Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Basement Progress 3

Almost all of the grid is up in the east side of the basement and the two fixtures (recessed light and ceiling fan) have been moved to the center of a panel.

The recessed light has been installed and works fine with a 75 watt flood.

The bracket to support the fan has been installed and the wiring run to the box. Right now that is still a 100 watt light bulb as I try to figure out how to install a hanging fan from a box five inches inside the ceiling panel which can't hold any weight. It's like one of those folk puzzles. I've got a 12" pipe to connect the motor on the down side with the box on the other. The electrical wires run through that pipe from the motor to the box. Sounds simple, right. The problem is the whole thing has to go through the middle of a 2' x 4' ceiling panel. The motor is 8 inches in diameter so I can't slide the panel over the motor after everything is wired and connected. Trying to wire the thing and connect the pipe to the support would be like trying to change the oil in your car while you were locked in the trunk.

Tomorrow's bird walk has been canceled due to conflicting appointments" (plus it's supposed to rain), so come morning I'll slip the full panels into the grid system and then cut and install those that go around the edge.

So far I've been very good with materials. My calculations as to what would be needed for the grid on this side of the basement have been dead on. If things work out this well on the other side, I should have almost nothing left over except for ceiling tiles. I anticipated a need for 8 extra tiles to account for strange cuttings (not errors, just weird corners, dimensions and such) and I ordered an extra box of 10 to be put away for the future.

I learned that the use of furring strips was a complete waste of time and money. I will not put them up on the west side. Every one of the lag screws that was going in hit a floor joist dead center. (They are 16" on center and the 4' dimension of the tile spans three gaps in the floor joists.) I thought there might be more of a chance that they would not hall on the joists. I was wrong.

Once the tiles are up, the afternoon will be spent moving furniture and storage boxes from one side of the basement to the other so I can work. By the end of the day, I hope to have started laying out the positions of the lag screws and drawing the line for the wall border.

(I will also have pictures of the nearly finished east half of the basement. Promise.)

Basement Progress 2

I got all the boxing finished in the morning, measured down four inches all around the edge of the room drawing a line as I went and then put in the perimeter molding for the east side of the basement yesterday and will be putting up the lag screws and wire to support the grid today.

All the up and down on the ladder has me feeling like I'm doing a work out on a StairMaster. Up three steps, measure, draw, down three steps, move the ladder, up three steps, measure, draw, down three steps, move ladder repeat. Then up three steps with the molding, install molding to line with three screws, down three steps, move ladder, up three steps, add three more screws to that piece of molding, down....You get the idea. Up and down all day. But at least at the end of the day, something was accomplished. (Besides sore legs.)

I did take a break immediately after lunch. Terry and I drove to Lowes to get the cans for the lights as well as an extension pipe for the ceiling fan (not included with the kit because of the many different options for ceiling height, slope, etc.). While there, we started talking about and looking at some of the perennial plants they have. We need to supplement the wild daisies and other plants around the yard while at the same time being wary of the rabbits and raccoons that would devastate any vegetables we might plant. (Also not to forget is the chilly, chilly air at 2100 feet on the northwest side of the hill that can bring frost into late May and early September.)

Oh well, time to get back to work in the basement. Hopefully I'll have the grid up by the end of the day, the light moved from its current position (no that's not a pun on electrical work!) and the box for the ceiling fan relocated before I call it quits today. If I get that far, it will be picture time!

A bit on the nippy side

A mere 28 degrees at 7 AM this morning at the Aerie. After a day filled with mostly puffy, cumulus clouds, the sky cleared completely last evening and remains without a trace of a cloud this morning. The lack of blanket permitted what little heat that had accumulated during the 55 degree day to escape.

Tonight there's a warm front coming in--I hope--and the temperatures will rise into the 60s during the day and drop "only" to the mid 30s at night. Of course the front will also bring some rain with it. There's a 50% chance of showers tomorrow. Thursday is our usual birding day around the county. I just might forgo that to continue on the basement ceiling.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Global Cooling runs rampant in north-central PA!

After a foggy, rainy, chilly day yesterday, last night’s temperature just kept moving downward as it eventually bottomed at 34 degrees here at the Aerie. We’re in for more of the same today with overcast skies and some drizzle in the forecast. Tonight’s temp? Supposed to be in the mid to high 20s. I had to turn the heat on again as the indoor temp sank to 62 degrees.

Anyone hear from Al Gore lately?

Guess we’ll have to bring in the plants on the deck. Sure am glad we didn’t do any serious plantings yet.

(It's not much colder at the Bolt Hole either. Just hope the water pipes don't freeze as I didn't drain them last week and there's no heat except the sun.)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Basement Progress

I'm getting somewhere in the ceiling project, but things are moving more slowly than I anticipated. I forgot that working over your head can be really, really tiring on your arms and neck. I would mark off the location of the furring strips on the east side of the basement and then have to take a break. Then I would install five or six furring strips, screwing them to the floor joists, and have to take a break.

As I started to lay out the furring strip rows I discovered that one of the rows of furring strips will be passing almost directly over the existing light fixtures. This is not good. Those fixtures need to be moved to the center of a ceiling tile which means between the rows of furring strips. Guess I'll be running out to get some wire and three cans for recessed lights. I'll also need to hone up on the installation fo the ceiling fan. I'll need to have something solid for it to hang from and that means moving the fixture box and adding some bracing.

I did get all the boards for the boxing in of the fireplace ceiling and the stairwell cut and installed, however, and that counts for something.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Blogging may be light...

...for a few days at least while I get my act together in the basement. I'm likely to be working through the evening as well.

That means some of youse will take a hit on the old meter when I don't click through my customary 3 or 4 times a day.

If you want the full reason, check the previous post.

Basement Ceiling Project

Last Friday I made the rounds of the Lowes in the area to collect nearly all the materials I will need to install a suspended ceiling in the basement here at the Aerie. I initially went up to Horesheads, NY where I hoped to get everything but they were 8 pieces short for the long rails I needed and that necessitated a trip over to Sayre, PA and their Lowes. Luckily, they are both reeeeal close to Route 17 so by doing a loop instead of coming home and then going out again, I traveled just about 20 miles extra instead of 50 or 60. And at $3.70 per gallon and 18 mpg…well, you do the math. (I can't wait for them to start construction of the Lowes to be built in Mansfield!)

Having gotten all the materials I thought I would also pick up some furring strips so I would have a bit more leeway as to where I needed to put the lag screws that would attach the grid to the floor joists. So Saturday, after the bird walk at Hills Creek State Park, I stopped at the building supply company in Mansfield to get 32 of the 8’ long furring strips.

Here’s all the stuff stacked up in the basement.

Material Stack

The basement is really divided in two halves by the main support beam that runs down the middle. Each half is approximately 13’ wide and 25’ long. The west side is the easiest as there are no real fancy details to worry about. The east side, however has several zigs and zags and areas that need to be built up or around.

West half of the basement

West half of the basement. Note the small bump out that occurs between the two doors. That, and a similar bump out on the other end, is the only thing that prevents this from being a real rectangle.

There are two light fixtures in each half. Both fixtures on the west side will be replaced with recessed lighting. (Shoot! I forgot to buy the cans for that!)

Another view of the west side.

The west side from the opposite end.

The east half of the basment

The east side of the basement. This side is a different story. The stretch along the stairwell will require a board be hung so the wall trim (which holds the tiles and the grid in place) will have something to which it can be attached. Also, a smoke detector and an alarm sensor will have to be relocated.
On the other end of the east side…

Another view of the east side.

The light nearest the fireplace will be replaced with a ceiling fan. Being quite heavy, some imaginative thinking will be required to figure out how to hang the fixture. (The floor joists are 8’ 9” off the basement floor. Dropping the ceiling 5” will still leave plenty of headroom even with a fan in this location.) Another problem is the rock board that acts as a fire proof ceiling over the wood burner drops down from the floor joists about 3”.

fire proof ceiling over the basement wood burner

Fire proof ceiling is a requirement.
It will have to be boxed in but…

Fire proof ceiling and intake for the main fireplace

There is also an air filter/intake for the living room fireplace mounted here. This circulates air to the jacket of the fireplace and heats it before blowing it into the room. It will need to be boxed in but with room left for free air circulation.

