Histrionic and Narcissistic|
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|Monday, February 6th, 2006|
|Return from Hell
I have to say... yet again... I HATE ATLANTA!
It is just so draining... so loud... so frantic... so frustrating... so mediocre.
Nothing grand to report from the dog show. The bitch classes in ridgebacks were very competitive, between 17 and 23 girls each day and many of them were quite fine. Given this, the fact that Ruby placed third in her class on Friday (nothing on the other two days) was a quite respectable showing even if it didn't earn her any points. The judging was good, and the Best of Breed winner all three days was Code Red, the top Rhodie in the U.S. for 2005, a quite handsome boy. Plus both he and his handler are nice in temperament too. One of the other handsome boys did give him a serious run for his money, I thought. You might see Red a.k.a. Mojave if you watch the Westminster KC dog show on TV, good chance he'll be the BOB Rhodie there. I have seen him fail to win the breed once or twice, but it doesn't happen very often.
One thing you learn pretty quickly on the dog show circuit... the handlers and breeders can be real snots and SOBs sometimes, but the dogs are just dogs. Even the Westminster winners are just dogs with flapping tongues and wagging tales when you stop to say "hi" to them at ringside. They don't know or care about national rankings.
|Thursday, February 2nd, 2006|
|Back to my favorite city
Three day dog show in Atlanta, starting tomorrow. Will be leaving before dawn tomorrow, back late Sunday.
|Tuesday, January 31st, 2006|
|Ah those progressive Europeans
Truly lovers of freedom, diversity, and acceptance... so long as you are white, secularized, of christian ancestry, and speak one of the handful of major European languages...
Netherlands move to ban the Burqa:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5181079
That's the way to do it, liberate Islamic women by passing laws dictating how they must dress. Oh, and they are also considering requiring citizens and residents to speak only Dutch in public.
Now if crap like this would only help us
remember why we
had that revolution and get us back to our own
imperiled fundamental principles of liberty.
|Thursday, January 26th, 2006|
I drove Mom down to Atlanta Tuesday-Wednesday so she could see one of her grandaughters' high school basketball games. Her dad/my brother has been trying to get her to come down all season, but she's not up for the drive herself. Atlanta... one of my less favorite environments to be immersed in. People and traffic and noise EVERYWHERE; my brain wanted to find a quiet place to escape. Driving driving driving. And lousy food that everyone else raves about. Ordered the CRAYfish salad (where do they call them thangs CRAYfish anyway except in zoology laboratories?), and the friggin' things arrived BREADED and FRIED! It could have been anything inside those lumps of fried bread. When did we start throwing breaded and fried food pieces in salads? Silly me, I should have asked, I just assumed they'd be steamed or broiled or sauteed and have flavor and texture, the way we used to cook 'em in South Carolina and the way they were cooking 'em in Louisiana right up until last August 29th. I'd never seen a chicken-fried CRAYfish... oy. This is an innovaton we can well do without.
I have had very little contact with the Old School since graduating 27 years ago. It was odd, to say the least, to find that so many of the main characters are still right there where I left them. Just a lot grayer. Getting together with my old math teacher for the first time in forever was really nice. He's a bigfoot of a fellow - 6'7", 'bout 300 pounds, long beard, broken teeth from street hockey, and recognized as an exceptional math teacher at a national level. Where else could I have gotten differential equations and linear algebra as a high school sophomore? He used to spend his summers in the Yukon; lately with some health issues he spends them in the US rockies. He gave me "some old bird books" that he had inherited from an Uncle: the three volume set of "Birds of Massachussetts and Other New England States" by Edward Howe Furbish, color plates of illustrations by Louis Agassiz Fuertes and Allan Brooks, published 1925-1929. It's one of those wonderful old State bird tomes, with pages of information about each species instead of just a short paragraph, and full naturalistic watercolor portraits of the birds in habitat by the most prominent bird artist of his generation.
