightsuiters in a place long, long ago and far, far away.
Speaking of Thailand, here's Lt. Col Vairo (USAF Ret) controlling the world electronically.
Here's what I mean by too much sun in the studio.
And here studio light is just right.
Why drive a humongous truck? 1. You can carry a squatload of fishing gear and equipment to the UP, and 2. If you need to move an eight-foot couch, just slide it in and away you go.
Muttus Pacificas
For years I’ve  been driving past a restaurant on Gull Road, called Bangkok. Finally got chance to stop there for lunch this week. Excellent and the hot sauce is just right (and for sale @$5/pint). We had sweet-sour soup, fried tofu with peanut sauce and mains of Pad Thai chicken and Panang chicken, washed down with Singha beer, our staple in the Thailand days with the USAF. Back in those days the beer was available only in quart (maybe they were liter) bottles. Drink mahk mahk was mai-dee. We WILL return.Finally got another camera dumped. How did we survive in the film developing days?Earlier I talked about light in the studio and now I can demonstrate in photos below, plus the usual miscellany. Jambe Longue and Shanny saw the redtail hawk couple on one of the power poles east of here, their fourth or fifth year together and every year so far, a little one. It’s nice to have some sense of your local rhythms and look forward to them, no matter where you are.Heard talking head yammer today about how state employees may have to make their contributions to state recovery. Funny, I thought they’d BEEN doing that, including unpaid furlough days. Huh. Well when you come from the private sector I guess taking your flensing knife to the public troops is step one.  Our OTN is now on the throne and we shall see what he can deliver versus squeak. (For the record:  I hope he does great.)

Gray Sky, White Snow

Gray sky, white snow, might as well work, nowhere else to go. White stuff continues to fall and I continue to wind down the Red Jacket manuscript and work on a painting called “Strike Dog” — same as the story from a few years back.  Oddly enough, gray, ovecast skies provide better light for painting in my studio than do bright sunny days.  Some pix follow for  your enjoyment. I can see the suet feeder from my writing desk.

French Curve
Old Days on the Pere Marquette
Ahoy the grapes!
Monsieur Dollar Butt

Owl House on Old Mission

Screech Owl

Pals Griz and Nan Harris passed along this photo of a screech owl (Megascops asio) in the little wooden house they moved from Kalamazoo, to Manistee to the Old Mission Peninsula where they now live. Very nice and see, persistence pays off. The birds nest March to June, so this little one is early, according to scientific skeds of same. Over.