Monday, April 30, 2007


The TaxProf Blog has got the scoop: Today is Tax Freedom Day® for the average American taxpayer. According to the Tax Foundation, you must work the first 120 days of the year (until April 30) to meet your federal and state tax burden. Being a national average, however, means that in some states you’re still on the tax-paying clock while in other states you’ve been working for yourself for a few days already.

Click the link above to see whether you’re working for yourself or not.

The map has some interesting meaning when you match it with one for Red States/Blue States. The ten states with the heaviest tax burden (#1 is Connecticut—sorry, you’ll be paying taxes until May 20th) are all Blue States (Democrat strongholds), while those with the lightest tax burden are predominantly Red States. Oklahoma and Alabama have been off the clock since April 12th.

Maine, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Maryland would be numbers 11-14 on the Heavy list and Washington, D.C. would be number 3 on that list if it were a state.

Go on over and see where your situated. Today is Tax Freedom Day®

And, while you’re there, click on the link for the Tax Foundation’s announcement. There’s all kinds of interesting charts and tables to show how much of your money is going where.

(Seen first via Instapundit )

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Book Art

A very unique way to recycle an old book: Turn it into a work of art. These are just, well, amazing.

Save the World!
In one easy step

The Anchoress has an excellent suggestion on how to combat global warming: Cancel all the concerts.

If Sheryl Crow needs all those buses and trucks just for her little act, just think of the number needed for a multi-band concert tour. If they just all stayed home and shut up for one summer…well, it might save the world!

And just think what could be saved if we shut down all movie and TV production for just one year!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

And down in Florida there’s
good news and bad

Dry conditions in the Florida Everglades are forcing some adjustments as Bird and alligator sightings rise as water levels continue to fall.

Airboat pilots are having a tough time getting through some of the usually shallow but now dry areas the Glades. But, if you’re a birdwatcher, there are benefits to the drought:
For those who appreciate Everglades wildlife, the low water levels provide some visual rewards.

One recent morning, the drone of an airboat engine startled great egrets, wood storks and stately herons that were feeding on a bounty of fish trapped in drought-depleted waters. Almost in unison, the birds rose into the sky and circled overhead.

"This is unreal," said Peiffer. "This is awesome. I never see this unless there is a drought.

"The water is so shallow and there are fish all over the place," Peiffer said. "All these birds are not usually out here because they can't walk out here. The fish are trapped. It's a feast for the birds."

Of course there’s a down side too. Just keep your eyes open on the ground and leave the poodle home.
Alligator-viewing conditions are good, too, Melnick said. The gators seem to be moving west, and their increasing numbers are becoming apparent, Melnick said. The shallow waters make them easier to spot.
And there's this:
Officer Chuck Erismann, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said people should be aware alligators might head to deeper canals and lakes near populated areas because their own habitat is getting too dry.

He said parents of small children shouldn't leave them unattended near lakes and canals because of the potential risk.

So watch your step, y'all. Hurricane season is right around the corner and could provide some much needed relief.


As if plaque carrying rabbits and squirrels aren’t bad enough, there’s this story out of Australia:

Shark fishermen who don't leave the garden
A species of deadly shark has become so numerous in Australia that locals can catch them by dangling a line from apartment balconies and back gardens.

Bull sharks are so prevalent in the creeks and canals of the Gold Coast in Queensland that "high-rise hunters" are snaring three or four a night as they watch television, play pool and drink beer.

Amateur anglers have caught 10ft-long sharks with nothing more sophisticated than a pork chop on a hook.

So, if you live one of the canals along the Gold Coast, you can pretty much be assured of catching a bull shark in your backyard or off your balcony. Just don’t go in the water for a swim.
Saeed Granfar baits his line with chopped-up eel, fixes it to a pontoon at the back of his garden and retreats to his living room to watch DVDs. When he hears the sound of the line playing out, he sprints down to grab the rod.

"My mum doesn't like it much because I keep breaking things as I run through the living room to the jetty,'' said the 24-year-old architecture student.

In 10 years he has caught nearly 100 sharks, some he eats, but most he throws back.

He throws them back! A true sportsman practicing catch and release.
Fisheries officials say they are opposed to a shark cull and people must learn to live with the potential man-eaters.

"They have as much right to be in the water as we do," said Jeff Krause, district manager of the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol.
Okay. A little PC spin on the rights of bull sharks being infringed.

The bull shark is one of the few sharks that can live in both fresh and salt waters.

Oh my God! We’re all gonna die!

If you’re in downtown Denver, DO NOT play with that dead squirrel or rabbit you find in the park.

Even if you really, really hate tree rats, this is not good.

5 squirrels with plague near Denver park
Five plague-infected squirrels and a wild rabbit found in a Denver park are a reminder that Coloradans should take precautions to protect themselves from the potentially deadly disease, health officials say.

Plague is transmitted by fleas, and people can be exposed through contact with wild animals or their pets.
Usually, diseases like this flourish when animal population densities are high. That allows the animals to make contact with others on a regular basis and the carriers of the disease (fleas) can jump ship, so to speak, and board another critter.

One simple solution to the problem is to eradicate the squirrels and rabbits in the park, thereby lowering their population density. But since Denver has become more like San Francisco lately, that ain’t gonna happen.

A remarkable feat!

As reported on at AOL News:
Two Women Get Successive Holes-in-One

June Wiener, 75, and Sue Baskind, 61, both aced the 152-yard par-three 24th of the 27-hole course at the Moor Allerton Golf Club in Leeds, northern England during a four ball last weekend.

"We were told the odds were a million to one -- I wish I'd had a pound on it," said Wiener, whose two artificial hips appear not to have hampered her golf swing.

Congratulations go out to the ladies. But as anyone who has read Terry Prachett’s Disc World books knows, million to one shots happen nine times out of ten.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Birding just north of Mansfield, PA

Terry and I went birding again this morning with the group from Tiadaghton Audubon Society. Nine of us were present on this particular walk. We were on a section of the Bike and Hike Trail that runs parallel to Route 15 on the northwest side of Mansfield, PA. The area is mostly edge habitat with a very large grassy field and some flooded areas were a feeder stream to the Tioga River has been dammed by beaver. Below you’ll see the results of our walk as compiled by Gary, our stalwart leader.

Location: Lamb's Creek
Observation date: 4/26/07
Notes: Temperatures in low 40's, mostly cloudy, breezy.
Number of species: 25

Canada Goose 5
Wood Duck 2
Mallard 4
Common Merganser 2
Great Blue Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 1
Belted Kingfisher 2
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
American Crow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Eastern Bluebird 3
American Robin 12
Palm Warbler 3
Chipping Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 10
Swamp Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco 1
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
American Goldfinch 2

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Storms can wreak havoc upon wild critters.

2 eagle chicks on webcam fail to survive nor'easter
The nor’easter that battered the East Coast this week has claimed the lives of two eagle chicks that hatched just days before the storm hit.

We’ve got a couple of bald eagle nests around here and one or two have hatchlings in them from around April 10th. They’ll be under parental care for a month or so longer before they’re ready to try their wings. These little guys in Maine never had much of a chance.
"The nest is exposed to the northeast, so it was not protected at all from this storm," Goodale said Friday. "They just got hammered."

The storm came at the worst possible time for the young chicks, during the first week of their lives, he said. With just light downy feathers and no way to keep themselves warm, they likely got wet and cold and died of hypothermia, he said.

The adult eagles did everything they could to protect the chicks, Goodale said.

"They stayed with them through the storm," he said. "They did nest switches and didn’t leave the chicks for a moment. They hung right in there. It was just too much all together"

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Living in trees can be dangerous!