As for the basketball... well the girls had an off night.
|Monday, January 23rd, 2006|
I've started moving some of my blogging to another site -- mostly the farming and birding and etc. stuff that is more suitable for mass consumption. I'll duplicate a lot of the posts here; mostly just the more narrowly focused bird stuff will be exclusive to there. I've duplicated a bunch of my archives over there; there's nothing more than a few days old that y'all haven't already seen here. The other site is:http://bbill.blogspot.com/
Finally I think we can call the drought broken. Another 3.5" of rain yesterday and last night, and for the first time since April the creeks are flowing and the pond s filling back up. With the intermittent stream in front of the house flowing again, we're now a peninsula with water in front and behind.
|Sunday, January 22nd, 2006|
|Linguists, pagans, classicists...
...lend me your brains.
I'm looking for short inscriptions of the household blessing sort, suitable for placing in less conspicuous areas of a front porch, in the following languages:
Some old Norse tongue
Some old Celtic tongue
All the better if they are actually attested in the ancient texts. For instance, for Greek I have contemplated using a short extract of the Homeric Hymn to Hestia. That sort of thing. These languages are picked because they represent both biological and cultural ancestors, and because of the diversity of alphabets. We've debated about Hebrew, too...
|Friday, January 20th, 2006|
The beginnings of the paint job. It's hard to photograph well because there's scaffolding in front of it
|Wednesday, January 18th, 2006|
|Poke in the eye with a stick
My eyes are overinflated. Two checks on different days and at different times of day confirm this. Not surprising, since my intraoccular pressure has run high since I was a kid, that it has now crept up into the yellow zone. So... follow up with glaucoma specialist.
|Tuesday, January 17th, 2006|
|ALWAYS go to court
This is a fundamental rule about traffic tickets that all professional drivers know and surprisingly few "amateur" drivers are aware of. When you get a traffic ticket. for anything, no matter how obviously guilty you are, NEVER pay it by mail and ALWAYS go to court. Even if you just stand up there and plead guilty you might be surprised what happens. Especially if you have a pretty clean record, you are likely to get a reduced charge, reduced points, reduced fine, deferred conviction (i.e. nothing will show on your record if you keep your nose clean fo 6 months or 1 year), option of traffic school, etc., something to improve your circumstances. People who hardly ever get tickets rarely seem to know this, and just pay the things by mail.
Those of us with CDLs are in a more restricted place now. As of a few months ago, regardless of what we were driving when we got the ticket (even our own private vehicles), the judge can't do anything to mask a violation or reduce its severity. So no traffic school, no plea bargaining speeding down to defective vehicle, no deferred convictions, no dismissals, no dropping 16 over to 14 over to make it not a serious violation. But (s)he can still reduce fines, lower points, drop 11 over to 9 over (because 11 over already isn't a serious violation by federal CDL standards), etc., all things that might reduce the slam in the wallet and the impact on your insurance premiums.
Just so's you'll know.
|Monday, January 16th, 2006|
|MLK Day memories...
Every year on this day, I always chuckle at my own personal strongest memory of the King family... that Dexter King and I used to get in fights all the time in school. He was a bully, and I was a nerd with a hairtrigger... ironic, eh?
My siblings and I were in school with the King kids for years, being about the same ages and having transfered to the same small private "alternative" school from the same public school.
|Sunday, January 15th, 2006|
|Diamond Pet Food recall
Somehow my local feed store failed to mention this even though they are the local Diamond distributor: http://www.diamondpetrecall.net/
Aflatoxin contamination has killed over 100 dogs in the east and south. Recall was issued over three weeks ago. Turns out we have been feeding recalled food. So much for relying the local feed store; this is the sort of oversight that does not deserve a second chance.
|What is up with digital movie effects???
So it's what, 10 years since Jurassic Park? So, why haven't the effects in "blockbuster" movies gotten any better? We went to see "King Kong" yesterday, and though there were many clean and polished effects (actually, way way way too many of them, is was absolutely absurd, the movie could have easily been an hour shorter) there were also far to many obvious clunkers. I don't know what it is, I guess it is a combination of shabbiness in outlines, movement, and lighting, but there are always effects in these movies that still stand out as video-game quality paste-ups. This was true of the last two Lord of the Rings movies, as well, and "The Aviator," too. Is this just laziness? Some of the places this happened seemed like simple enough scenes -- the pole vaulter headed to the ship, Kong tearing apart the theater, many of the scenes of him running amok in NYC, etc. etc.