So that’s what my week holds for me. I expect to have all the boxing in done and the furring strips hung by tomorrow evening. If all goes well. Once that’s done, the rest should be a snap.

Except for all that shifting about of the electrical stuff. But that has to wait for the grid to be in place so the fixtures end up where they should…in the center of a tile instead of where they shouldn’t like right over a a grid line.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The SS Democrat may have hit an ice berg

TigerHawk has a post up today about the problems the Democrats have been facing in this year’s election process.( Schadenfreude ) In it he discusses—and agrees with—the Op-Ed piece in the New York Times by Bob Herbert. ( Heading Toward the Danger Zone ).
TigerHawk concludes:
The problem is that the most determined candidate is not the most popular, and the line between them has been drawn more by identity and character, which are mirrors that project our self-image, than by meaningful differences in proposed policies or, for that matter, proof of executive experience or ability. It is a terrible bind for the Democrats, and a stroke of luck for the Republicans.

I concur with his (and Herbert’s) analysis that we are witnessing a slow motion train wreck, but would say that this is a problem the Democrats have been fostering for quite some time. The Democrats have been courting disaster by courting voters as blocs as opposed to courting them as Democrats. The Democrats have courted and attempted to appease women, gays, blacks, unionists, Hispanics, peace activists, etc. They have invited them into the fold but have not assimilated them once they have them there. Each group is a click within the party and maintains its own cause(s) and cares. Not being assimilated, a schism can be created within the party allowing one or more groups (or in the worst case scenario ALL the groups) to go their own way. By choosing to live by identity politics, the Democrats are now discovering what it is to die by identity politics.

Contrast this with the Republican Party. Become a Republican and you are either moderate or conservative. These are policy differences and they can be and usually are ironed out. Seldom do you see the same sort of fracturing take place and never have I heard the phrase “women Republicans” or “Hispanic Republicans” or any of the other “identity-group Republicans” used. (Except by the media.) It makes no difference to the Republicans if you are a woman or Hispanic or Black or whatever. What matters is you are a Republican.

Now the conservative members of the Republican Party have taken McCain to task for his work with the Comprehensive Immigration Reform of last summer and McCain-Feingold election laws of a few years back. Some have even said they will sit out this Presidential election because of these and a few other issues. McCain still has a respectable voting record on conservative issues in the Senate, however, and serious reconsideration of that withholding proposal is in order. There is nowhere near as much acrimony on the Republican side as on the Democratic side. There, a sizable chunk of the electorate have said they will, under no circumstances, vote for the other candidate if theirs loses the primary or is seen to have been shunted to the side by the super delegates/party bosses in Denver.

What with the convoluted primary rules (proportionality and super delegates) and violations (Michigan and Florida), mixed with a very lackluster performance in both the House and Senate (how did their job performance rating get so damn low?) and the Democrats may be pulling a defeat out of what was supposed to be a banner year for their party.

Saturday at Hills Creek State Park

Today’s bird walk was part of the series at Hills Creek State Park. Because Gary was going to be out of town, I volunteered to lead the walk. The weather forecasters early in the week had predicted heavy rain much of the day. Then they changed it to scattered thunderstorms but kept te probability of showers at 80%. We had a very thin line of storms move through the region last evening but the sky has cleared considerably. The forecast is still 80% chance of thunderstorms with the possibility that one or two might be quite severe. Radar, however shows almost no activity anywhere in Pennsylvania so if it is going to rain, they will have to develop swiftly, a la Florida storms. Since the air temperature is up into the mid-70s (some 15 degrees above normal), I suppose that the storm development is a possibility.

All that is to say we had a beautiful morning for a walk. There wasn’t a breath of a breeze when we started at 8:30 AM as witnessed by the flag at the park headquarters. The lake was mirror smooth for much of the two hours we walked along its shoreline.

The group was small, consisting of only four people: myself, Audrey (the Park Ranger), and Ron and Mary Jo, a husband and wife pair who are also members of the Tiadaghton Audubon Society but who disappear for months at a time to travel around the country. They have a house near the park and are frequent visitors for walks along the trails and roads. We had a good time despite the low turnout.

Here’s today’s report:
Location: Hills Creek State Park
Observation date: 4/26/08
Notes: Warm, very clear and still. Temperature: between 55 and 75. The eagle was a juvenile and had not yet developed its white head or tail.
Number of species: 27

Canada Goose 6
Mallard 2
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 1
Bald Eagle 1
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Ring-billed Gull 8
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 3
Blue Jay 10
American Crow 12
Tree Swallow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 2
Black-capped Chickadee 4
Eastern Bluebird 2
American Robin 4
European Starling 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler 7
Eastern Towhee 1
Chipping Sparrow 3
White-throated Sparrow 8
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Northern Cardinal 4
Red-winged Blackbird 2
Common Grackle 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 2

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Thursday, April 24, 2008

It's back to work I go!

Well I decided I'd put it off long enough. I have no excuse not to finish the basement ceiling anymore. I did the walls last spring and had Adam come in and do the spackle work. I took the summer to work on retaining walls, the fall to go hunting and the winter to...well, do nothing. So this yesterday I got out the tape measure and took careful measurements of the basement, got some graph paper and made a scale drawing of the basement, went on line and looked up information about bout suspended ceiling layout and installation, and then made all the calculations I thought I needed to go out and price the job. So, this morning after our bird walk, Terry and I drove up to the Lowes store in Horseheads to see what they had in stock.

They had Armstrong 2' x 4' ceiling tiles in a simple, almost generic pattern that would fit our pocketbook. And they had several systems to suspend those tiles from the ceiling. We were pondering the choice for the job and scratching our heads in befuddlement when a young man came over to check some stuff out in the area. he works for ACP, the manufacturer of Hi-Grid suspension system. We got to talking and he spent nearly 20 minutes discussing not just his company's product, its advantages, and how to use it, but also suspended ceilings in general. It was like having a private session with a specialist on This Old House.

When we parted ways, I not only felt more confident that I knew how to do the job, but also knew what I had to do to calculate the materials needed and what tools I should have on hand.

I'll be going back tomorrow to get the stuff I need.

Thursday morning Birding

Terry and I went on another Thursday morning bird walk with some folks from the Tiadaghton Audubon Society The weather was perfect after a brief thunderstorm last evening. The skies were clear and the winds light with temperatures around 45 to 60 degrees. We gathered at the Ive’s Run area on Hammond Lake and walked the old railroad trail along Crooked Creek. The ospreys were out in full force and we saw two active nests. Lots of soaring turkey vultures, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks and even a broad-winged hawk were out and about. All told, we spotted 30 different species of birds. Here’s the full report:

Location: Ive's Run
Observation date: 4/24/08
Number of species: 30

Canada Goose 5
Wood Duck 3
Mallard 2
Wild Turkey 2
Great Blue Heron 2
Green Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 7
Osprey 4
Bald Eagle 2
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Mourning Dove 3
Blue Jay 5
American Crow 6
Common Raven 2
Tree Swallow 12
Cliff Swallow 14
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 4
Eastern Bluebird 6
American Robin 14
Cedar Waxwing 10
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 1
Eastern Towhee 2
Song Sparrow 3
Swamp Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 26
Common Grackle 12
American Goldfinch 12

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


An Ice Age is coming! An ice age is coming! We’re all DOOOOOOOMED!
Glenn Reynolds complains: “BUT I HATE COLD WEATHER: Sorry to ruin the fun, but an ice age cometh. And I wish people would make up their minds. I don't know what to wear.”

Lack of sunspot activity is beginning to concern the experts who predicted Cycle 24 would be a doozy starting last fall. So far, next to nada.

Plus there’s hope for the refilling (at least half-way) of Lake Powell and the generation of enough hydropower to light up 33,000 homes because of the water contained in the snowpack still shrouding the mountain west.
Record snowpack in the Colorado Rockies and Pacific Northwest

For those with MACs

humorous pictures
see more crazy cat pics


So, Jimbo, when's your next trip to Florida?

This is a hell of a thing to wake up to in the morning.
Woman finds 8-foot alligator in her Florida kitchen

I think I would rather have mice.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Man, I'm pooped!