Even birds do not fare well in the winds of a nor’easter. Storm-rattled baby owl found, rescued
ROCKPORT (April 20): Monday's nor'easter not only wreaked havoc for human residents up and down the coast this week, but it also apparently disrupted at least one winged family in Rockport.
Aldermere Farm Manager Ron Howard said that farmhands Jeff Sweeting and Kevin Walters discovered a baby great horned owl on the ground Thursday morning while driving through the woods on an access road.

Aah, but do not fear, the little tyke is doing just fine.
Winn said Friday that the owl is doing fine, and that the injuries to its wings, likely sustained as it fell and scraped on tree branches, had already improved a little since it arrived.
Winn said that plans had just been made to send the owlet to Cape Neddick for further recovery.

"This owl is near an age for imprinting and we do not want it to imprint on humans," she said. "We don't have an adult great horned owl here now, but we know someone in Cape Neddick who has a surrogate parent bird. It's important right now for the owl to recover in the presence of an adult owl."

When that recovery is complete, Winn said, plans could be made to bring it back to Rockport, where it was hatched. Winn said that Howard will need to confirm that the parents are still nearby, and check on the condition of the nest.

As strawberry season approaches...

...this sounds pretty good to me!

Strawberry Daiquiris: The Extra-healthy Cocktail?

You want to license guns like we do drivers?
You sure?

Earlier this week the LawDog said:
I see that the gun grabbers have resurrected the old "We license cars, so why can't we license guns?" meme.

I tell you what -- every time you hear a gun grabber snivel about licensing guns like cars, call him a liar to his face.

Go on over to his place to read the reason why they are lying. It’s worth the time.
We license cars ... yackyackyack

Oh, my aching back!

As I may have mentioned, on Monday of this week we had somewhere between 8 and 10 inches of very heavy, wet snow here at the Aerie. I spent some 2+ hours shoveling that snow off the driveway on Tuesday because the snow blower would not have been able to throw it far enough. It would have just turned it over like a farmer plowing his field and after one or two passes I would have had a row of packed snow it could not lift. So I shoveled.

I wish I hadn’t. The stuff at the road end of the driveway was really a mix of plowed snow and mud and weighed a ton to the shovelful. The twisting-turning action employed when shoveling did my lower back (the part that has had two surgeries and two other “procedures”) no good at all. Tuesday night I felt it as a small ache. Wednesday it got a little worse but we went to dinner and the Audubon meeting anyway. Thursday morning it felt okay, so we went birding. And that was probably a big mistake. Walking over the grassy trails and fields along Cowanesque Lake kept jarring my lower spine with micro-shocks at every step. Friday I was a wreck. Sleeping was near impossible because I couldn’t lie flat and I couldn’t turn as I normally do without shooting pain. This morning I was still hurting but I’ve remained immobile and the back is feeling a little bit better. I can only hope that my inactivity will allow the swelling the nerves in the lumbar region have undoubtedly undergone to subside and take the pain with it.

Of course, this had to occur just as the weather gods have blessed us with the promise of a beautiful weekend and a fabulous start to the final full week of April. (It’s just a few weeks late there Punxsutawney Phil!)

New bird(s) at the Aerie

Spring must finally be arriving as more species of birds are appearing.

I walked out on the deck this morning and noted a bright red flash in one of the birch trees on the other side of the power line right of way. Getting out the binoculars, I was pleased to see a most handsome fellow, a yellow-bellied sapsucker. (Here and here.) It worked up and down the birch for a bit and then disappeared back into the woods.

This is another first for the year here at the Aerie.

A bit more than a week ago, just before last weekend's snow storm, we had a small flock of brown-headed cowbirds(first mentioned on this list), but I forgot to post links to information pages. (See here and here for information about the brown-headed cowbird.) It doesn't surprise me that these brood parasites should be around here as there are may dairy and cattle farms in the valley below. Heck, we even have a couple of buffalo farms on the other side of the valley.

I expect to begin seeing some of the warblers and song birds in the next two weeks as these birds will appear with the bursting buds and flowering of the trees. The 60 and 70 degree temperatures we are forecast to have this week should bring both events.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cowanesque Lake Birding

Yesterday, Terry and I joined Gary and Martha over at Cowanesque Lake on the PA-NY border for a morning of birding. The weather was cooperative and even quite nice on the occasions when the sun broke through the clouds.

We walked a portion of the trail on the northwest shoreline, west of the campground facility, and then drove around to the different recreation areas on the south side of the lake.

The lake is man made and is under the watch/care of US Corps of Engineers. Since its main purpose is flood control, the lake itself is not very deep. There are shallows on the west end where you're furthest from the dam that are probably only a few feet deep and many small sedimentary bars and islands that are probably submerged during higher waters. The east end, which is immediately behind the dam, is much deeper and the south side of the lake has two boat launches.

We spotted some species that I got pretty excited about. There were a pair of ospreys sitting upon a nest atop a big old snag (dead tree) that had been flooded with the creation of the lake. Even though the osprey is rather common in this area what with Cowanesque, Hammond and Tioga Lakes (all Corps of Engineers' projects) I still enjoy watching them fish. Several double-crested cormorants were seen flying overhead as well as sunning themselves upon a log over hanging the water. A common loon, which shouldn't be that common in waters that will be far from the isolated, pristine lakes of the wilderness you think they'd prefer, swam and posed for us as we set up our spotting scopes.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable morning, even though the attendance was a bit low. Anyway, here's the list of birds we say as compiled by Gary:
Location: Cowanesque Lake
Observation date: 4/19/07
Notes: Temperature 40-50 degs, partly cloudy. Occasional light breeze.
Number of species: 29

Canada Goose 12
Mallard 7
Lesser Scaup 10
Common Merganser 1
Common Loon 1
Double-crested Cormorant 5
Osprey 3
Bald Eagle 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Killdeer 3
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
Ring-billed Gull 6
Caspian Tern 1
Mourning Dove 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 4
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
American Crow 1
Tree Swallow X
Barn Swallow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Carolina Wren 1
American Robin 4
Song Sparrow 3
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 6
Common Grackle 9

Time to change the guide books---again

In the thick forests of southeast Asia there are still some creatures that are rarely seen and little understood. Few naturalists have explored the diversity of living creatures in the Solomon Islands. Casual observation and infrequent study during the early part of the last century have sometimes led to gaps in the catalogue that lists the flora and fauna of the forests. Technology has made it possible to fill some of those gaps and correct past errors. New Genus Of Frogmouth Bird Discovered In Solomon Islands
New genera of living birds are rare discoveries — fewer than one per year is announced globally. David Steadman and Andrew Kratter, ornithologists at the Florida Museum of Natural History, turned up the surprising new discovery on a collecting expedition in the Solomon Islands. Theirs is the first frogmouth from these islands to be caught by scientists in more than 100 years. They immediately recognized it was something different.

The frogmouth: it’s a weird bird with a Jackie Robinson styled beak that seems wider than its head.
Frogmouths are predatory birds named for their strikingly wide, strong beak that resembles a frog’s mouth; but their beak also sports a small, sharp hook more like an owl’s. Steadman said their beaks are like no other bird’s in the world. They eat insects, rodents, small birds — and yes, even frogs.
This “new” Genus has adaptations that mark it as just different enough: things like coarser feathers, fewer tail feathers, wing and tail barring, and larger spots on its breast.DNA examination was used to confirm enough of a difference to warrant reclassification into a new Genus.

New species identification is becoming more frequent with the use of DNA samples. What makes this discovery so remarkable that Steadman and Kratter feel the differences warrant a new Genus.
For perspective on the scale of evolutionary difference between genera, consider that modern humans and Neanderthals are different species within the same genus (Homo), while chimpanzees are our living relatives from a closely related genus (Pan), but that we share the same taxonomic family (Hominidae) with our chimp cousins.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Everything is a matter of timing.

