Car Seats and the Unborn

Do car seats prevent the birth of children? In the case of car seat laws, the statistics suggest that they do. This is a case where the law of unintended consequences applies.

The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people—and especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. Economists and other social scientists have heeded its power for centuries; for just as long, politicians and popular opinion have largely ignored it.”

The Library of Economics and Liberty

Car seat laws are relatively recent; It was only in 1986 that all 50 US states required car seats. Over time, the age and size requirements for car seats has gone up. Jordan Nickerson of the University of Washington and David Solomon argue that car seat laws have prevented 145,000 births since 1980.

How? One possible explanation is that it is very difficult to find a car that will fit three car seats in the backseat, and purchasing a new car can be cost prohibitive (having a child isn’t exactly inexpensive in the first place). Certainly Nickerson and Solomon make a good case for it- they found that the likelihood of having a third child in any given year was .73% lower (small- but significant considering that the baseline likelihood is only 9.36%) for women that already had 2 children in car seats.

Small percentage- but cast it over all of the women considering having a third child in the US during a given year, and the number looks larger. Their study estimates that in 2017 car seat laws saved 57 lives and prevented the birth of 8,000.

Yes, this is our cat. Human occupant anticipated in April.

In Montana, car seats (child restraint systems- so booster seats included) are required if a child is under the age of 6 and less than 60 lbs. Montana does not require children ride in the backseat. So even in Montana, the argument that women are likely delay (or opt against entirely) a third child until having one doesn’t require three children in car seats has face validity.

Whether or not Nickerson and Solomon are right about the reason (and their research looks fairly solid to me), they are certainly correct in observing the decline in birth rate and fertility in the United States, though car seat laws are probably only one among many contributing factors.


This Time Last Year: Freedom Convoy

Around this time last year, we were collecting headlines from the Canadian news and documenting the freedom rally that took place in Eureka.

Saturday’s Freedom Rally was Crowded

The amount of vehicles reminded me of Rendezvous, or similarly crowded events. Cars went up the hill, out of sight from its base, filled the historical village, and spilled over across the railroad. There were flags, signs (many homemade), noise, and people waving and cheering on the street. It started without much fanfare, and took about half an hour for everyone to get going. It was rather brisk, and for the most part, people stayed in their vehicles while they waited for it to begin. Mostly, people seemed to have a lot of fun- if not quite as much fun…

Blockades at the Border

Slow Roll Protests have emerged at several crossings over the past month, as well as full and partial blockades. Protests are against the new vaccine mandates for crossing the border, and in support of the Freedom Convoy in Ottowa protesting the same. A Slow Roll Protest began at 3 in the morning, Monday January 17th on the US Manitoba border at the Crossing between Pembina, North Dakota and Emerson, Manitoba. The Pembina/Emerson crossing is a 24 hour port of entry, with three commercial lanes and 4 auto lanes. It is the most heavily traveled border crossing in North Dakota. Between…

Following the Freedom Convoy

Following events as they are happening takes a bit of work, and this more so than most. It has the advantage of being stretched out in time, so the reader isn’t overwhelmed by a bunch of things happening all at once, but finding what, and why and when proved more difficult. Here’s what I have found (incomplete, both due to the sheer amount of information, and my inability to read French). Headlines Friday Jan. 14- Freedom Convoy Facebook Page Created Sunday Jan. 16- GoFundMe page created by Tamara Lich Canadian Health Minister Defends the need for Trucker Vaccine Mandates (Global…

The internet being what it is, the headlines we’ve written are conserved, though not all of the original hyperlinks and pictures have been.


In Case You Missed it: January’s Past

Ice Pillars

It’s that time of the year again, or rather the temperature is that low again. Strange pillars of light in the sky? Ice pillars, or light pillars, form under conditions of very cold temperatures. They are caused by light being reflected by crystals in the atmosphere, and careful observation of them can actually provide some insights about the weather. The source of the reflected light can be anything from the sun to streetlights. Color will vary depending on the light source. Since these require very dense, cold air,…

Do you get the Government you pay for?

The area represented by the Lincoln County High School district has 31.8% of the county’s population, and provides 45.5% of the tax dollars that fund county government. Libby, where most of the county government occurs, has 50% of the county’s population, and provides 36.1% of the taxes that fund county government. I guess it’s a question suitable for debate – is it better to receive more government than you pay for, or is it better not to receive as much government as you pay for?