Slave driver Mark came over at 8 AM as we agreed and we proceeded to take down several of the bad pines behind the barn. They were bad pines because 1) their wood is worthless for just about anything and 2) they were shading some small apple trees that need the sun and need to have the soil around them dry out. Right now, many of those small apples are long and leggy with moss growing around their base.

This was Phase 2 of the apple project. Phase 1 was carried out by Mark two winters ago when he trimmed all the shrubs away from many small apple trees behind the garage. Now there's a lovely parklike lawn dotted with apple trees in that area. Not all are producing apples and the apples that are produced are pretty poor human fare, but the deer seem to like them as do the grouse. There's still a section of Phase 1 that needs to be cleared to the ground but the brush hog may get most of that this summer. Mark trimmed when there were two feet of snow and many of the short stubs from that trimming still need to e removed.

Once the trees were down, we went into the garage to cut and install two new posts and a box header in the garage area of the garage/workshop. This was a little more daunting than expected. One of the old posts would suit us fine being nearly 9 inches in diameter at the small end, but the other was only 6 inches and we thought it was too skinny for the job. Luckily (?) I had those two trees that blew down across the trail that I had cut the other morning. Both were more than long enough and certainly thick enough for the job. One was balsam fir like the posts we put in the workshop, but the other was a hemlock a much stronger and water resistant wood so off I went with the ATV to retrieve the 12-foot long log while Mark cut a tenon in the top of the post we were going to reuse.

Let me tell you something about a log, newly felled, 12-feet long and tapering from around 12 to 10 inches in diameter...IT IS FREAKIN" HEAVY! I finally succeeded in getting it to the front of the garage and both I and the ATV were happy about getting it untied from the tow hitch. Getting this behemoth cut to specs and into position took a another hour of heavy lifting but we got 'er done! The rest of the roof may collapse under the weight of next winter's snows and ice but, by golly, the section directly over those new posts will survive! (Unless they sink into the mud of the garage floor. We really need to do something about the drainage around that building and the barn.) Our next project on the garage/worksho will be replacing all the old nails in the metal roof with nails having rubber gaskets so it doesn't leak.

Shortly after noon, we were back to the Phase 2 clean-up. We trimmed the felled trees and cut the trunks into manageable lengths. Then I hauled the debris away to the "dump" on the other side of the property while Mark trimmed out some of the smaller worthless shrubs from around the apple trees. We worked no-stop from just before 1 PM until 5 PM but we got most of it cleared away.

I'm heading back to PA in the morning so I can get some rest! (If Terry will let me.)

Bolt Hole Chores

After a short walk about the property yesterday morning that consisted mainly of a sojourn back and forth along the road and a loop into the woods, it was time to get some work done.

I fired up the ATV and hauled some trash pine cuttings back into the hole at the end of the new short trail I cut the other day. These were pieces of scraggly Scotch pines that have taken over the area right behind the house. I'm sure some of these were planed but they rapidly produce abundant seed and infest any cut over area. Mark and I have declared war upon them where they shade the ancient apple trees. The smaller branches have been stacked into brush piles (some that are 8-10 feet high) that harbor small rodents and rabbits but the thicker logs needed to be removed to prevent their becoming home to insect pests. If they were fir or white pine, we would have left the main trunk as poles and striped the bark, but these Scotch pines have very, very soft wood and twists and turns in the trunk that make them next to worthless.

As I finished, Mark came over and we started work on installing a pair of beams to support the garage/workshop roof that had sagged badly under the weight of ice and snow this winter. I had some old 2 x 8s from the old deck in NJ (turns out it really is cedar!) and we used four of them to create two beams. Mark had two fir poles over seven feet long from last winter's storms. So, using adjustable support beams and a 2-ton hydraulic jack, we raised the roof of the workshop and installed our permanent cedar box header with two fir posts. That took much of the afternoon. The other header will be installed in the garage today. It's already built and we have two posts there that just have to be fitted with a tenon at the top to hold the header.

While Mark was cutting and building the two box headers, I pulled the chipper/shredder out and went to work on some small cherry branches left from last fall's wind storm. Mark's dad had spent some time last spring rebuilding the carburetor on this little 4-hp Craftsman and it worked pretty well during the summer. Yesterday it started on the second pull. The only problem was that it would only run with the choke on full. I got a good portion of the brush pile put through the machine between periods of helping to install the header in the workshop but that full-choke deal got me in the end. The machine died of its own accord and would not restart. When I pulled the spark plug it was coated in a layer of soft, black carbon. I wiped it clean and tried starting the machine again and it ran for about 30 seconds. Pulled the plug...carbon. So it looks like I will have to take the carburetor off and soak its parts in kerosene. Mark's dad did say we needed a kit to do a proper job of rebuilding the damn thing.

In about an hour or so, Mark's coming back over and we'll be dropping some of the taller pines in the apple works. These needed a rope attached to them to make sure they fall the right way. (That's another problem with these scraggy Scotch pines--it's difficult to get a read on which way they want to fall.) This will get done while the winds are still calm. With the warm sunshine the last two days, the winds have picked up after 10 AM and have been blowing around 20 mph.

Once the pines are on the ground, it will be time to go back and do the box header int he garage. Then we can come back to the chunking up of the trees and hauling the crap out of the yard. Getting these pines down will also mean I'll have a much larger view from the deck in back. (Second floor outside the bedroom.) I might even be able to take a deer next season without doing much more than getting out of bed.

Busy day planned but if we put it off, the blackflies will be making our schedule for us. So far, despite the warm weather, the Adirondack Air Force (blackflies, mosquitoes, deer flies and gnats) has not emerged.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Birding at the Bolt Hole

Location: Bolt Hole
Observation date: 4/19/08
Notes: Beautiful morning with clear skies, temperatures in the 50s and almost no breeze.
Number of species: 21

Canada Goose X
Ruffed Grouse X
Great Blue Heron X
Common Loon X
Mourning Dove X
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker X
Northern Flicker X
Eastern Phoebe X
American Crow X
Common Raven X
Black-capped Chickadee X
Red-breasted Nuthatch X
American Robin X
Pine Warbler X
Chipping Sparrow X
Song Sparrow X
White-throated Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) X
Common Grackle X
Brown-headed Cowbird X
American Goldfinch X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Chores and birds

Took a one-hour walk this morning to see what birds were about. I got 21 species just walking the road (1/4 mile) and back to the middle trail. Including a loon!? I heard the very distinctive call coming from over Mark's place but couldn't spot the bird. Lots and lots of juncos, chipping sparrows, robins and white-throated sparrows. I'll be posting about them tonight. I even heard an owl hooting about 10 AM this morning--weird.

One thing I discovered was two huge fir trees that came down right across the middle trail so that became project numero uno. It took me almost two hours to get them out of the way. That's when I discovered something else. Old age isn't creeping up on me, it's in full gallop. And I'm really, really out of shape! I was pooped when I finished.

Also did the new little trail to the north east to the hollow so we can dump the cut up pines that we have from clearing the apple trees.

Luckily, the ATV started right up and was able to haul my sorry ass and the equipment I needed (the chainsaw started on the second pull!) to the work sites.

Dial-up sucks!

The worst thing is that with most people now having access to some high-speed connections, EVERYBODY seems to be posting a multitude of pictures on their blogs. (Except Jimbo at Parkway Rest Stop who can't figure out how to do so on Wordpress 2.5.) The result of the two (slow dial-up and gazillions of photos) is that each visit takes forever to initially load. So long does it take that I can drink a whole cup of joe while waiting for some of them to materialize. That, of course, makes me even more impatient and sometimes leads me to abort the damn loading process in frustration. It's a self-feeding negativity loop.

At the Bolt Hole

I drove up to the Bolt Hole yesterday where someone has turned up the heat. It got to 75 degrees under the clear blue sky and nearly all the snow is gone. There are only pockets of the white stuff where it drifted or was blown or slid off the roof into shady areas.

The birds seem to be a few weeks behind the Aerie and north-central PA. Robins have just arrived and the woodcock are still doing their mating flights in the twilight. One sounded like it was peenting and twittering just outside the window last evening and only shut up when an owl started "who-whoing" just across the yard. (Survival of the species depends upon, well, surviving to mate as well as finding one!)