A year ago we were preparing for the April 19th delivery of our log home package from Beaver Mountain. (See this post. ) It happened to be a beautiful spring day with blue skies and very comfortable temperatures. Not a snow flake in sight.

Contrast that to today’s photos:

April at the Aerie 2
April at the Aerie 1
Goldfinches in the snow

Yep, timing makes the difference. We enjoyed a long and productive construction period with the only weather related delays those morning hours spent sweeping standing water off the deck. I don't remember being rained out one day during the entire process. That lasted right through December. Now, in an apparent ying-yang sort of way, Mother Nature is trying to balance the books.

I’m so confused!

Global warming may spur wind shear, sap hurricanes
Wasn’t it just last year we were told that global warming would create: 1) a higher number of hurricanes in the Atlantic and 2) a significant increase in the strength of those hurricanes?

Is this what is meant by covering your a$$? Or, in more polite society, covering all bases?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

People have died because some scumbag decided he had had enough and was going to take some others with him. This on a campus that saw a shooting back at the beginning of the school year. And several bomb scares in some of the same buildings where Monday’s slaughters occurred.

Bradford B. Wiles, then a graduate student at Virginia Tech wrote Unarmed and Vulnerable which appeared in the Roanoke Times August 31, 2006

A 911 call was made after the first two victims were killed in the dorms. Campus police responded but it was already too late for the two people on the floor. When the shooter was nowhere in sight or in the dorms, the police made a fatal mistake of assuming he had left the campus. Two hours later they discovered how wrong they were.

Loren Heal at the Socrates’ Academy on The Police Cannot Protect You

You got that? Only you can protect yourself. Stay alert and aware at all times. Think outside the box if the state won’t let you carry a weapon. Take inventory of what you are carrying and what is around you that could do the job.

I read with interest one account from a survivor that the shooter walked into the classrooms and just stood and shot people one after the other. I can’t help but think that there could have been some effort to fight back. Books, purses, chairs, anything that could be thrown should have been thrown while some brave souls rushed the SOB. It would be difficult to do but certainly better than remaining passive in the face of death. Of course, if the state had passed the legislation mentioned in Wiles’ op-ed piece….

Clayton Cramer of CLAYTON CRAMER'S BLOG on Preventing Massacres

One of the better essays I’ve seen is this from Armed Canadian VA Tech Shooting I felt many of the same emotions upon hearing the news. And as the bloviaters and BS experts did their thing on CNN and MSNBC and even FOX News, I felt more and more outraged. Even on the blogs, I started to get angry as update after update would produce little but numbers and speculation. The students and faculty who were injured or died deserved far better.

Some people (and groups) are just insensitive jerks. Paul Helmke, president of The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence shows no class at all. Within hours of the shootings the group’s web page is using the actions of this deranged South Korean to raise funds. (The Bitch Girls have the capture here. ) It has to be one of the most callous acts by a political action group in a long time.

It’s moves like the these and the shear ignorance of the gun grabbers that makes it necessary for those who believe in the Second Amendment to remain ever vigilant.
Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom on Gun Control

The Duke debacle

[KC Johnson has followed this case from the beginning and has many insightful post over at Durham In Wonderland ]

Earlier this month, Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and Dave Evans were proclaimed innocent of charges brought against them more than a year ago by a stripper with a very shady past and tenuous grip on reality. That was the decision of North Carolina State Attorney General Roy Cooper who had to wrest control of this case from Prosecutor Mike Nifong. Yet, despite that declaration, news media around the country and a significant portion of the Duke faculty and administration continue to attack the three young men, their fraternity, and their lacrosse team.

The media, the faculty, the Duke administration, and Mike Nifong made a conscious decision to rush to judgment upon little evidence except the word of a woman whose background would have cast enough shadow upon her story to warrant much closer scrutiny. The woman’s companion that night said nothing happened. A cab driver put one of the initially four accused on the other side of town when the rape was supposed to have happened. A medical examiner reported no signs of rape on the accuser.

Let’s not even mention the faulty police work (no notes and a biased lineup of only fraternity members, to name just two) and prosecutorial misconduct. Nifong basically declared the players guilty and then started looking for evidence to support his view. When all he could find was evidence to support their innocence, he conspired to hide it from the defense. Any time a prosecutor spends as much time in press conferences as Nifong did, it is not a good thing. A good prosecutor should be looking for facts, not drawing conclusions, during the investigation of an alleged criminal act. Nifong, and the people working under him, did precious little of the former and far too much of the latter. Everything he did was for self promotion with no thought to true justice. Now it looks like he will reap what he has sown.

The Gang Group of 88, that’s the group of professors who signed on to a statement that was made public in April of 2006 only a few short weeks after the alleged rape took place and the Duke lacrosse players were accused, have yet to admit the error of their ways. It basically found the entire fraternity of lacrosse players guilty and condemned their behavior and activities of that night. The gang’s actions caused the spring 2006 lacrosse season to be canceled and resulted in the firing of the Duke lacrosse coach. This despicable academic mob has yet to apologize to anyone for its lynchings. Let’s hope that every student looking for a “quality” education can read between the lines these jerks have drawn.

There have been some who have apologized and here is one that is most elegant:
Apology to Duke lacrosse players not enough By Jemele Hill

Thoughts on the Don Imus kerfuffle

I used to live in New Jersey and would often listen to about 15 minutes of Imus In the Morning on WFAN while I commuted from my home to the school at which I taught. After the country music station was pulled and WCBS stopped playing Oldies, it was about the only thing I could stand in the morning. The all new s station was always about traffic into and other happenings in and about New York City and there was no way I was going there. Besides WFAN also broadcast the Mets’ games and it was usually where my radio was tuned the night before.

I first heard Imus back in the days of his drug and alcohol induced problems in 1972. Then the running gag was whether or not he would even show up for his morning show and pools were often established as to what time he might make an appearance. Then he would be a regular disc jockey playing songs between his irreverent patter. The music was good; Imus not so much. He never did get much better even after his exile to Cleveland and rehab. His wife and son seemed to help for a while, as did the ranch.

Now I love my Rutgers’ teams as anyone who reads this blog might know. And I was offended when Imus made his “nappy headed hos” comment. (That is when I heard about it. Living in north-central PA now, I don’t usual get any immediate news unless it’s on the net.)Was Imus trying to be funny? Having heard his shtick for years, I would say probably. Did he fail at being funny? Again, having heard this crap for years, of course. Did this comment require his being fired? Probably not. It was only after he panicked and made his appearance on Al Sharpton’s radio show that things got really bad.

By appearing with Sharpton, Imus legitimized much of the criticism and dug his self created hole even deeper by saying something like, “I can’t get anywhere with you people.” Race-baiters Sharpton and Jesse Jackson gleefully stomped on Imus even harder after that. (I call them “race-baiters” because they have yet to crack down on the purveyors of even worse language in the form of hip-hop and gangsta rap. But, of course, nearly all of those “artists” are black while Imus is white.)

Some have decried the stripping of Don Imus’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, but that is pure bullshit. No one stripped him of his rights to say anything. What happened is the people who were offended (Rutgers’ fans, the basketball team, and even followers of Sharpton and Jackson) exercised their First Amendment rights and spoke to the sponsors and broadcasters of Imus’ show and told them they would no longer purchase their products, watch their network, or listen to their radio station if they continued to support the sophomoric humor of Don Imus. Upon feeling the wrath of an angered populous, the sponsors pulled the plug on the I-Man. It’s called the Law of Unintended Consequences in some quarters. Also known as Newton’s Third Law: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

What I found particularly disgusting in all this hoopla over the three words Imus uttered was the firestorm of “holier-than-thou” critics that cropped up on the news shows. Not that the whole thing should have been swept under the rug, but were there really no more important stories to tell? What a farce national network news has become when it spends its vast resources on tabloid stories like this and Anna Nicole Smith night, after night, after night. difficult to see how people can take them seriously any more.

