How Yellowstone National Park’s social media staff is handling a crisis


Bison at Yellowstone National Park. Photo from YNP Facebook page.

The staff at Yellowstone National Park is handling a public relations problem concerning a bison calf and doing it rather well. You can see the evidence for yourself on their Facebook page.

To recap, two tourists spotted a starving and weak bison calf in the park and  loaded it into the back of their SUV rental in an attempt to find care for it. The problem is such an act of compassion is against law, park regulations and common sense.

Because the calf — abandoned by its mother — had imprinted on humans, the park staff had no choice but to put it down.

This action has resulted in a social media firestorm on the YNP Facebook page.
Folks, keep wildlife wild. I know it is tough at times, and it just hurts us to see animals suffering, but that’s nature. Bison newborns are sometimes abandoned by their mother and herd. The poor critters die, but then the coyotes and wolves and eagles can feed their newborns. Look up “circle of life.”
I urge those passing judgment on YNP staff to consider the following responses left by the park’s social media team on Facebook. They are a great example of communicating natural resource issues to a public that may be ignorant and hostile.
In order to ship the calf out of the park, it would have had to go through months of quarantine to be monitored for brucellosis. No approved quarantine facilities exist at this time, and we don’t have the capacity to care for a calf that’s too young to forage on its own. Nor is it the mission of the National Park Service to rescue animals: our goal is to maintain the ecological processes of Yellowstone. Even though humans were involved in this case, it is not uncommon for bison, especially young mothers, to lose or abandon their calves. Those animals typically die of starvation or predation.
We do not have a rehab center, nor is it our priority to rescue individual animals. Our mission is to preserve the ecological processes of Yellowstone, and even though humans were involved in this case, it is not uncommon for bison, especially young mothers, to lose or abandon their calves. Those animals typically die of starvation or predation.
Since Yellowstone bison carry brucellosis, federal and state laws prohibit their shipment outside the park. This calf would have had to go through months of quarantine to be monitored for brucellosis, and no approved quarantine facilities exist at this time.
Rangers tried for two days to haze the bison away from the road and toward other groups of nearby bison, but were unsuccessful. The calf had fully imprinted on people and cars.
The management of wild animals sometimes requires decisions that may seem harsh if you focus on an individual. But when you focus on populations of animals, and the ecological processes that sustain them, things like a bison losing or abandoning a calf is part of the fabric this ecosystem. It’s unfortunate that these visitors intervened: the calf may have been found by its mother, but it’s also likely that the calf would have died naturally of starvation or predation.
The bison calf was not removed from the landscape: it was left out of sight where predators, scavengers, and other animals could take advantage of it.
YNP staff is not getting defensive, just explaining the reasons for the action. I applaud their courage in responding to some of the posts on the page. This is a teachable moment. Of course, there are those that will never accept the word of government employees regardless of the facts. Unfortunately, comments have denigrated into name calling, insults and flame wars. YNP generally is letting people rant. I’m sure the staff is getting death threats. I’ve been in similar situations before. My heart goes out to them.
Four lessons I wish people to take away from this post:
  1. Keep wildlife wild. Leave it alone. It’s hard to do, I know, but it must be done.
  2. Visiting a park? Leave no trace. Learn and know the rules.
  3. Before passing judgment, get the facts and give the benefit of a doubt to folks even if they work for government.
  4. If you don’t like a government action, it’s okay to be critical and voice displeasure. Just do so without name calling and vitriol.

About that Sleepy Hollow season three finale…

SLEEPY HOLLOW: Tom Mison in the“Ragnarok” season finale episode of SLEEPY HOLLOW airing Friday, April 8 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Tina Rowden/FOX

SLEEPY HOLLOW: Tom Mison in the “Ragnarok” season finale episode of SLEEPY HOLLOW. Cr: Tina Rowden/FOX

FOX’s Sleepy Hollow has been an entertaining diversion for me for three seasons. The show – about a Revolutionary War solider appearing in present day America to battle demons – has filled a niche missing since The X-Files and Fringe went off the air.

Essentially a supernatural police procedural,  I found the historical aspects of the show intriguing. It tickled me to see how the writers worked in American history to explore the idea that the nation’s founding fathers were battling demons and the British during the birth of our nation. And, of course, there was the Headless Horseman.

Tom Mison was excellent in his performance in the role of Ichabod Crane. He and Nicole Beharie (Abigail Mills) had tremendous on-screen chemistry. Even when the writing was sub par, their acting chops carried the show.

Season three has been a bit uneven and audience has dwindled since the first season. The last two episodes of season were a downer. Both contained major character deaths. In the series finale, Mills died, leaving Crane to face new challenges alone. I barely recognized the show from the finale. Too many threads were trying to be resolved in 42 minutes.  Supporting characters barely got a chance to say bye.