Overall the movie was ridiculous. Not-Faye-Ray would have been dead from spinal trauma in 5 seconds the way Kong was flinging her around. The dinosaur stampede was ludicrous. The bam bam bam one "Look at this blockbuster scene" effect after another was fatiguing and downright tedious. Why the hell did the critics rave about this mess? OK on the plus side, the no-holds-barred realism of NYC in the depression in the opening scenes was very well done. But that was followed by 3 hours of bunk. And, has Jackson never actually been on a ship? He didn't even get standard nautical terminology and procedures right.
Ah well. Sophomore slump, let's hope.
|Thursday, January 5th, 2006|
|Sunday, January 1st, 2006|
|Rolfing in the new year...
We went over to Short Mtn last night for the nearly-annual New Year's Eve bash. This time it was held not at Keer's Temple but at the house formerly known as Jok and Adam's. It was very bizzare to see their house emptied of them and their stuff, then converted in to an improvised faerie-disco party pad. Alas we had to leave early, as we carpooled with the Goat Thang and he began to feel a mite poorly. About 11:30 he insisted he really really needed to be taken home. On the drive back, he hollered "stop" and hurled prodigiously on the shoulder of the road. Peggy started laughing, and when I asked why she pointed out the clock in the car: it was exactly midnight.
Let's hope we don't make this a tradition!
p.s. he was fine this morning, no lasting damage
|Saturday, December 31st, 2005|
|It never ends...
Tropical Storm Zeta in the Atlantic. From the Nat't Hurricane Center:
ALTHOUGH THE ATMOSPHERE SEEMS TO WANT TO DEVELOP TROPICAL STORMS AD
NAUSEAM...THE CALENDAR WILL SHORTLY PUT AN END TO THE USE OF THE
GREEK ALPHABET TO NAME THEM.
|Tuesday, December 27th, 2005|
|In the presence of a legend
One of the things we saw on our trip to the Big Woods in AR was some unusual scaling of tree bark. This was patches of bark peeled off by chiseling sideways rather than digging straight in, and the work done on trees that are declining but still alive. In one case this was done in a swath several feet wide completely girdling a tree. Yes, yes theres a picture, still in the film camera. Doing more reading online it appears that this is exactly the sort of sign that has been seen in the area that is believed by many to be attributable to the Ivorybills. We may well have actually laid our hands on wood that the Phantom him/herself had touched... wow.
Pictures of this same sort of sign in the same area taken by searchers in 2003:http://www.ibwo.org/search.html
|Monday, December 26th, 2005|
|I feel so Third Millenium...
With the invaluable and irreplaceable help of bikerbaer
I have accomplished my first 21st century techie task and gotten our Mac and a Windows machine to share one dialup connection via WiFi. Hey, baby steps, ok???
|Sunday, December 25th, 2005|
|The Swamp Pilgrims return home
Home from the swamps of Arkansas last night. We didn't see any ivory-billed woodpeckers, of course, that was not to be expected. But we did see some wonderful swamps and a lot of really big trees.
First observation: there are Ivorybills all over Brinkley, AR. On signs, on the menu in the local BBQ joint, on the business cards of the local hunting/fishing guides. One of the motels at I-40 has changed its name to the "Ivorybill Inn" and features the bird on its sign far larger than life. I can truly appreciate a small town in an economically depressed area and its hope that SOMETHING might drawn in some much-needed cash.