Storms; Physical and emotional

Well, we ended up getting about 10 inches of very wet heavy snow from late Sunday through Monday evening here at the Aerie. Much of it “fell” horizontally as the winds were quite strong and the result was for drifting up to a foot or more in some spots and scouring to almost nothing in others. I shoveled the deck area several times and found it to be very heavy. Today, I shoveled the driveway since the snow was too wet to use the blower to good effect. Now my back is hurting and we’ve still got snow showers. The temps have hovered just above the freezing mark and when I went down to pick up the mail (and more bird seed) I found the valley to have had much less snow. I guess our added 500 feet of elevation really made a difference.

I’d much rather blog about the weather and birds than talk about any of the major stories going on this past week but I may just have to chime in with my thoughts on the Don Imus affair, the Duke lacrosse three, and the Virginia Tech shootings once I get my thoughts all in order. I did have about three hours of mindless physical labor (shoveling) to cogitate upon these topics.

For now, my prayers are with those who lost loved ones to the senseless actions of Cho Seung-Hui.

Monday, April 16, 2007

More weather

After escaping the worst of the forecast terrible weather on Sunday, we have near blizzard conditions here at the Aerie today. According to (they may have to change that name) as late as Saturday morning, we were supposed to get hammered with cold and snow on Sunday. Didn’t happen. We had almost no wind, some drizzle/showers and temps into the upper 30s.

But overnight that changed. The winds came howling out of the north to meet the warm moist air from the Atlantic. Temperatures are in the mid to low 20s, not counting the wind chill. We have between 3 and 5 inches of snow on the ground now and more is expected all today and into tonight. (It was supposed to be over by noon today with the sun coming out late. HA!) It’s difficult to get an accurate measure because the 30-40 mph winds are blowing many surfaces clear and much of the falling snow is horizontal. When it is over (sometime tonight they now say) we may have between 8 and 12 inches.

The winds are playing havoc with the poor birds feeding on the deck. If they are airborne at the wrong moment, they get blown toward/into the glass windows. The cats love it. The birds have nearly emptied the feeders and I will have to traipse out there in a bit to restock their food supply. Hey, it’s cheep entertainment. (Sorry about that.)

Don't knock the weather. If it didn't change once in a while, nine out of ten people couldn't start a conversation.

Kin Hubbard(1868 - 1930)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

This is cool!

The history of the Battle of Hastings in the form of the Bayeux Tapestry—
and it’s animated!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Oh, freaking, Joy!

April 15 snowfall
We are in the "higher elevations of northern Pennsylvania." Right about where the map shows 6-12 turning into 12+ inches. The Adirondack cabin, the Bolt Hole, is situated between the two dark blue blobs. Theoretically it should receive between 6-12 inches.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Time for Jackson, Sharpton to Step Down"

JASON WHITLOCK, writing about the Imus imbroglio for AOL Sports:

Time for Jackson, Sharpton to Step Down
“Pair See Potential for Profit, Attention in Imus Incident”

Whitlock sees the real story behind Imus’ foolish words and the wildfire that followed. He knows what the two Reverends are and what their game is. He (Whitlock) knows what the real problem in the black community is:
A man who doesn’t respect himself wastes his breath demanding that others respect him.

We don’t respect ourselves right now. If we did, we wouldn’t call each other the N-word. If we did, we wouldn’t let people with prison values define who we are in music and videos. If we did, we wouldn’t call black women bitches and hos and abandon them when they have our babies.

If we had the proper level of self-respect, we wouldn’t act like it’s only a crime when a white man disrespects us. We hold Imus to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. That’s a (freaking) shame.

Read his essay and then, I believe you’ll agree with his final thought:
It’s time for Jesse and Al to step down. They’ve had 25 years to lead us. Other than their accountants, I’d be hard pressed to find someone who has benefited from their administration.

Twenty-five years of holding back a dream just to line their own pockets. Twenty-five years of race baiting and victim politics just so they could continue to wield power. Yeah, it's time.

Green Gadgets

If Glen Reynolds can blog about Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs and Electric Mini Coopers , I say, "Heh?"

With an eye towards the upcoming Earth Week (what happened to Earth Day?) I give you the Hamster Powered Paper Shredder!

Via Drew Curtis’

Tax dollars at work

20 endangered rabbits released; 14 promptly eaten
EPHRATA, Wash. — Most of a group of 20 endangered rabbits that were reintroduced to the wild with great fanfare last month have been killed by predators, state officials said.

Only four of the rabbits released on March 13 remained at the Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area as of Tuesday, said David Hays, pygmy rabbit coordinator for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
First, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has a “pygmy rabbit coordinator?” WTF? And doesn’t that just bring some weird pictures to your mind? A little (and I mean very little, like 3’6”) skinny guy wearing a loin cloth out on high desert on a moonlit night trying to organize a circle of rabbits, matching buck with doe, as they frolic about doing what rabbits do.

Of course, having 70% of your restocked population end upon other critters’ menu doesn’t end the multimillion dollar project nor does it doom its success. Two males have been recaptured.
The 3,700-acre release site has been watched daily by Fish and Wildlife staff. Several of the rabbits were fitted with GPS monitors. Of the four rabbits remaining at the site, three are females who could be pregnant, officials said.
Well, there you go! One male and three preggers female bunnies are still on the loose. If that doesn’t get the population up and running, nothing will. But just to help things along, “More rabbits will be released in the area, and experts are looking for ways to reduce predation.” What are they going to do, start shooting hawks and owls? Sheesh!

Sure their cute little guys but, if the critter can’t come back on its own, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.


Moose to choose which salt
Sweden uses on roads

If you’ve ever come around a curve late at night only to find the road already occupied by a deer, you probably know that the collision between a car and a 200 pound critter can be dangerous. Now, multiply that critter’s weight by a factor of, oh, say seven or eight, and you’ve got a collision with a moose. (the only good thing in this scenario is that, if you’re driving a small car, the moose will probably pass over your head instead of landing in your lap.) In any case, that is why Swedish authorities are trying to find a salt flavor the moose do not like.
Moose at Skansen in Stockholm will taste varieties, and will first get a choice between the current salt in use and one with a higher sugar content. Reindeer are also 'participating' in the taste test.
In Norway, they’re more concerned with the salt getting into the environment than the collisions. This despite the following:
"We have long known that salt and Cervidae (the deer family) is a bad combination, but this is seen as a relatively minor traffic safety problem in Norway," said Bjørn Iuell, a biologist and engineer at Norway's Public Roads Directorate.

At least 1300-1500 moose are killed in traffic every year, and Iuell believes the total could be twice as high since not all collisions are reported. For roe deer the numbers are at least twice as high again. Although the problem costs around NOK 250 million (USD 41.5 million) a year, it is not a priority, but reducing salt use on roads is an environmental concern.
That's a lot of dead moose! You'd think that Norwegian drivers could avoid such a huge critter better than that. And how could you NOT report a collision with something as big as a moose? How do you explain the damage to your vehicle? And what happens to the critter on the roadside? This isn't a raccoon we're talking about, fer crying out loud. Someone has to notice it.