Speaking of survival, there are no mice at all anywhere to be found. I'm sure the owl and a couple of weasels and the fisher cat that have been around have something to do with that.

Despite the pools of water left in most of the little depressions from the melting snow, the frogs and spring peepers haven't started their noisy serenade. I'm sure if the weather remains warm, they'll be out in full force soon.

The dial-up service seems slower than usual so expect reports to be few and far between. (I did get to follow most of last night's Mets-Phillies game, however. Let's go Mets!)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Aaaaah! Spring Time!

The weather here at the Aerie has definitely swung into full spring mode. The temperatures have risen to the mid to upper 70s today and the lows at night have been in the upper 40s for the past day or two. The forecast is for more of the same until early next week.

Terry and I washed all the windows today and put all the screens in so we can air the house out. The three cats acted a supervisors and occupied the window sills as soon as we moved on to the next window. They too appear to be enjoying the fresh air.

While none of the trees have yet opened their leaf buds, the poplars have begun to flower and their silver-gray catkins are providing a welcome softening to the hillside. The red maples are on the verge and will be popping out in flower any day now.

All the redpolls have long gone to be replaced by the purple finches and even a goldfinch or two ave been showing up at the feeders. I'm sure, their numbers will be increasing as word gets out that there's a free lunch to be had. Somewhat surprising to me is that there are still six to ten evening grosbeaks around. I thought they would have taken off for their northern breeding ground by now but, perhaps, they too have been lulled into staying by the pines in the area and the free food that's available.

I'll be heading out early tomorrow for a few days up at the Bolt Hole to asses what maintenance needs to be done. There's a growing list of rebuilding and landscaping chores on which Mark has been working. Too much water has gotten into the garage from both the roof and poor drainage around the base. All that snow we had, when melted, just ran into the garage and froze on the gravel floor, effectively cementing the ATV, brush hog, and log splitter to the ground. Something has to be done about that. The roof sagged considerably under the weight of the snow and ice and small, but damaging leaks persisted for much of the winter. And the back corner of the garage has been slowly sinking because the wooden sill is pretty much crumbling to powder from beetles and rot.

Luckily, cutting firewood will not be a priority this summer as we burned very little of what we cut last year. And if we decide to cut any, there are more than enough maple and cherry trees blown down by the storms of last August/September to provide.

If Mark is there for a day or two we'll do some emergency work on the garage and clear out some scrub pine from around what used to be an apple orchard in the hopes of bringing back some of the trees that have persisted in growing there. We (meaning mostly Mark) have already opened up a nice little area behind the garage and some of those trees produced apples last year that helped attract deer to the property.

It will be good to get out and start doing some physical labor again that doesn't include shoveling snow. The trick will be not to jump in too deep and over do things. After a winter of leisure that could lead to more than just a few aching muscles with my back history. Before you know it, I'll have to be making regular trips to the Bolt Hole just to cut the grass.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Baseball vs Football

George Carlin on the differences between football and baseball:

Strike Three!

Okay, so I was looking at some things on YouTube and came across this clip of One Of The Best Pitches Ever Made! (It’s in Japanese so I’ve no idea what the heck they are saying. And it looks to be out of the strike zone yet the umpire calls it a strike. Probably for the sheer audacity.)

Unintended Consequences

Cleaner Air Means a Warmer Europe

Yep, you read that right.

Europe is heating up much faster than climate researchers expected, and now they think they know why: air made dramatically cleaner by anti-pollution programs. With less particle pollution clouding the air, more sunlight is coming through and the continent is getting warmer.
[emphasis added]

The article goes on to say that because of the efforts to cut emissions from auto exhaust and factories, there’s more sunlight reaching the surface of the earth and that causes warmer temperatures.

The dwindling clouds of pollution are apparently the reason that Europe is heating faster than other mid-latitude regions. Since 1980, the average surface air temperature between the Bosporus and the Bay of Biscay has risen by almost an entire degree Celsius -- twice as much as expected. The reasons for this were until recently a matter of heated dispute. Greenhouse gases could explain half that increase, at best. But now climate researchers in Germany, Switzerland and the United States, using data and computer simulations, claim that the rise in temperatures has been caused most directly by a decline in sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere.

The sulfates, they say, act as sunlight filters. Sure, acid rain from those very sulfates was/is damaging to plants and material structures, but the next time someone starts spouting about how man-made greenhouse gases are causing global warming, remember to consider the economic costs and ponder what just might happen to the climate should we succeed. It appears the computer modeling currently being used is, shall we say, questionable.

The findings of this particular study are:

"Our findings contradict the IPCC," said Rolf Philipona of MeteoSwiss, Switzerland's national weather service. He and his colleague Christian Ruckstuhl, who now works as a researcher in California, analyzed data from 25 weather stations in northern Germany and eight in Switzerland.

"We found that the increase in radiation on the ground is considerably greater under a cloudless sky than a clouded one,"

The IPCC questioned the effect that sulfate aerosols have on the atmosphere.

But there is good news—of a sorts:

Europe's air is not likely to get much cleaner than it is now -- neither in summer or in winter. "The concentration of aerosol is stabile," said ETH Zurich's Wild. And Philipona of the Swiss weather service, is sure that "this increase in temperature, as we saw in Europe in the 1980s, will not happen again."

So the amount of sunlight reaching the ground should not increase appreciably. (Unless, as has been suggested, the sun alters its own output.)

The article does end with what has become the standard doom-and-gloom warning.

But this is by no means an announcement that the danger has passed. Greenhouse gases are still represent a threat, and increasing and unchecked emissions will almost certainly warm the Earth's atmosphere. The German Meteorological Society (DMG) claims that the median temperature in Europe in 2040 will be 1.7 degrees Celsius higher than the median temperature before the Industrial Revolution. Frequent heat waves, severe storms and other extreme weather are a foregone conclusion.

(h/t Jungle Trader.)


Theo Sparks ( Last of the Few ) had this video up on his website today. I thought it was appropriate for the day after, so I stole it. Some interesting facts about the US Income Tax. - Watch more free videos

I tried doing our income taxes—once. After fifteen minutes of going through the forms trying to translate the gobbledegook I got so freakin’ pissed off that the papers got thrown across the room. Terry took over and did them for years. At the time she worked in NYC and I worked in NJ while we lived in NJ. We had to file forms for three different areas (NJ, NYC, and NYS) plus the feds.

Then the kids grew up and started working. In different states. Jess was in Maryland then California then Massachusetts as well as NJ. Rick was in NJ and then NJ, Idaho and God knows where else with the Marines. And I had a summer camp job in NYS as well as my teaching in NJ and Terry still had the NYS and NYC thing. Terry tried doing them all one year and vowed never again. So it was off to a CPA who happened to do them all for a cut rate as a special for teachers in the district. (He was a school board member and a friend.) That happened for several years until the kids went on their separate ways and we retired.

Terry’s back to doing them for just the two of us. I still can’t take the hassle of looking at the freakin’ things. The tax forms are one of the few things that can get my blood pressure thumping just by seeing ‘em in the post office or library. We owed PA something less than a dollar this year and got enough money back from the fed to pay for a new hutch and a trip to California in June for a wedding we’ll be attending. I hate the idea that we loaned the government so much money but it beats the hell out of having to write them a check.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Offler is here.

Great. Offler , the Crocodile God of Disc World has made his appearance on Earth.

Statue of runaway crocodile put up in Azov Sea city

This is how it begins. Someone or some small group of ones takes it into their head that someone or something needs to be worshipped and WHAM! you've got a god. (Small "g" at first.)

I already know Bilious (the Oh God of Hangovers) is here. I’ve met him a time or two and called his name while offering up sacrifices to the porcelain bowl. Apparently, so have some of the folks from the Spring BlogFest East. Ahem, Erica, Gregor . Chocolate vodka can do that to ya. So will Scotch on the rocks or Irish Dark Ale.

How many more of these Disc World deities have already taken up residence?

(h/t Jungle Trader)


Don Surber reports: Victory over global warming

That may be true, but I hope we haven't gone too far. There have been reports of record snowfalls (total accumulation) from Maine to Washington state this winter. Mark reports the open fields and trails are free from snow around the Bolt Hole but that it's still knee deep in the shaded woods.