Why Frost Heaves

Frost heaves – back when I was teaching engineering uses of soils 40 years ago – were explained by osmosis, compression and fine-grained soil.  So think clay, or even better, glacial silt as your fine-grained soil.  For compression, remember that just ten or fifteen thousand years back there were some thick glaciers on top of our soil.  For osmosis, think of the difference between rain water, or snow melt, and the groundwater with it’s calcium salts under my field.  And glacial silts tend to have a lot of…

Proving nonexistence

It’s probably a half-century and more since I realized the amount of faith it takes to be confident something doesn’t exist.  Most recently, it was a positive, confident statement that there was no voter fraud in the last election.  A half-century back, it was a college student answering the question, “How can you possibly be an atheist?”  The answer is the same – there are some things you just have to take on faith. Just as it takes faith to be an atheist, it takes faith to be…

Measuring Snow is Easier Now

In the mid-seventies, I would start the week of snow surveys by leaving home a little before 7:00 am, meeting Jay Penney at Grave Creek, then snowmobiling up to Stahl Peak, Weasel Divide and then catching the Grave Creek on the way down.  After that it was a week of motel living as we would sample snow courses four more days, ending with Banfield Mountain.  Later in the decade, it would be 5 days in the Kootenai drainage, then 5 more in the Flathead.  By the end, we…

Winter changes voles’ moods, too.

As the seasons wear on, and we begin another year with our movements restricted by Covid19, it’s easy to see cabin fever creeping up on folks. This plight turns my mind to the voles, and how much better they handle winter than us humans.

Fair Representation on the County Board of Health?

Last week, we asked if the County Board of Health was a fair representation of the county. We’ve looked at how people are distributed in the county before, in “Searching Lincoln County Data” and “If LCHS District were a County” and have mostly compared high school districts (which is a handy way of splitting the county into three). Splitting the Board of Health into representation by high school district: High School District% of County Population% of Vote on Health BoardLibby50 %57.1 %Eureka (LCHS)32 %28.6 %Troy18 %14.3 % Considering…


High Carbs at the Wrong Time can Kill Deer

You might recall the signs about not feeding bread to ducks. It’s also (among other carbohydrates) bad for deer.

There are several reasons for bread to be bad for ducks:

  • dependency on humans as a source of food is just generally bad for wildlife,
  • crowding caused by an attraction to food humans provide can increase the spread of disease,
  • molding bread can make ducks sick
  • bread is actually really poor in the nutrition ducks need

For deer, the reasoning is somewhat different. The first two risks, human dependency and spread of disease by crowding remain, but the rest is more complicated. Deer are ruminants, like cows, and rely on symbiotic bacteria to digest the sort of things we can’t. This means that, like us, deer and other ruminants have a gut microbiome that’s very important.

The gut microbiome has been studied to some degree since microscopy was developed (by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, during the late 17th century), but much of the research on it is fairly recent. In general, it’s complex, important, somewhat diet dependent, disturbed by generalized antibiotics, influenced by probiotics, and likely associated with some diseases.

In humans we have enough research to conclude that disturbing the gut microbiome is probably a bad idea. In ruminants, this is extremely evident.

Diet changes the microbiome. In ruminants, the risk is that a system unaccustomed to carbohydrates is not a system that is ready to receive a lot of carbohydrates. Sudden influx of carbohydrates results in a massive increase in the digestive bacteria that thrive on those carbohydrates.

Like many organisms these have a competitive strategy that involves poisoning the competition (this is how yeast benefit from producing alcohol). In this case, the product produced is lactic acid. The net result? What in cattle is called “grain overload”. In more technical terms, rumen acidosis. Inflammation. Ulcers. Inability to absorb nutrients. The animal dies.

Corn. Grain. Birdseed. Hay. Apples. Anything notably higher in carbohydrates than what is available in the environment represents a hazard.

In Montana, feeding the deer is decidedly illegal (though I’m unclear if leaving your retired Christmas tree out for them qualifies- they will eat pine needles if given the opportunity, though it isn’t a preferred food source). And locally, the potential for disease to spread seems to be a primary concern: deer feeding has been cited as a factor in the high transmission rate of chronic wasting disease in Libby.