(Moose taste test road salt)


Time for drastic measures

The Chicago Cubs game was snowed out and O’Hare got almost 3 inches of white stuff that created havoc at one of the busiest airports in the country. (The amount of snow eclipsed a 1957 record.) Parts of upstate New York received nearly a foot as did the White and Green Mountains. A bit further west it was worse.
The storm blanketed parts of Wisconsin with about 10 inches of snow, while states from North Dakota to Illinois got about 8 inches of snow, the weather service said. Areas of Montana were covered under as much as 27 inches of snow.
(Snowstorm Snarls Traffic in U.S. Midwest, Heads East )

Then there’s this: Bismarck sees record snowfall
Bismarck received a total of 6.2 inches, 5.5 of those coming Tuesday and eclipsing the single-day snowfall amount of 4.2 inches set in 1945.
(Okay, it's freakin' North Dakota but still, it's weird, ya know.)

And this:
Forecasters are also watching another ``significant, possibly major'' storm forming in the Rocky Mountains that could bring more snow, rain, and tropical-storm force winds to the Plains by tomorrow and to the Northeast on Sunday, the National Weather Service said.
Somewhere someone is going to blame this on “global warming.”

As someone who, when asked to which religion I belong, occasionally jokes that I’m Druish, I believe it may be time for a human sacrifice. I know who I would nominate for the honor of appeasing Gaia. (But there are many, many runners up.)

Farookin' Snow!

Farookin’ Snow!

When we went to bed last night it was raining quite hard. You could hear it drumming on the roof and running off onto the plastic covers on the scapewells. (Nice bass, that.) Sometime during the night it got quiet—ominously quiet—and when we woke up this morning it was painfully obvious why. The rain had switched to snow.
1-2 inches of heavy wet snow
It was still coming down while I prepared pancakes for breakfast but stopped altogether by 8:30 AM. We got between 1 and 2 inches of very wet heavy snow here at the Aerie (elevation 2100 feet).
Farookin' Snow!
More than enough to cover the ground and deck. They even sent the snowplow up the road to plow and spread cinders.
But down in the valley…nothing, or at least just a dusting.
Not in the "valley" however
It’s April 12, for crying out load. One year ago we were getting all set to have the log package delivered. The foundation had been poured and the deck was almost in place. This year it’s been colder than a well diggers bottom most of the time and the snow showers have been coming fairly steadily.

And I DO NOT want to talk about the forecast for this weekend.

For now—I saw for NOW—the weather is very pleasant. It’s sunny and the temperature is supposed to reach 45 degrees this afternoon. All this batch will melt away leaving the roads a nice slick reddish clay.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Oliver Perez, who pitched so well against the Braves last week, took the mound at Shea tonight against the Phillies.

The results weren’t pretty. Sure, he only gave up one hit and struck out two, but he walked SEVEN (7) Phillies and walked in two(2) runs and allowed a third to score on a hit batsman in the third inning before being pulled for Aaron Sele. Perez managed to last just 2 2/3 innings!

Maybe he needs to pitch only on the road.

Coyote attack in NJ
“'Mangy' animal grabs toddler in Middletown”

This 22-month old toddler is lucky his 11-year old uncle was on hand.


"It just came at him (the toddler), running real fast, and it just jumped on him and knocked him on his back," said Ryan Palludan, 11, Liam's uncle. "I yelled at it and kicked at it and got it off Liam. ... I thought it was a wild dog."

If Ryan hadn’t acted as quickly or aggressively as he did, his nephew might well have been killed. As it is, Liam will be getting some rabies shots just in case the animal was ill.

All this took place east of the Garden State Parkway between Holmdel and Red Bank a little southwest of Sandy Hook.

Part of the cause for the attack may have been the actions of a neighbor.
Elaine McCarthy, a neighbor and friend to the Palludans, said she tried to feed the strange canine Friday morning when she mistook the animal for a stray dog. It was not until she attended the Palludan memorial that she learned it was a coyote.
Folks, if you don’t see a collar and tags, assume it’s a wild critter. DO NOT feed it in any case. Call animal control or get out the shotgun. If it’s threatening in anyway, put it down. Even if it turns out to have been someone's "pet" it has no business running wild or acting threatening.

If a wild critter gets accustomed to humans and does not fear or respect them, it needs to be culled from the population.
"It was not afraid of us," said Philip Palludan, the toddler's grandfather, explaining how the coyote walked at him after he turned his back to go into the house.

"It was the size of a German shepherd, but it was tawny and mangy looking. I had to shout at it again and wave my arms, and I'm a big guy, 6 foot 3 inches, but it wasn't afraid of me," he added.

They still haven’t caught the critter.
The coyote returned to the Palludans' yard three straight nights after the attack, and the state Division of Fish and Wildlife set snare-traps around the six-acre property yesterday.
I think I might be sitting up on the porch with a spotlight and a shotgun and damn the laws.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Backyard Birding

By consensus, this week’s bird walk was cancelled due to impending cold and snow showers. (Dianne is still thawing out from last Saturday’s Hills Creek walk and the rest of us didn’t want to suffer the same fate.) We got the morning cold and some little bit of flurries but not the dire forecast that was made yesterday.

With no plans to go anywhere, Terry and I decided to keep track of the species seen/heard here at the Aerie from 7 AM ‘til 7 PM. We kept pretty much to the plan but had to make a short trip to the post office and another over to Roseville and Buffalo Bob’s to pick up some meat. (Mmmmm, buffalo!) Each of these short hops added a couple of species to my list. They’re the ones marked with an * after the name.

American Goldfinch
American Kestrel*
American Robin
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
Brown-headed Cowbird
Canada Goose
Common Crow
Common Grackle*
Common Raven
Dark-eyed Junco
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
European Starling*
Great Blue Heron
House Sparrow*
Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker*
Northern Harrier*
Purple Finch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Red-winged Blackbird
Red-tailed Hawk
Rock Dove*
Song Sparrow
Turkey Vulture
White-breasted Nuthatch

I tallied 30 species in all. It's quite a list yet several birds that I regularly see/hear aren't on it.

Taz Devils in Trouble
Hope the cure isn't worse than the disease

Tasmanian devils are succumbing to a contagious cancer. In some areas up to 90% of the population has died. One group has decided something needs to be done to try and save the devils from extinction, but moving a small groups to island sanctuaries where there are several endangered species may not be the best plan.

Controversial plan to save Tasmanian devils
[Hamish] McCallum is among a group of experts who plan to transfer 30 devils off Tasmania's east coast to Maria Island — a former 19th-century prison that is now home to several endangered species of birds.

The move, which state and federal governments are expected to approve within weeks, is controversial because scientists can only guess at the impact the introduced carnivores will have on the uninhabited island's ecology.

One of the difficulties in playing with ecosystems in this way is the unexpected results. For example, rabbits were introduced to Australia as a potential food source and they created vast desert-like regions by eating all the grass. Poisonous cane toads are another introduced species that has run amuck. Here in the states, English sparrows and starlings were introduced in New York’s Central Park now there are tens of millions across the country. Then there’s kudzu and zebra mussels. While I don’t think the devils would multiply in this manner, they could push some of the endangered species on the islands over the edge.
Maria would be the first of about a half-dozen islands to become quarantined colonies of wild devils, which are currently not found on any of the thousands of Tasmanian islands.

Advocates hope that if devils are wiped out on the Tasmanian mainland the disease will die along with them, and the animals placed in havens can then be safely reintroduced.

Part of natural selection is, unfortunately, the loss of individuals and even species that cannot survive threats to themselves or their population. What is happening to the devils can be compared to a plague. If some survive the disease, the species will be stronger. Such selection takes time and carries the risk that all will die either of illness or because the population becomes too dispersed for breeding. But man is impatient and doesn’t like to see nature run its course and, therefore, needs to interfere.