It was 28 degrees at 7 AM for the second morning in a row. And the afternoon high yesterday was a mere 45 degrees. According to weather .com the daily averages for my locale are supposed to be high of 56 degrees and low of 32 degrees. We might reach 50 degrees today but the forecast is for another below average night of 28 degrees.

Ah, but then it will shoot up to the 60s by the end of the week for a couple of days. Those above average days will be needed to bring us UP to the average for the month.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Chinooks at 3000 feet

For the second time in two weeks we have had a fly-by of a CH-47 here at the Aerie. Last week it was a solitary Chinook flying east to west at about 3000 feet. This morning it was a formation of four, also at approximately 3000 feet flying east to west. Since the deck of the Aerie is at approximately 2100 feet, these babies were pretty low and the drumming from their twin-rotors vibrated the house. They were moving fairly slowly as they passed overhead, but dummy me didn’t think to grab the camera. Here’s a link to a photo of what I’m talking about. Chinook Helicopter. (UPDATE: This link doesn't seem to work in all browsers. I can get it in Firefox but not AOL or Safari or IE. Aaarrrrgh!)

So I'll have to do it this way:

(There are lots more pretty pictures and history at this site. )

I did manage to get the field glasses on the last two but could not see any markings.

Last week I thought the flight might have been related to the wind farm construction scheduled to begin any day now. After today’s flight I’m not so sure.

I’ve experienced these sorts of flights up at the Bolt Hole prior to their shutting Griffis Air Force Base in Rome, NY. Occasional flights from/to Fort Drum in the northwest corner of NYS still pass over. (My area of the Adirondack Park has little Wilderness designation so it’s a good place for them to fly.) The thwump-thwump-thwump of the helicopters’ engines always makes me think of the opening to MASH.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Snowing...again and again

I woke up this morning to the sound of water running in the gutters and thought, heck, it's raining. Wrong. It was snowing...and has been for the last three hours at least. The temperature has fallen over night and is currently hovering at 33 degrees and with the warm weather of the last few days, any snow that has reached the ground has been most locations.

The squirrels have been stoking up on sunflower seeds like they expect the earth to be entering a new ice age. One is currently sitting on the deck rail next to the tray feeder. He blindly reaches out with his right paw and scoops a seed from the tray. Quick as a flash, that paw carries the seed to his mouth where he grasps it with both paws and shucks the inner goodness out. The left paw drops the seed hull while the right sweeps the feed tray for another morsel. It's impressive to watch as a small mile of seed hulls is swiftly built up on the deck rail. Occasionally the pile falls to the deck when it becomes unstable or the squirrel shifts position.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Obama Implosion

Now, I don't usually get all political over here (ahem, okay, not too much), but this is just a terrible thing. This Democrat race to the presidential nomination has been like watching NASCAR and just waiting for the Big Crash. You know there's going to be one that completely wipes out the field sooner or later. So far we've had lots of crumpled fenders and forced pit stops but nothing, thanks to a most cooperative press, that has completely crippled either of the front runners...until now.

Being a new resident of the Keystone State and likely to be considered a flatlander for the rest of my days no matter what my behavior, this kinda, sorta hit close to home.

What Obama said about Pennsylvanians:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Now, as to what is being said about Obama:

Ace weighs in Obama To Rural Pennsylvanians: Vote For Me, You Corncob-Smokin', Banjo-Strokin' Chicken-Chokin' Cousin-Pokin' Inbred Hillbilly Racist Morons

And again: Great Day 2 Run-Down on Obama's Redneck Rampage Speech

From Just One Minute: I Was Born In A Small Town: “IT'S ABOUT JUDGMENT: Barack routinely lauds his good judgment in wanting to stay out of Iraq. Now let's see if he stays out of Pennsylvania.”

Lots of good links and comments too, including:

Rand Simberg at Terrestrial Musings: The Slow Descent Into Hell Read the whole thing including the comments (HALP US . The mid morning update brings you this: “This is turning out to be the Blazing Saddles election:

It's amazing how many lines from that movie work for this campaign.

The first question Obama got in Iowa

What's a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?

Explaining the Iowa caucus to newcomers

Now, I suppose you're all wondering just what in the heck you're doing out here in the middle of a prairie in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.

Crowd: You bet your ass.

Start at the beginning and work your way through the whole piece. Also read all the comments.

Micky Kaus at Slate: Cling Along with Barack : “I used to think working class voters had conservative values because they were bitter about their economic circumstances--welfare and immigrants were "scapegoats," part of the false consciousness that would disappear when everyone was guaranteed a good job at good wages. Then I left college. ...” he’s got more too.

It is not a very pretty sight when one witnesses a person of promise, even if only in his own mind, self destruct. Democrat implosion in 5…4…3…

Another Bird Walk

Saturdays during April and May the Tiadaghton Audubon Society helps lead bird walks at Hills Creek State Park. This morning I had agreed to help Gary lead the walk. Turns out there were virtually no capers at the park and of those there, no one seemed to want to go birding. Still we had several members of the Audubon Society there and one professor from Mansfield U with her husband and toddler.

It was another gorgeous morning to be out. Last night’s heavy thunderstorms seem to have grounded several birds on the lake and certainly went a long way to producing clean, fresh air. The Long-tailed Duck was a rarity. (It used to e called an Old Squaw before things went all PC.) The number of Buffleheads was also surprising. Some warblers are starting to show up and the park ranger said she’s got bluebirds sitting on eggs already. Guess that means there are some bugs starting to appear.

Anyway, here’s the report:
Location: Hills Creek State Park
Observation date: 4/12/08
Notes: Bright sunny morning after a night of heavy thunderstorms. Temperature between 50-55 degrees. Wind brisk 10-15 mph out of the west-southwest.
Number of species: 28

Tundra Swan 1
Mallard 3
Ring-necked Duck 2
Lesser Scaup 1
Long-tailed Duck 1
Bufflehead 38
Horned Grebe 6
Great Blue Heron 2
Bonaparte's Gull 13
Ring-billed Gull 5
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 4
Northern Flicker 2
Eastern Phoebe 3
American Crow 5
Common Raven 2
Black-capped Chickadee 5
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Eastern Bluebird 2
Swainson's Thrush 5
European Starling 6
Cedar Waxwing 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 6
Pine Warbler 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 6
Northern Cardinal 2
Common Grackle 4

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Another Bird Walk

Saturdays during April and May the Tiadaghton Audubon Society helps lead bird walks at Hills Creek State Park. This morning I had agreed to help Gary lead the walk. Turns out there were virtually no capers at the park and of those there, no one seemed to want to go birding. Still we had several members of the Audubon Society there and one professor from Mansfield U with her husband and toddler.

It was another gorgeous morning to be out. Last night’s heavy thunderstorms seem to have grounded several birds on the lake and certainly went a long way to producing clean, fresh air. The Long-tailed Duck was a rarity. (It used to e called an Old Squaw before things went all PC.) The number of Buffleheads was also surprising. Some warblers are starting to show up and the park ranger said she’s got bluebirds sitting on eggs already. Guess that means there are some bugs starting to appear.

Anyway, here’s the report:
Location: Hills Creek State Park
Observation date: 4/12/08
Notes: Bright sunny morning after a night of heavy thunderstorms. Temperature between 50-55 degrees. Wind brisk 10-15 mph out of the west-southwest.
Number of species: 28

Tundra Swan 1
Mallard 3
Ring-necked Duck 2
Lesser Scaup 1
Long-tailed Duck 1
Bufflehead 38
Horned Grebe 6
Great Blue Heron 2
Bonaparte's Gull 13
Ring-billed Gull 5
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 4
Northern Flicker 2
Eastern Phoebe 3
American Crow 5
Common Raven 2
Black-capped Chickadee 5
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Eastern Bluebird 2
Swainson's Thrush 5
European Starling 6
Cedar Waxwing 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 6
Pine Warbler 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 6
Northern Cardinal 2
Common Grackle 4

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hey Son, Are you ready to rumble?