Skier Caught Filming Jump off Roof of Trego School

It was mid-afternoon on Friday (December 23rd), at Trego Elementary School. The temperature was below ten degrees Fahrenheit. A few people were wrapping presents to gift to the students and had been hearing some odd noises on the roof when school board member Clara Mae Crawford arrived and informed them that there were people up on the roof.

Surprised, one of the folks present (Matt) stepped outside and explained that they really couldn’t be allowed to be up there, doing that, since it was a liability issue, and if they would not stop, he would have to call the police. Since they didn’t leave, after being asked to depart twice, the police were called.

In the meantime, Clara called fellow school board member (and board chair) Mike McCurry.

“It was about 3:20 on Friday, December 23, when I answered a phone call from Trego School.  The gist of the call was that there were people on the school roof, skiing, and that when Matt (the maintenance guy) had asked them to leave (twice) they were still there, so he had dropped a dime and called the police.

I had just gotten out of some cold, wet jeans, and got into the car ASAP, thinking either I’m going to show up at the school to see another board member laughing “Got you this time.” or I’m due to meet some people that are crazy enough that I’ll end up wishing I had a pistol in the pocket.  The second was the reality.”

Mike McCurry

Mike spoke with the people outside until police arrived. He’s somewhat hard of hearing- but here is his summary:

“I initiated the conversation with the standard query: “Who are you and what are you doing here?”  I met a short middle-aged man with delusions of significance – he introduced himself as Tanner Hole, and told that they were making a ski movie . . . apparently thinking that this should impress me.  Claimed he was a high school dropout and had made a living skiing all his life – and that he’s 39 years old.  One of his compatriots was telling me that the woman in the school had given them approval to do the stunt and filming (neither of the women in the school agreed with that statement).

I heard the argument that the school was public property – so I thought I should square that away, explaining that I’m the chair of the school board, and if they had asked for board approval I would certainly, by God, remember it.  Mr. Hole informed me that he had over 100,000 followers on some social media, that they never ask permission, that’s part of his culture . . . and I replied that I didn’t give a flying ___ about his culture – in mine he was trespassing.  He offered to show the film of his jump – I explained that their best move would be to be gone before the police arrived, that all I wanted to see was the tail gates of their pickups headed out.  He angrily headed toward his pickup.

Later, Mr. Hole approached me again, and seemed to anger up as I described him as a cockroach.  Frankly, I was relieved when the deputy showed up before he got closer . . . at 73, I’m a bit beyond my prime for a physical altercation.”

Mike McCurry

Mike misheard the name- but a man with that sort of Instagram following (Username: TannerHall420) isn’t hard to find, and his public photos were recognizable.

Who is this guy, anyway?

Tanner Hall is a Kalispell native, age 39, apparently known for freeskiing. Media coverage of him in publications about skiing is glowing, with the words “legend” and “icon” tossed around quite a bit. His legal record appears a bit more colorful in various local papers.

Hall’s wikipedia lists a substantial number of 1st places in various competitions from 1999 to 2012- at which time the list ends abruptly. In 2016, he had an interview to the Magazine High Times, around the same time he was sponsored by a marijuana producing company which sold a “420 kit” complete with wrapping papers featuring his likeness.

It’s hardly Hall’s first time seeing police at a school, nor is it a recent habit. In 2008, he was ticketed outside a Colorado high school in the early morning hours where police noticed people performing “extreme ski stunts” and smelled marijuana.

Were any laws broken?

We’re not police, or lawyers, but it seems probable that some were. If nothing else, given Hall’s admitted marijuana habit, it seems quite likely that he had drugs on school property.


Bird-feeder: Cat Enrichment Device

Indoor cats get bored; In fact, probably everyone gets bored when it’s subzero outside. That said, a bored house cat can make the life of everyone else much less boring, very quickly, so it’s worth avoiding.

In order to avoid the consequences of cat boredom (we have two, and they are young), I braved the cold weather to set up the cat enrichment center. In other times of the year, the shepherds crook hosts a hummingbird feeder. In cold weather, I’ve installed a suet feeder.