Moves like this have been tried before.
Maria Island has been identified previously as a potential species-saving haven.
In the 1970s, authorities said it would be an ideal sanctuary for the devils' cousin, the Tasmanian tiger — a striped, Labrador-like carnivore that like the devil carried its young in a pouch — and stocked it with kangaroos and wallabies that could be prey for the animals.

But the last known tiger died in a zoo in 1933, and long-held hopes of finding some in the wild never materialized.

Kangaroo numbers on Maria have since exploded, and hundreds have to be shot at regular intervals to prevent them starving through overgrazing.

It looks like this move is a done deal. Let’s hope that the devils survive both the disease and the introduction to their new homes, thrive in their wild sanctuaries, and come back strong.

h/t: Drew Curtis’

Woodsmen, Cut Down Those Trees!

Time for Canada and Alaska to do their part to fight global warming. Cutting down large tracts of fir trees in high latitude locales could produce global cooling, according to this report.
In high latitudes, for example, removing the forests could help to cool these regions. This is because the trees, which absorb sunlight, would be replaced by snow-covered fields in winter that reflect the light. But in tropical regions, cutting back on forests would mean that less water is transferred from soils into the atmosphere, meaning fewer clouds and a warmer planet.

Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Stanford, California, and his colleagues have now compared these two effects and declared that the effect of boreal deforestation dominates. Removing all the forests would put a slight brake on global warming, they predict — enough to leave the world 0.3 °C cooler in 2100, they report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1.
So get out the chainsaws and axes and fell a fir for Gaia! But leave tropical rainforests alone.


Monday, April 09, 2007

Alaskan Sea Otters suffer from the cold

Frozen bay turns otters into easy prey
An extra-cold winter on the Alaska Peninsula has frozen sea otters out of the bay and pushed them onto the tundra near Port Heiden where they're easy prey for wolves, humans and hunger.
But what about all that Arctic ice that has been missing this winter? Second lowest amount since satellite records started back in the ‘70s, I read somewhere. ( Arctic Sea Ice Narrowly Missed Record Low In Winter 2007) Where did all this ice in the northern Pacific come from? Heh?

Play Ball!?

Cleveland lost a whole weekend of baseball to the weather gods. Now the forecast is for snow in Boston on Thursday night and it looks like the Sox may get whacked.
The game on Thursday won't be rained out, it may be snowed out! A storm of this type has the power, and the track seems just right for snow all the way to the coast.

Accumulations? After this on-again-off-again winter, I'm reserving my right to wait.

When the Indians play there next “home game” it will be in Milwaukee where they have a domed stadium.

Leaders in Democratic race withdraw from debate...again.

At this rate no Democratic debates will take place unless they promise to lob soft questions or guarantee to fawn all over the candidates with gushing praise.

Once again, John Edwards, then Barack Obama and now Hillary Clinton have backed away from a debate scheduled to air on Fox News Channel. This one was cosponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.

Fox News is the Number 1 rated news channel. Appearing here would have exposed the candidates to a much wider audience than they will get on any other venue. Perhaps it is that exposure they fear. And if they can’t take the heat of an honest debate that asks fair but hard questions, what does it say about their future performance should they gain the White House?


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sorry, this is sick.

But heaven forbid they should every see their child playing with a toy gun! Or—GASP—think about becoming a soldier!

The Family-Friendly Easter Bomb Hunt

It used to be that an Easter egg hunt was just an Easter egg hunt. It had no message beyond cute kids playing with colored eggs. Now the venerable White House Easter Egg Roll, which dates to the 1870s, has become an occasion for at least two groups to make a statement that is as much about politics as it is about the spring holiday.

Those were the good old days! Just when did they change?
"Obviously, we're trying to spoof a little bit what will be happening on the South Lawn," said Brian Hennessey of the Vineeta Foundation, a local human rights group founded in 1995 that is the lead sponsor of the cluster-bomb hunt. "We're not trying to hit kids over the head with this; we want them to have fun. We also want to bring attention to the fact that our munitions cause a lot of death and destruction to civilians, especially children."

But you don’t want to “hit kids over the head with this”? Really?
Last year, gay and lesbian parents were in the media spotlight, when a group of about 100 families donned rainbow-colored leis and waited in the overnight line for egg roll tickets. Their goal was visibility. "Our families just want to participate in a great American tradition," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Pride Coalition, the group that led the effort.

At least this group only wanted “visibility.” I’ve no problem with their participation. It’s the preachin’ I’ve got a problem with.
She said she understands why the White House event attracts groups with agendas to promote. "I think the fact of the matter is, politics has gotten infused into a lot of parts of American lives," she said.

Yeah and it’s a damn shame.
"This is a White House that has been fairly unresponsive to the sentiments of its people, and I'm not surprised that folks are going to great lengths to get the president's attention."

Tell you what, let’s see what happens if your sentiments are put up to a general referendum instead of court shopping. Then we’ll see if the White House is “unresponsive to the sentiments of its people.” Okay?

Back to the cluster bomb hunt:
He said he has read a few comments from people wondering if it is right to expose children to thoughts of bombings and death when all they are after is a pleasant holiday experience. "I think a more important question is whether we should be exposing other people's children to these bombs," he said.
What about all those Palestinian kids paraded about with toy guns and suicide bomb jackets? Got anything to say about that practice? No? (And if you want a positive experience in exposing the kids to death, try the Easter Sunday sermon. Much more positive that the stuff you're peddling.)
The event […] will include a search for weapons of mass destruction for the adults. "They'll all come back looking confused five minutes later, saying they couldn't find anything," Hennessey said.
Isn’t that clever! Do they get to search in Syria, too? Or dig up the entire park?
Another search, for Osama bin Laden, will turn up only photographs of Saddam Hussein, he said. A hulk of a large bomb will be filled with toy bombs, and a prize will be given to whoever guesses the number inside.
Are they going to get copies of the dozen or so UN resolutions Saddam thumbed his nose at? Why not have a large photo of the Kurds Hussein gassed and have people guess the number of bodies?
At a "teach-in" yesterday at a Northwest Washington community center, Hennessey and others helped the children fashion the fake bombs, using balloons, tennis balls and brightly colored clay. The adults told the children they could write their names on the "bombs" and take them home after Monday's event. And they tried to explain what the concerns were all about.
Goodness, won’t that make a conversation piece!

h/t: Michelle Malkin

Make your own GIANT Cadbury Crème Egg.

Step by step instructions for a sinful snack(?). (More like a meal for 10.)

A Cadbury Crème Egg the size of a football. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

The vital statistics:
Standard creme egg : Height : 2" Girth : 4" Weight : 40 g Calories : 175
Creme de la creme egg : Height : 8". Girth : 16.5". Weight : A whopping 2.25 kg!! Calories : estimated 10000!!

Hey it’s ONLY 10000 Calories.

At Pimp That Snack.

Johnny Hart’s Got Wings!

We’ve lost another good guy. B.C. and Wizard of Id creator, cartoonist Johnny Hart has passed away. The Endicott, NY native died on Saturday at age 76.

God speed Johnny.

More here.


UPDATE: More—and better—kind words on Johnny Hart from Capitan Ed and Michelle Malkin

UPDATE II: Mr. Hart did the logo for the B.C. Stitchers , a chapter of the Embroiders’ Guild of America, Inc. located in his home county.

UPDATE III: A tribute for Johnny Hart By Rick Newcombe, President and Founder of Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Semi-Lazy Saturday

It was much too cold this morning to go out birding, although a couple from the Tiadaghton Audubon Society did lead a walk over at Hills Creek State Park. I e-mailed Dianne to see how they made out. They had the park director and a hardy family of five show. No word on how many birds they saw but it was so cold, she said, that you could see the breaths of the geese!