My son is currently living and working in Eugene, Oregon. I hope he keeps his eyes open:

Swarm of Earthquakes Detected Off Oregon

There have been more than 600 quakes over the past 10 days in a basin 150 miles southwest of Newport. The biggest was magnitude 5.4 and two others were more than magnitude 5.0, OSU reported. They have not followed the typical pattern of a major shock followed by a series of diminishing aftershocks, and few have been strong enough to be felt on shore.

It looks like what happens before a volcanic eruption, except there are no volcanoes in the area, Dziak said.

Yet. He should have added, “yet” to the end of that sentence.

Here’s a map of the area.

Yep, it's just like that.

It's unfortunate, but this is soooo true.

humorous pictures
see more crazy cat pics

Got a nice scratching post over there in the corner. Do they use it? Noooooo! Couch, hassock, chair, leg...yes, scratching post? Feh!


We seem to be in the midst of some Camelot Rains. last night it poured. Today, while not perfect had very few showers. Tonight, the forecast is for possible thunderstorms.

(It's not Julie Andrews and Richard Burton, but it's not bad. Richard Harris' voice just doesn't have those rich and vibrant tones of Sir Richard Burton.)

I just wish the law did limit the amount of snow...but since it only came in 4 to 5 inch increments this year. Mmmm. Maybe I should change the name from Aerie to Camelot.

Today's bird report

I decided to keep a list of the birds I viewed from the deck of the Aerie today. I would casually not what appeared outside and occasionally take five or ten minutes outside to listen here is the list I compiled. I've not given the number of individuals because some of them were coming and going all day (chickadees, mourning doves, and juncoes in particular).

Turkey Vulture
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Great Blue Heron
Mourning Dove
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
American Robin
Evening Grosbeak
Song Sparrow
Purple Finch
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird

Yep, 20 species in all and they were all spotted between 7 AM and 12:30. That's when the sharp-shinned first showed up. He took a white-breasted nuthatch to lunch. It was pretty cool to watch. The hawk appeared on one side of the clearing while there were small birds (juncos, chickadees and the one nuthatch) on the other side near the feeders. The hawk sat and watched while the little guys did their thing to my seed supply. Then the nuthatch got careless and turned his back on the hawk to worry a sunflower seed on the top of a stump. Faster than you could say "Jackie Robinson" that hawk was across the clearing and had the nuthatch pinned with it's very pointed talons against the side of the stump. He held it fro a bit and then flew off into the woods clutching his lunch. I thought that would be the end of my viewing, but in a moment the sharpie dropped to a log on the forest floor well within my sight and began to rip the little nuthatch to pieces. I could see the feathers being scattered to the breeze. I watched for over a quarter hour while the sharp-shin finished his meal. I got distracted and when I looked back, he was gone. He showed up again, however, at 2:30 and at 5 PM brought a friend--a second sharpie just a bit different in size but nowhere near large enough to be a Cooper's Hawk which looks almost exactly the same. I don't think any more small birds were taken during the second and third visits, but I may be wrong. Things would quiet down right quick when the hawk appeared. Soon after he left, things were back to the normal hustle and bustle, however.

Oh, and two deer walked through the edge of the yard around 2:30, too. Normally there are three that travel together. I call them Mom and the twins since that's what I got on film early last summer and what I saw at that time on the edge of the yard. I'm wondering if Mom kicked the kids out while she's gone off to have this year's fawn(s). With the grasses starting to turn green again, it's about time for her to drop if she got knocked up last fall. She didn't look preggers when I saw her last about two weeks ago and she was still with the twins at that time. But they were slinking through the woods and not so much out in the open so I could have missed the signs. [UPDATE: Saturday morning at 6:30 AM Mom and the Twins were standing in the lawn trying to coax the grass to grow faster. No new fawns and she's not carrying any half-barrels on either side of her like they were panniers packed with new life. Oh well.]

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Just because it's cracked,
don't mean it's broke.

Butt Machine

My son saw That 1 Guy out in Eugene a couple of weeks ago and sent me a link to his page. I just got around to looking on YouTube to see if any of his stuff was there. This has got a very addictive beat.

Another Birding Walk

A gorgeous day here in north-central PA. Today's birding walk took us to the newest section of the Rails-to-Trails path that starts off Route 287 just west of Wellsboro all the way down to Jersey Shore. We parked at the trail head near Route 287 and walked about two miles along the trail and then turned around and returned to our cars. A very nice, sun drenched walk it was, too. Just the sort of thing you want for an early spring walk. There were wet farm fields on both sides of the trail and several groves of very old growth trees, poplar, maple, sycamore and more. Marsh Creek drains (and floods!) this area as it flows between and parallel to the trail and Route 6.

Here's the report for today's walk:
Location: Rails-to-Trails Rt 287 W
Observation date: 4/10/08
Notes: Bright sunny morning. Clear and calm with 45-55 degree temperatures.
Number of species: 28

Canada Goose 4
Wood Duck 2
Mallard 8
Turkey Vulture 4
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Killdeer 5
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
Mourning Dove 4
Belted Kingfisher 2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 2
Blue Jay 3
American Crow 10
Common Raven 3
Black-capped Chickadee 3
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 2
American Robin 16
European Starling 12
Cedar Waxwing 29
Song Sparrow 16
Northern Cardinal 3
Red-winged Blackbird 21
Rusty Blackbird 1
Common Grackle 19
American Goldfinch 9

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

More Spring signage

Just got or monthly delivery of propane which fuels our heat and hot water and the bill was fully one-half what it was last month. YAHOOO!

(Still, the per gallon cost is wild crazy!)


Sometimes, it is not wise to attempt to feed wild critters.

Sometimes it is best to allow Mother Nature to handle things her way.

Sometimes you do them a disservice by keeping them alive when they should be thinned by weakness and starvation.

Sometimes you realize you're going to need more ammo than you've got on hand and a much bigger freezer.

Here's why.

(h/t Theo at Last of the few.)

Monday, April 07, 2008

He's ba-ack.

The Sharp-shin came back to day to dine at the fast food joint I call my bird feeders. He landed in the exact same spot as yesterday. I could tell because I hadn’t moved the tripod the camera was on and when I turned the camera on—voila! He was right in the view finder. This time I moved the camera and slid the porch door and screen out of the way so there was nothing between the lens and the bird. The pictures came out much, much better.





As you can see, I also played with the digital zoom on the camera a bit. Man, I love those red eyes!

Oh, and the smaller birds? They seem to have found it in their hearts to head north or somewhere. Could be because of the Sharp-shin. Could be because the neighbors' cats are out there when the hawk isn't. Then again, it could be because the wind has been blowing out of the south for two days and it's been pretty warm here. (Add the sound of wood frogs and spring peepers to the signs that spring may have actually arrived.)

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Let me draw you a picture of what I saw on I-180 just southeast of Williamsport today as I drove home.

Have you ever watched steer wrestling at the rodeo? The mounted cowboy and a steer are placed in chutes side by side. When the cowboy gives the go ahead, the two doors are flung open. The steer makes a mad dash for freedom and the cowboy spurs his mount alongside. The cowboy slides himself from the saddle, grabs the steer’s horns, twists the nearside horn into his belt buckle while digging his heels into the arena’s soft earthen floor. The cowboy’s goal is to get that steer off his feet and laying on his side. The steer wants no part of it. In the process, the steer’s head is often looking over his shoulder toward his tail and the cowboy’s belt buckle just as he totters over with his body falling away from the cowboy.

Now, replace that steer with a red Chevy Blazer (the head) and a 27-28 foot long travel trailer. The cowboy was long gone. (Unless that was the small car in the ditch a quarter mile back up the road.) That trailer almost toppled over on its right side but the red tow vehicle was looking back up the road—over its shoulder so to speak—and its weight prevented the whole kit and caboodle from going over. That and the fact that the hitch area (where the red vehicle and trailer were joined) was smack dab on top of the end of an overpass abutment.

Didn’t seem like anyone was hurt. There were no fire engines, ambulances or anything like that. Just the two police cars and several guys with flags waving cars through the small gap between the butt end of the trailer and the side of the bridge. (Larger trucks were being diverted to the west bound lanes to return from whence they came cause there was no way they were getting through the gap. I cleared with maybe a foot to spare.)