Second observation: Cornell has been proclaiming these woods to be among the most remote and difficult places to work in anywhere in the eastern US. Oh, total absolute BUNK! These are some of the most civilized and accessible swamps that these two old swampers have ever seen! We could hear I-40 all night at our campsite. They're a little more than one hour from either downtown Memphis or downtown Little Rock. The land is nearly all public (two federal National Wildlife Refuges and one State Wildlife Management Area) and most of it is open to unrestricted public access most of the year. There are many well-maintained gravel roads, and miles and miles of very easy hiking/ATV trails to get just about anywhere. Plus the woods themselves are damn-near old-growth with widely spaced trees and very open understory, which makes for easy hiking (at low water) and canoing (at high water). And we could not imagine that the bugs in summer would be any worse than in any other patch of southeastern woods and swamps, easily manageable if you are not a total arthropod-o-phobe. These lands are also popular with hunters and fisherman. This is not remote untrammeled wilderness. It's a wonderful and fairly easy nature outing for anyone with even the most basic familiarity with outdoor living. Sheesh, the boat ramps are PAVED and we had PORT-A-POTTIES at our campsite! Why they are perpetuating this image of utter remoteness and inaccessibility is a mystery to me. It may just be a bunch of people freaking out at the normal bugginess and sogginess of the South, or even being afraid of all the Bubbas-in-camo-with-guns one finds in these places (who are really nothing to fear and could be one of their best assets if properly approached). I suspect thought that they are actually trying to discourage excessive numbers of visitors. This is really unneccesary. There are far more hunters and fishermen already in there than there would ever be birders. It's many many square miles of woods and swamps, and most birders rarely venture more than 1/4 mile from their cars anyway. The more eyes and cameras, the better the chance of more sightings.
Now, about the swamps themselves: beautiful. So many big big trees. Cypress esimated at 2500 years old, oaks and pecans and sweetgums with diameters measured in feet and meters rather than inches and centimeters. How this area escaped total clearcutting I don't know. It's not pristine virgin forest, but magnificent centuries-to-millenia old trees are all around. I have never seen so many old-growth baldcypress spread over such a large area before. Or so many giant oaks. Or ever before seen a real, wild, mature pecan. These big old trees are draped with tarzan-scale tangles and curtains of gigantic vines -- grapes, greenbriar, poison ivy of amazing size. And many many many snags, all heavily worked by woodpeckers. It was aso a recurring small thrill to see the informational signs posted all over with pictures of ivorybills, tips on identifying them and who to call if you see one. Never in my life did I think I would ever really see that.
And the woodpeckers -- I seriouly do not think I have ever been anywhere with such a density and diversity of woodpeckers. It seemed that most of the birds we saw or heard, after subtracting out the white-throated sparrows, were woodpeckers. Omnipresent and numerous. Park in a trailhead and within seconds you have heard three species of 'peckers. After a few minutes make that five. Before an hour has passed you have found multiples of every woodpecker every recorded from the southeast except for red-cockaded (inappropriate habitat) and ivorybill (which indeed really is lurking there somewhere). This is what you get when you let the trees mature, die, and be recycled in situ rather than hauled off to the chip mill. If anywhere in the US could still support a nesting population of ivorybills, this is the place.
Final (and most significant) observation: in spite of those superlatives suggesting the uniqueness of this place, seeing this area actually gave me hope that the bird could survive this population bottleneck and expand again. Because these swamps are remarkable, but not extreme. It was a very familiar environment to us swampers. Take many swamps I have seen, give them a little more time and better management (i.e. LEAVE THE DAMN SNAGS!!!) and we might be able to have multiple populations scattered from South Carolina to Florida and Texas. Indeed, it encouraged me that there might even still be relict populations in these places too. Because, though hunters and fisherman go into these places all the time, birders almost never do. If the Ivorybill escaped detection for this long on PUBLIC LAND just ONE HOUR by freeway from two major metropolitan areas, they could very easily still be lurking in other more remote (truly remote!) swamps in at least seven different States.
And as for the Big Woods... We'll be back.
p.s. the seven common woodpeckers there: Hairy, Downy, Red-headed, Red-bellied, Pileated, Yellow-b. Sapsucker, and, of course, Flicker.
|Thursday, December 22nd, 2005|
We're off first thing tomorrow for Arkansas to see the swamps where the ivory-billed woodpeckers have been spotted. We're not going on a woodpecker search so much as on a pilgrimage to the holy land where the bird was last seen. Just a quick road trip, planning on heading home Saturday.