Terry and I stayed home where it was 17 degrees at 7:30 AM and saw plenty of birds on the feeders and in the woods around the house through the windows, thank you.

Around 11 AM we drove over to the Lowes store in Sayre to get some sheetrock for the basement. I figure 10 sheets will finish the walls in the family room area and another 10 will be needed for the workshop and the partition wall. On the way back we stopped for lunch at a little place on Route 6 in Sylvania called the Iron Skillet. Excellent food and great prices.

After unloading the truck, Terry drove off to church and I settled down to watch the Mets-Braves game on TV.

We had snow showers off and on all day but there was enough sun to make it all disappear during the off times. Even so, it never got above 30 all day.

When I get the energy to do so, I’ll purchase the materials for the chair rail that has to go up before the sheetrock. I kinda forgot that this morning while we were at Lowes.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Time for a Road Trip?

GuyK of CHARMING, JUST CHARMING has gone and bought himself a used travel trailer so he and his wife, Sweetthing, can get around to various blog meets.

Having read his post while I sit here at the fireside watching the snow melt (despite temps still in the 20s), I’m starting to get a bit of cabin fever. Yeah, there’s still stuff to do around the Aerie and it will get done as soon as the weather warms. And I have some things to do up north at the Adirondack Bolt Hole—like fix the propane lines so I can cook and clean out the fridge so I can use it again. And I have a fishing trip to Quebec coming up the end of June. But that doesn’t mean I can’t think of a road trip or two. After all, what’s the sense of having this "3rd home" if I don’t use it?

I'll have to check the calendar to see when and where Terry's sewing groups meet this year. Maybe we can work something around them. Otherwise there's always Maine or Michigan's UP for late August.

Where's our global warming, dammit!

Hey, Al. We could do with a little of that "global warming" here on the east coast.

Woke up this morning to another inch or so of snow and expect to see a few snow showers all weekend and into next week here at the Aerie. It's currently 25 degrees outside at 11:30 AM and they say we'll be lucky to break into the 30s. Juuussst a wee bit nippy for early April.

I read on that this weekends temperatures are expected to be 20-25 degrees below normal and in some places, like Augusta, Georgia, maybe 30 degrees lower than usual.

Luckily I've got some firewood laid aside and that should prevent me from using too much propane to heat the house.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

More Snow?!

Tuesday the temperature reached 75 degrees. Yesterday it barely reached 50. Today it’s in the 30s and snowing. What’s up with that!

Blankety-blank groundhog!

UPDATE: I lied, it never got above 25 degrees here at the Aerie.

Fishing With Lights

Sometimes it’s the simple things that work best. I have to wonder what it feels like to get hit by a 3 pound fish that comes flying into your boat.

Fishing with lights

h/t Miss Cellania

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Crayfish Lie!

Are All Male's Liars And Cheaters? Yes -- If They're Crayfish!

Crayfish wave their larger claw about to indicate their strength when faced with a challenging opponent.
Individuals signal their superior strength to competitors to obtain food, resolve territorial disputes and acquire mates. Current theory insists that signals of strength should be honest. Surprisingly researchers have found that dishonest signals are used routinely during dominance disputes by male Australian crayfish
Female crayfish do this too. When the actual strength of “the claw” was measured:
For female crayfish the size of the claw was an honest indication of how strong they were. However, claw size of males was not a good indicator of their strength. Males were routinely bluffing their opponents with weak claws to achieve dominance. They used claws more for intimidation than actual strength.

Once again, sounds like any bar on Saturday night.

Who Gives a Hoot About Weight?

Here's an interesting study posted at Science Daily today:
Male Owls Pitch Their Hoots To Advertise Body Weight To Competitors

So, let me get this straight. Owls are active at night, well known fact, when vision is often impaired even for them. As a result they must depend upon their hearing for vital clues about potential opponents. This obviously makes sense.

Heavier owls have calls that are lower in pitch tones than lighter owls.

Now comes the interesting parts.

When a territorial owl is challenged by a high pitched call he responds quickly to the challenge, apparently realizing he may outweigh his foe. When he is challenged by a lower pitched call than his own, he may respond by sitting still and only making an answering call. Additionally he tries to lower the pitch of his own call to make it seem as if he is heavier than he is. Now he might be thinking, “This opponent has got the weight advantage on me but if I don’t go rushing off to meet him and instead respond with a low call of my own, he may just go away and leave me alone.”

So, does this mean that the scops owls in this study are cowardly bullies ready to rush off into the fray when they assume they have the advantage, yet try to bluff their way out of a confrontation when they know they are the disadvantaged?

Then there is this proposed follow-up study:
Loïc Hardouin who recently completed a PhD on acoustic communication and territoriality in owls. "The next step is to see whether females use these quality cues when they choose their mating partner."

Sounds like many a bar on Saturday night.

(As I was getting ready to post this I rechecked the article and almost laughed when I realized these were French owls. “Cowardly bullies,” indeed.

Tennessee Downs Rutgers, 56-49 for National Title

Rutgers R.small
Offensive rebounds. The ones made over and over again by Tennessee and the ones Rutgers never seemed to make. That was the story of the game played for the Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship. Rebounds made and rebounds missed. Those rebounds, and 5’ 2” Shannon Bobbitt suddenly draining three-pointers from all points of the compass during one spurt in the second half, spelled the difference in the game. The Volunteers won their seventh Women’s Basketball Title by a score of 56-49, frustrating the Knights attempt for the school’s first undisputed national title in any sport.

The Scarlet Knights’ Kia Vaughn led all scorers with 20 points but no other Rutgers player scored in double figures. For the Vols, Candice Parker’s 17 led the way but she got help from Bobbitt’s 13 points, Sidney Spencer’s 11, and Alberta Augusta’s 10.

Rutgers actually had the higher shooting percentages from the floor (38.1% in the first half and 42.9% in the second compared to Tennessee’s 36.7% and 32.1%), but those second and third chances UT got from the offensive boards proved to be the killer.

The season started with a disappointing 2-4 record and ended with the Knights capturing the Big East Title and playing for the National Championship. Their final record of 27-9 is excellent. And the Lady Knights are to be congratulated for a fine season. Unfortunately, as in nearly all sports (college football on the top level seems to be the exception) only one team goes home a winner.

Game story and stats here.

Final comment:
Rutgers had 10 women suited to play, all of whom got on the floor. Five of them are freshmen, none are seniors. They’ll be back. Next year they will have experience if not added height.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Birding on Pine Creek

Went birding with the Tiadaghton Chapter of the Audubon Society again this morning.

We went west of Wellsboro in the Pine Creek Gorge at the Darling Run Rails-to-trails facility on state highway 362. It’s just south of US Route 6 and on the north end of the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful morning with little or no breeze which was quite a contrast to last week’s walk. The temperature at the start of our stroll was 40 degrees and it rose all morning but it remained a bit chilly down in the old railway cut where the sun didn’t penetrate until late in the morning.

Here’s what we saw:

Number of species: 26

Canada Goose 22
Wood Duck 3
Mallard 2
Common Merganser 9
Horned Grebe 1
Turkey Vulture 2
Bald Eagle 1
Mourning Dove 2
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 2
Eastern Phoebe 3
Blue Jay 5
American Crow 9
Common Raven 1
Black-capped Chickadee 9
Tufted Titmouse 1
Brown Creeper 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
American Robin 2
Song Sparrow 12
Swamp Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco 8
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 1

Another good outing with some very nice people. These walks are turning into a pleasant way to get to know people and learn about the area. We’re really looking forward to next week.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

We're getting TV tomorrow!