I, of course, didn’t think to grab either my digital camera or my cell phone to snap a picture. But, hey, I hate rubber-neckers as it is. Bunch of ghouls and vultures. I will say that all I could think of when I saw the wreck was, “That poor bastard. Glad it’s not me!”

A sharp-shin!

A rather the small hawk has taken to calling our small feeding birds, “Lunch.” It has been here before. I saw it take a small bird early last week and then spotted it again as it swooped past last Thursday. Saturday I spotted it perched on a branch on the other side of the yard as it waited for some small bird to come to the feeders but it flew off just as I got the digiscope set to take a picture. Today, when I got back from Princeton, I noticed there were no birds at the feeders—which wasn’t really surprising since I wasn’t here to put seed out this morning. But then I saw him—sitting pretty as you please in the sunlight directly above the feeders on the side of the house. I set the scope up inside the house, not wanting to spook him from his perch by opening the sliding door and snapped one picture after another through the glass f the door. There’s some fuzziness to the pictures despite my toying with the focus on the scope as I snapped shots. I think it may have been caused by shooting through two panes of glass at an angle.

Last summer we had one that chased several birdsin what could have been described as an aerial dogfight. The prey trying desperately to get away would dart in every direction with the small hawk duplicating its every move. Twice I saw such action end in puffs of loose feathers as dinner was captures. Only once did I see the prey escape in the branches of a pine.




Sharp-shinned Hawk
And more here.

Spring is really here!

How do I know? It has nothing to do with the budding forsythia I saw down in Princeton, NJ, or the New Jersey trout fishermen I saw along the Pequest River yesterday or at the Millstone River basin and adjacent canal off Washington Street in Princeton, or the blooming daffodils on the Dodge Estate along Route 206, or even the half dozen groundhogs I saw scampering along the side of the highway as I drove back to the Aerie today. No, proof that spring has really arrived is on the windshield of the Tundra in the form of squished bugs.

(Also, the ladybugs are appearing on the outside of the windows. Oh, and the mourning doves on the deck are really pitching woo to the point of being pornographic.)

What the hey?

What is it with the Mets and Atlanta? They can beat the crap out of every other team but Atlanta holds some real strong joojoo ore something over them. The lose two 11-5 and 3-1 over the weekend in that vortex of the south.

Whew! What a night!

Imagine my surprise to learn the hazards to my health blogging may carry. I was thinking more in the lines of what happened to that poor woman sitting on the crapper for two years.

I wonder if the NY Times is pushing this story in an attempt to discourage folks from blogging. They and other MSM outlets have been stung repeatedly by bloggers who have caught them embellishing the truth, shall we say. (Or maybe “misspeaking” would be a more appropriate phrase to use here.) As a result, their market share, not to mention the price of their shares on the market, have eroded considerably. Whatever their purpose, I can truthfully say that no one in attendance last evening seemed to be suffering any ill effects from the grind of posting news, commentary and entertainment daily.

I will confess that part of the reason for traveling into Princeton, New Jersey yesterday to attend the Spring Blogfest ’08 was to get out of this chair in which I’m sitting. It’s becoming rather molded to the shape of my buttocks and back. That was one reason. Another was curiosity. Having read the blogs of many of those attending and commented thereon, I wanted to be able to put faces to the names and the thoughts so freely shared. Also, it’s farookin’(as Jimbo would say) April and I wanted to get the heck out of the house. Cabin fever can lead one to do some strange things.

On the way to Princeton, I drove down a stretch of US Route 206 that I haven’t been on in about six years. The development and congestion have continued to increase despite all the rumors of folks fleeing the Garden State. Several new developments in the Hillsborough/Somerville area on what were farms back then now sprout McMansions. Although there’s not a tree to be seen along the new and as yet unpaved roads, I’m sure they will give the streets names like Oak Terrace, Pine Court or some such. (BTW, If the freaking housing market is so bad, where’s the money—and the buyers—for these projects coming from?)

Princeton itself was jam packed with people and automobiles on Saturday. There must have been two or three different athletic events taking place on the University grounds. (I know of one track meet and overheard someone talking about soccer.) Add the folks just strolling along Nassau Street in the warm, bright sunshine of early spring and you’ve got the picture. Not a parking space to be found on any of the streets or outdoor municipal lots. I had to venture into the parking garage. Luckily, this is America! The clearance was for 7’ 6” which was more than enough for my Tundra and the Hummer parked nearby.
I strolled the street for a bit and was struck by the comparison of what might be found in other college towns. Up in Amherst, Massachusetts, and in Moscow, Idaho every telephone pole carried multi colored posters for imrov groups, bands, clubs, etc. In Princeton, these were confined, more or less, to one or two multisided kiosks. In those other towns (as well as in Pullman, WA—home to Washington State, North Hampton, MA—home of Smith College, or Ithaca, NY—home to both Ithaca College and Cornell University) one is likely to meet a more—well, diverse group of people. In Princeton, hair color is confined to the normal shades of the human race and visible body piercings are pretty much confined to the ears. The other college towns’ denizens display a bit more imagination. Hair color alone is more likely to represent many more hues of the spectrum. And let us not discuss where the piercings might go on the face. In short, while the Princeton sidewalks were crowded, the people walking along them were rather—well—bland for a college town. Plus there were real families from toddlers in strollers to grandparents walking together.

Not wanting to get too much sun on my bald pate, I ducked into the Triumph Brewing Company early (about 4 PM) to sample some of their fine micro-brews before the rest of the throng showed up. I picked out a bar stool and ordered a pint of Irish Dry Stout from the chalk board. When the barmaid served it up, it was a nice dark brown with a fantastically rich and creamy head at the top. Well, before 6 PM arrived, I had had three more pints and felt pretty bullet proof.

Suffice to say that I had a very good time meeting and speaking with numerous blogger from up and down the eastern seaboard. They came in from Georgia, Massachusetts, Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania to talk and eat and drink—not necessarily in order of importance from what I could gather.

Fausta has posted a round-up of those who attended last evening’s festivities in Princeton. She’s got quite a few pictures up too.

A big thanks to Fausta and Jimbo of Parkway Rest Stop for organizing this event.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Off to peek behind the curtain...

...and see just who the wizards are. I'm talking about other bloggers who will be at this confab in Princeton, New Jersey on Saturday. yeah, I'm heading out of the mountains and into the big city. (Well, not so big maybe, but still a heck of a lot more crowded than the little college town of Mansfield, PA, not to mention the crossroads of a town in which I live.)

The list of attendees is impressive. There are quite a few bloggers there whom I’ve been reading and a few totally new to me, but I’ll be interested in meeting them all. So far this blogging has been a solitary pursuit with nothing but comment chatter and one or two emails between me and the other folks out there. It will be interesting to see if the mental pictures I’ve constructed of several of the more, shall we say, flamboyant personalities are accurate.

I'd give names for those I especially wish to meet but that wouldn't be right for I do, indeed, wish to meet them all if only to shake off this mantel of hermitdom Ive donned since last December. It's been just me, Terry, the cats, the birds and the guys and gals at Agway where I've been buying birdseed. This will be the largest gathering of humans I've been to since the trip down to Cabela's back in early December. Hope I can remember to use the right fork, say please and thank you, and think on my feet with out getting all tongue-tied.(Although, I might have to ask some to speak more slowly just so's I can make out what the heck they're saying.)

I was going to stay at my Mother-in-Law’s in Linden but that’s a one hour drive up Route 1 from Princeton. After considering the time this here blog meet is supposed to wrap up (11 PM) and the amounts of adult beverage allegedly imbibed in previous similar events, I opted to book a room in a nearby motel.

Terry will also be going into her Mom’s tomorrow as they have a First Communion to go to on Sunday. I will skip that event and head back to the Aerie in the afternoon. Terry and her Mom will be heading out to San Francisco on Thursday for a bridal shower so she will stay in Linden. They won't return until someday during the week of April 14. They're flying standby via arrangements made by the groom who is an airline pilot so things are going to be a bit of spur-of-the-moment for them.

Looks lean, mean and ...white?

Ace has posted a picture that’s sure to make Jimbo at Parkway Rest Stop get all excited—just not in a good way.

This is…mmm…cool

Global temperatures will drop slightly this year as a result of the cooling effect of the La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said.