It is doubtful that the series will get renewed.  After watching the season 3 finale, that may be for the best.

Imagine if The X-Files killed off Scully?

Still, if Hollow does get renewed I will turn in just to see Mison’s performance and how his character moves forward. For those that have not seen the series, I urge you to give it a shot even though you might be disappointed at the end.

These days, there’s not many supernatural scientific procedurals left. Perhaps I should catch up on Grimm…

Celebrating fifty years of Star Trek music

Video montages from all of the Trek series and movies were displayed on the 40-foot screen and time to music being performed by a symphony orchestra.

Video montages from all the Trek series and movies display on the 40-foot screen and were synchronized to music from a symphony orchestra.

For my belated birthday gift, my wife bought tickets to the Star Trek Ultimate Voyage Tour. We attended the concert at the Old National Center in Indianapolis on Friday, March 18.

The event featured music from fifty years of the Star Trek, spanning both the TV series and movies.  The scores were performed by a live symphony orchestra and timed to video being projected on a 40-foot screen.

The concert was a treat for the ears and eyes.

The orchestra highlighted the nuances often found lurking in Trek scores. While everyone knows Trek music can be “in your face” — the fight theme from Amok Time comes to mind — the elegant violin and trumpet solos of later Trek music are often overlooked.  The soloists brought the stately and sweeping motifs to life.  The trumpet soloist on the Deep Space Nine Theme was particularly notable.

The digital projection of the video was pretty much flawless, too. The production used remastered and digital copies of the source material. Colors were vivid and scratches and grain were absent. Even darker scenes displayed well, such as those set inside a Klingon ship.   Editing was polished. Instead of lifting entire chunks from the source material, the production combined visual effects sequences, action scenes and dialog into a seamless montages focused on a central themes such as “villains” and “captains.” Michael Dorn, Lt. Worf from The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, provided a recorded introduction narration for each.

The audience for the event was an older crowd, mostly middle age. There weren’t a lot of costumes, but many had t-shirts or lapel pins. The audience was enthusiastic, especially after one clip from the original series episode The Doomsday Machine in which Kirk finally defeats the planet killer.

The experience rekindled my love of Trek scores, many of which I have on CD. I’m more fond of music from the later years of Trek. James Horner’s score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn  (KAHHHHHHNNNN!), is a masterpiece. Jerry Goldsmith’s theme for the first Trek movie is better than the movie itself. I’m glad it became the main theme for Star Trek The Next Generation.  Also among my faves are the opening themes for Deep Space Nine and Voyager. And yes, I did like Faith of the Heart for Enterprise, although it is sappy. If you get a chance, check out Archer’s Theme on the Enterprise soundtrack. This was the original theme for that series and is on par with earlier opening themes. Other movie favorites include Generations and First Contact.

Star Trek Ultimate Voyage Tour is visiting 100 cities this year. If you are a Trek fan, I recommend it. It’s a great way to celebrate fifty years of Trek music.

2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen. The real big screen.

Original promo for 2001: A Space Odyssey features artwork of Space Station V by artist Robert McCall.

Original promo for 2001: A Space Odyssey features artwork of Space Station V by artist Robert McCall.

Last week I had the rare opportunity to view director Stanley Kubrick’s classic space film in 70mm at the Indiana State Museum’s IMAX theater. The screening was part of IndyFilmFest’s Roving Cinema series. The film played to an at-capacity crowd of mostly film buffs and college students.

Yes, it was an intellectual nerd fest.

2001 (1968) was originally filmed in 70mm, a common film size in the 1950s and 60s. The 70mm “flavor” for Kubrick’s work was Cinerama. You can learn more about the specific format here. This particular print was a restored version struck in 2001.

Most movie theaters today screen films in digital format, even the IMAX theaters. That technology continues to mature, especially with colors and brightness. Analog film and projectors still offer superior image quality, but the technology is expensive and rapidly being replaced.

This print was not a true IMAX-optimized film, just 70mm. Still, the image was 70 feet wide. The film did have some artifacts such as grain and scratches and a few slight audio pops, but overall it was in good shape and played well on the IMAX’s six-story screen.

Director Kubrick was known for his attention to details, and this was clear in the 70mm version. The space station docking and lunar shuttle sequences were especially stunning. With 70mm, it was easier to see the people in the windows of the station and the moon base. Set detail — especially warning labels and company logos — were also more obvious. It was a good display of Kubrick’s world-building skills. One could even read the instructions for the zero gravity toilet on the lunar shuttle.

And seeing the monolith on a six-story screen was pretty intimidating, too.

For me, the greatest strength of 2001 is the craftsmanship. I found the plot thin and slow, but I realize Kubrick wanted to make space travel seem boring and monotonous. I’ve got several books about the film’s making, including the latest from Piers Bizony.