Well, we’ve been in the new home since mid December and since mid October, we’ve been waiting for the telephone company to get their act together and upgrade their system to deliver TV as well as telephone and DSL service. This enterprise is as new to them as it will be to us. We knew when we started building the Aerie that the phone company would be our source of TV entertainment. There is no cable available along our road and I wanted no satellite dish on the house or a phone pole nearby even if I could get a signal from over the trees and mountain.

In the middle of January, when I hadn’t heard from them and we were looking at the start of 24, I called and was told they would be setting up appointments for installation within two weeks—just as soon as they got a few bugs worked out. The same message was repeated every two weeks after that. First it was at the substations, then the modems were delayed, then it was something else.

Finally, on Thursday, I called to ask if there was a problem with the DSL server on their end because I couldn’t get online. There was and it took nearly all day to get it straightened out. But before I hung up, I again asked about the television service and almost fell over when the phone rep on the other end asked, “Will Monday be okay?” Hell, yeah!

Friday morning an installer came by to see how much had to be done. Well, we’ve already got the wires run. We’ve got it set up for four wires with just three in use at a time. (The fourth is in case we redecorate.) All it’s going to take is a few caps on the end of the CAT-5 wire so it can be plugged into the modem and the TV top channel selector: about 30 minutes work and we’ll be in business. He left smiling so I think he was pleased with how little work this job will take. Said he would get the modem programmed in their office (so it could be tested easily) and he’d be back on Monday morning.

I’ve missed the RU bowl game. I’ve now missed March Madness as the RU women (# 19 nationally going into the tournament) move into the title game. And I’ve missed opening night of the baseball season with the Mets (after a very lackluster spring season) taking down the Cardinals. (Final score is 6-1 with Tommy Glavine the winner.) I didn’t miss much of 24 because every Monday night we’ve been going to our friends’ house for dinner and some TV. Got to see Prison Break too. But Don and Deb went on a cruise that set sail on Saturday and won’t be home for a week. I have a key, but I hope I won’t need it, cause at 10 AM Monday, after nearly three and a half months of waiting, we’re gonna have TV!

(Thank God for the internet and DSL!)

RU Rah, Rah!
Hoo Rah! Hoo Rah!
Rutgers Rah!

Rutgers R.small

The Rutgers’ women’s basketball team moves on to the National Championship game by defeating LSU 59-35 in a semi-final contest in Cleveland this evening.
Despite getting zero points from Kia Vaughn in the first half (the first time this season that has happened), Rutgers jumped out to a 37-19 half time lead on the strength of their three-point shooting.
The Scarlet Knights converted on 8-of-10 three-pointers in the first half, tying a season high for three-pointers made in a half this season (they hit eight three pointers in the first half on Dec. 7 at DePaul).

Juniors Matee Ajavon and Essence Carson combined for 31 points and the defense did the rest.

Tuesday night they play for the National Championship against the winner of the North Carolina-Tennessee contest.

Story and stats here.

UPDATE: It'll be Tennessee after a come from behind victory over North Carolina 56-50

Yet another species heard from

The rains let up late this afternoon and I took the chance to go refill one of the hanging feeders. While outside, I heard the very distinct call of a Common Raven (and here). Actually, they’re not that common in this area. If you look at the map from the Cornell’s All About Birds site, they show the birds in the Adirondacks of New York and in the Appalachian Mountains of southern Pennsylvania down to Georgia. There is a decided gap here in PA. The range of the raven has been expanding so it’s possible this one could be a resident or it could just be passing through.

Who’ll be left holding the bag?

Paper or plastic?

I always preferred paper bags over plastic for the several reasons: they decompose faster even when put into a land fill, they can be recycled with the newspapers and junk mail, and they can be burned in a burn barrel at the cabin. On the negative side, paper bags are more difficult to store at home and don’t work well in the kitchen garbage cans (they soak through when you dispose of anything moist).

Plastic bags are easier to store, can be used in the garbage cans, and can be recycled by taking them back to the local Wal-Mart and putting them in a convenient collection bin they have out front. (I could do the same back in NJ at the Kings or ShopRite.)

BTW, here in north-central PA, garbage collection is done on a pay per bag. For two bucks you get a sticker to put on your 33-gallon plastic garbage bag that you set out on the street for pick up. (After the first coyote, feral dog, raccoon, or bear rips mine apart, I’ll get myself a garbage can, a chain and maybe a bin to put it all in.)

San Francisco has recently banned all plastic bags for environmental reasons. They have ignored the economics (one cent to make a plastic bag, four or five cents for a paper), the energy consumption (significantly more for paper), the cutting and milling of pulp wood for paper, and a number of other arguments against paper.

The article linked above ends with a discussion of reusable bags:
Yet another alternative is to sell consumers reusable bags.

“The paper versus plastics question takes us off the issue, which is consumption,” says Vincent Cobb, who offers reusable bags and containers on the Internet. He admits to using plastic bags, which he calls a “fantastic product,” but not as many as in the past.

“Getting into the habit of bringing your own shopping bag,” he says, “can slash this problem across the board.”

While this may indeed solve the problem of using a consumable product to carry your purchases, I don[‘t think it would work. Perhaps in a big city environment where you can stroll down to the corner store to pick up a loaf of bread or a quart of milk for tonight’s dinner, it might work. But out in suburbia and rural America? Forget about it. Out here you go shopping once a week or perhaps every two weeks and you stock up—big time. That’s why they have those big carts, no? Just how many bags of groceries do you bring home on each trip? For just two of us, one week's shopping results in perhaps eight or ten Wal-Mart plastic bags. Many of which get reused as garbage bags and the rest get recycled. There is no way we could possibly take that many reusable bags with us to go shopping. And just think about the family with four or five kids! My God, they need the SUV just to haul their groceries home.

Aerial attack!

I went outside to refill the feeders with sunflower seeds and was standing on the deck when a male Downy Woodpecker flitted in to the telephone pole feeder. It veered to a nearby tree just as a Sharp-shinned Hawk swooped past. (See also here.)

This small raptor feeds on birds and just missed getting a meal. The hawk landed in a tree limb maybe thirty feet from me and stayed long enough for me to get my binoculars on him. He Downy hugged his tree for all he was worth and didn’t budge for minutes after the Sharp-shin finally departed. I’ve been wondering when a hawk might appear to take advantage of the congregating birds and/or squirrels, chipmunks and voles that have fed in the yard. I guess today was the day.

Interestingly enough, all the other small birds had taken to the pine trees and were under cover while this attack occurred. I had thought they had disappeared because I had stepped out on the deck. Maybe not.

A lazy Sunday here at the Aerie.

The rotten weatherman goofed—again—and the rains that were expected later in the day arrived before dawn. It’s wet, chilly and just plain raw outside. I had hoped to retrieve some of the firewood I cut yesterday and left in the yard, but now it’s too wet and the yard too muddy so I’ll wait a few days.

The birds continue to raise a ruckus demanding their seed supply be refilled so I’ll be going out on the deck again as soon as there’s a break in the showers. Some 99% of the birds out there right now are goldfinches and I have to say they are really starting to look ratty. They’re molting into their spring plumage and that means shedding the drab olive green for a bright yellow and black outfit for the males. The females are not as gaudy in the summer as they retain their plain olive coloration as protection for nest sitting.

If I sit and concentrate upon the comings and goings at the feeders I could probably note a dozen different species but it is the goldfinches who dominate. It’s funny, but as the state bird of New Jersey I don’t recall seeing very many there in the 57 years of my residence. I have seen quite a few in the farm fields near the Adirondack Bolt Hole but the flock that has adopted the Aerie’s feeders is really amazing. There has to be between 75 and 100 birds hanging out in the trees waiting their turn at the feeders.

Sometimes, it reminds me of The Birds, and I’m not talking music.