If the bird feeder was for me, I’d be disappointed. Even with bird identification taking place in the same part of the brain as faces, and thus being extremely difficult for me, I haven’t had any trouble. This is because there is precisely one bird that attends the feeder. It’s a Flicker.

Photo by Karen F on

The cats don’t care. They aren’t bored by it. They sit in the window, tails lashing, and watch the thing for hours.

I’ll admit that the bird feeder getting the bird to (finally) stop knocking on the house and waking up the dog feels a little bit like providing a payout to a protection racket. That said, he’s also providing my cats with considerable entertainment.


‘Tis the Season

Festive parasites, Christmas Spiders, and the glory days of Trego’s Christmas Tree industry. Happy Holidays!

Festive Parasites

Mistletoe is a classic Christmas decoration, which has always struck me as rather odd, considering that all varieties of mistletoe are parasitic plants. Depending on how bad the infestation is, mistletoe is quite capable of killing its host plants. There are many types of mistletoe (117 species globally, 5 species of dwarf mistletoe are common…

The Christmas Spider, an Eastern European Legend

Many cultures have their own unique Christmas ornaments… When I was little, my folks had a straw goat ornament from Finland, a “Joulupukki”, or “Jule Goat”, a representation of the harvest season’s spirit – something that made an appearance when folks celebrated the return of the light.

Remnants of an Industry

Walking the place in November’s fresh snow, I notice the remnants of an industry – stumps that were left to grow a second, third or fourth Christmas tree.  The phrase was “stump culture” and the practice fit in with production of wild Douglas Fir Christmas trees.  By cutting high and leaving branches on the stump,…


The Part that Breaks

It seems like everything has at least one component notorious for being the thing that breaks (first). Often, that thing is a safety switch. Sometimes, it’s something like a shear bolt that’s actually supposed to break. Sometimes it’s simply the most complex piece or the one that works the hardest.

The first category of “things likely to break” is those that are designed to protect you. The safety switch was (at least in theory) invented in the early 1900s by an engineer working in Detroit. While the purpose of a safety switch is to stop a machine running (a riding lawn mower when you aren’t on it, or a snow blower when a bar isn’t compressed), it isn’t designed to break. The safety switch exists to protect you, not the machine. In fact, it exists to protect you from the machine. A safety switch isn’t a major part of design (it has no functional purpose within the machine itself) and is often a last minute cheap plastic add-on that gets a lot of use. They are often supposed to break in ways that stop the machine working (for safety reasons). It’s unfortunate that the easiest way to fix a broken safety switch is frequently to bypass it, which rather defeats the purpose.

The second category of “things likely to break” is those designed to protect the machine. A shear bolt exists to protect the machine from you. It’s purpose is to break so that something more important doesn’t- which is sort of the purpose the tonsils seem to serve in the immune system. The shear bolt keeps the machine (and any complex, expensive, difficult to replace parts) safe from operator error, by breaking under slightly better conditions than would break other parts and stopping the entire machine when it does so.

Both a broken safety switch and a broken shear bolt should stop a machine working entirely. The third category is different, and in it things can work badly, partially or not-at-all.

The last category is the most annoying, because it’s for the things that just break. Bad design. Complexity. Under the most strain. In septic systems with lift stations, it is, almost inevitably, the lift station that malfunctions. Within that, the most complex piece, the one under the most strain, is the pump. In a computer, it’s often (at least for those of us with cats) the fan (cat hair makes them work harder). In my coffee pot? The heating element.

It’s useful to know which part is most likely to break, because it’s the first place to look when problems occur – but it would certainly be nice if they were always as cheap to replace as shear bolts!


Revisiting Seasonal Recipes

Caramel Corn

This delicious recipe is a yummy treat and always a favorite at gatherings or for a cozy afternoon at home. It is not quick to make but well worth the time put into it. Carmel Corn 1 c. butter2 c. brown sugar1 c. light corn syrup1/2 tsp. saltBring to a boil over medium heatSimmer 5…

Kuchen- a Russian German Dessert

About the time of the American Revolution, Germans were offered a bit of freedom if they emigrated to Ukraine and Russia – free land, freedom from taxation, exemption from the draft and freedom of religion.  Of course that sort of a deal couldn’t last – so about a century later, facing taxation and the draft,…