The film – and its under-appreciated sequel 2010: The Year We Make Contact — are among my top favorite movies. A small monolith and moon bus model sits atop my DVD collection.

The Indianapolis State Museum IMAX is one of my favorite IMAX theaters. Comfortable seats and often less crowded, there’s little comparison to the “IMAX light” digital theaters in Indianapolis suburbs. Indy IMAX uses the original analog IMAX projectors. The theater is 20 years old. As of Jan. 25, the theater was undergoing renovations to add digital equipment for more screenings of modern films (press release).

Automatic for the people

Automatic Adapter plugs into the OBD-II port in your car.

Automatic Adapter plugs into the OBD-II port in your car.

Vehicles manufactured after 1996 have an OBD-II (on-board diagnostic) port. Wikipedia has a great explanation about the connector. The port, usually found near the steering wheel, is used by mechanics to diagnose car trouble. In addition to troubleshooting, many consumers use the OBD-II port to tune their vehicle’s performance and keep track of teenage drivers.

I’ve been using a OBD-II gizmo called Automatic ($99) for more than a year.  The device plugs into the OBD-II port and pairs via bluetooth to a smartphone. A companion app collects trip data from the vehicle, including location, distance, mileage, time. It’s like a black box for the car. This data is displayed on a map in the app and an online dashboard. One nice feature about Automatic is that it determines the dollar cost and efficiency of each trip. It’s pretty spot on, too. My previous car — a Sonata Hybrid — was always scoring high. My current Hyundai Tucson scores well, but not as as good as the hybrid.

Here’s an demo example of how data is displayed:

The dashboard for the Automatic service displays trip data.

The dashboard for the Automatic service displays trip data.

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Why your fitness plan may be a losing game

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 8.06.28 PM

Employers are pushing fitness plans to lower insurance costs. Mine is no exception. Last year, I was invited to “invest in my health” by implementing a plan with a website that set health goals and recorded fitness activity.

I did so, and received an $1,000 discount off my family health insurance policy for achieving my goals.

This year, I’ve had to learn a new system. It has been a frustrating experience.

The trend in the health industry is to “gamify” fitness. That’s a good method to get people motivated, but this means implementation of arbitrary rules. Game theorists (i.e. a four-year old child) will tell you that arbitrary rules can be negative reinforcement to game participation.

This is what I am currently experiencing with this year’s effort.

Example: One goal is to “gradually lose weight.” I have lost 19 pounds. The standard for awarding points for the goal (set by the website) was to lose 20 pounds by a specific date. Unfortunately, nineteen pounds wasn’t good enough. There is no partial credit. There are no points awarded for the attempt. Once goals are set, they cannot be adjusted.

To truly be a fair game, the system should have awarded 95 percent of the total point value for the goal. 

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Awakening: Thawing out the themes of Buck Rogers

Opening sequence to Buck Rogers featuring NASA footage of Apollo missions.

Opening sequence to Buck Rogers featuring NASA footage of Apollo missions.

Universal Studios originally planned Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a series of TV movies. After the Battlestar Galactica TV pilot became a hit movie overseas, the studio chose to launch Buck into space with a theatrical version. The movie was successful and made about $21 million in North America, according to Wikipedia. Networks took notice, and soon Buck Rogers made the jump to a weekly TV series on NBC.

To start the series off, the studio fleshed out the theatrical  version into a two-part pilot episode, Awakening. The differences are minor, however, and the same themes are woven throughout both stories.

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Davis on DVD: Buck Rogers In The 25th Century

Nicely done fan wallpaper art from George Spigot's blog captures the essence of the series.

Nicely done fan wallpaper art from George Spigot’s blog captures the essence of the series. More can be found at

The year is 1987, and NASA launches the last of America’s deep space probes. In a freak mishap, Ranger 3 and its pilot, Captain William “Buck” Rogers, are blown out of their trajectory into an orbit which freezes his life support systems, and returns Buck Rogers to Earth, 500 years later.

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century is a favorite TV series of my childhood. The show, starring Gil Gerard and Erin Gray, lasted two seasons from 1979-1981.

Fortunately, the series is on DVD. I snagged the complete series a few years ago. Universal has recently released each season separately. Even if you have the original box set, Buck fans may want to buy the second season for a special Easter Egg. More on that in another blog post later.

The series is often dismissed has 70s and 80s kitsch because of wacky costumes, cheesy sets, silly humor, disco music, stunt casting, and scenery-chewing guest stars.

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Slower traffic keep right


Indiana legislators passed a law this year to allow the police to ticket drivers for camping out in the left lane.

Drive anywhere in this state and you will soon realize such a law is needed. Many have forgotten about “slower traffic keep right.” It’s a law that’s been on the books for years and covered in the state driver’s manual. Here’s Indiana Code 9-21-8-2(b).

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