Global warming 'dips this year'


Love the headline but I’ve one question: Does it refer to the temperature or the proponents of Global Warming?

I guess the “science” may be “settled” but ole Ma Nature hasn’t had her say yet.

There is always a “but”:

But experts say we are still clearly in a long-term warming trend - and they forecast a new record high temperature within five years.

The WMO points out that the decade from 1998 to 2007 was the warmest on record. Since the beginning of the 20th Century, the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74C.

I’m curious as to how much they would be willing to wager on that little prediction. Will they come back five years from now and say, “Oops!” or merely make another five-year plan. Sorta like the USSR did with its economic plans right up to the end.

And the recorded rise in temperatures? Has nothing to do with the urban encroachment upon many of the temperature recording sites, though. Or the changing solar output. Nope, not a thing.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Ball players of old

This post over at Erica’s Blog about a Jewish boxer studying to be a Rabbi got me thinking about some famous Jewish baseball players.

(Hey, it’s baseball season. Everything makes me think about baseball. And I mean EVERYTHING!)

There was Hank Greenburg of the Detroit Tigers who took a lot of guff because of his religion. Said to have been subject to the more segregation and bias than any other white man, even his teammates treated him poorly. But he was "Hammerin' Hank" before Hammerin' Hank AARON came along.

And lets’ not forget Sandy Koufax, one of, if not the, greatest left-handed pitchers of all time. Koufax once sat out a World Series game because it fell on one of the Jewish holidays. (Yom Kippur 1965 against the Minnesota Twins.) ( Art Shamsky would also be remembered for sitting out during Yom Kippur. In 1969 he was playing with the New York Mets. It wasn’t the World Series, however, just a crucial double header near the end of that fabulous ’69 season. “The funny thing was, the Mets won both ends of a double header” that day, remembers Shamsky.)

But the most unusual of all was the Kid from Roseville Avenue: Baseball's Brainiest Player...and Top World War II Spy

Moe Berg: baseball player (catcher), Princeton graduate (magna cum laude, no less),attendee of the Sorbonne in Paris, graduate of Columbia Law School (one of 33 out of 500 to pass the bar exam and with the 3rd highest score to boot), master of many languages, baseball instructor to the Japanese in 1932--in Japanese, OSS assassin/spy during WWII. Oh, and he was a Jersey boy.

He died in 1972 in the Clara Mass Hospital in Belleville. His final words, reported by a Hospital nurse, were: "How did the Mets do today?"

From the Wikipedia entry:
As to his play, it was his action on the field that led one scout having to report truthfully to his bosses as to what Berg was like as a player to say those famous words, “Good field, no hit.”

Even converting to catcher from shortstop, things didn’t change. He couldn’t hit but he could field and throw like the dickens. He once set a record for consecutive error free games: American League record 117 games ending On April 22, 1934, when Berg made an error, his first fielding mistake since 1932.

Casey Stengel once described Berg as "the strangest man ever to play baseball.”

"Yeah. I know, and he can't hit in any of them." — Dave Harris, [Washington] Senators' outfielder, when told that Berg spoke seven languages.

Benefits of coffee

A coffee with your doughnut could protect against Alzheimer's disease

A daily dose of caffeine blocks the disruptive effects of high cholesterol that scientists have linked to Alzheimer's disease.

This is great news. If it pans out, I should be safe from any form of Alzheimer's.

… caffeine equivalent to just one cup of coffee a day could protect the blood-brain barrier (BBB) from damage that occurred with a high-fat diet.

With the amount of caffeine I get every morning my BBB should be thick enough and strong enough to repel anything up to and including a sidewinder missile.

(Now, if the damn Goose hadn’t shut its doors, I could get that donut, too.)

Can we question their sanity now?

This woman needs to have her head handed to her. She is a total asshole.
Pelosi warns Petraeus on Iraq testimony

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned Army Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker on Thursday “not to put a shine on recent events” in Iraq when they testify before Congress next week.

“I hope we don’t hear any glorification of what happened in Basra,” said Pelosi, referring to a recent military offensive against Shiite militants in the city led by the Iraqi government and supported by U.S. forces.

The only thing she and her Democratic cohorts would like to hear is that we are having our butts kicked.

Before they even hear a word of testimony, they have drawn conclusions as to what is correct and what isn’t. Just as Representative Murtha was so damn sure the Hiddatha marines had “murdered in cold blood,” the rest of the Dems are adamant in their notions of what is going on in Iraq. The pack of them make me sick.

They don’t give a f*ck about the truth. They can’t handle the truth. To them the truth requires a serious suspension of their own preconceived beliefs.

[You know, upon reflection, that last paragraph may be why Hillary and Obama have done as well as they have. Both play fast and loose with the truth.]

Mets 13, Marlins 0

So the injury bug got Pedro right away and the Mets’ great opening day with Johan Santana was overshadowed by Marinez’s trip to the DL . What to do?

Well, based on last night’s performance by Oliver Perez, there’s not much to worry about. Perez was masterful as he went six innings striking out eight and walking just one while scattering five hits and allowing no runs in the Mets’ 13-0 shellacking of the Florida Marlins.

The bullpen, the alleged weak spot in the Mets’ pitching, allowed just one hit over the final three innings. In the first three games, the relievers have allowed just one run, the walk off homerun in the 10th inning on Tuesday.

And the offense without Alou? It’s doing just fine, thank you. The Mets hammered the Marlin’s staff for 17 hits including six doubles and two homeruns. Beltran had three doubles last night giving him five for the first three games. Wright hit his first homerun, a three run shot in the 6th, and had a double, his third of the season. Pagan and Church went a combined 5-for-9 with five RBI. (Church had a two-run homer in the 2nd.)

Now it’s on to Atlanta for a three game set before heading to New York for their home opener against the Phillies on Tuesday.

Birding Pine Creek Gorge

We did our little bird walk along the Darling Run stretch of the Pine Creek Rails-to-Trails this morning. The day was very, very chilly with a starting temperature at 8:30 AM of 25 degrees and ending temperature at 10:30 of just 35 degrees. That latter temperature is misleading, however, as the sun doesn’t penetrate the bottom of the gorge on which the trail is located until after 10 o’clock.

last year on the same date, April 3rd, we had 28 species. This year...not so many. Just 18 different species were seen and the numbers of individuals were down as well. We did have a quite a few Kinglets flitting through the shrubbery. (I only had positive ID on 6, but there were more.) And a small group of Brown Creepers were also present. This little guys are usually difficult to spot but not this time as they danced up and fluttered down from trees right in front of us.

The eagle’s nest is occupied and one of the adults’ heads was clearly visible. The other adult was not seen and neither were any sign of chicks. A DNCR maintenance crew traveling the trail stopped and told us there were reports of two other nests much further down the Grand Canyon at which the eaglets had hatched. Oh, well. It’s almost like fishing: “Should have been here yesterday.” Or “They’re really biting over on ______ “ [some other river or lake thirty miles from where you are].

Anyway, here’s the report from today’s walk:
Location: Pine Creek/Darling Run
Observation date: 4/3/08
Notes: Very cold 25 degrees at start up to 35 when we ended. Sunny and clear but in the deep gorge very shaded. Pine Creek was running high and fast.
Number of species: 18

Canada Goose 5
Wood Duck 4
Mallard 1
Hooded Merganser 5
Common Merganser (North American) 12
Turkey Vulture 2
Bald Eagle 1
Mourning Dove 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Brown Creeper 5
Golden-crowned Kinglet 6
American Robin 7
Song Sparrow 8
Red-winged Blackbird 1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Time to go Birding!

With spring providing glimpses of what’s to come (it was 65 degrees and sunny yesterday!), it’s time to get out the walking shoes, guidebook and binoculars and hit the birding hot spots around the area.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading over to the Pine Creek Gorge (Pennsylvania’s own Grand Canyon) at Darling Run to check out the Bald Eagle nest across the creek and see what water fowl might have arrived. I’m sure it will be cool in the recesses of the gorge. The sun has a difficult time penetrating down into the north-south cleft between the hills. Last year, we got out in the field for the first time on March 26 (50 degrees but with some ice still on Hammond Lake) and then to Darling Run on April 3rd where we found ice on the stone outcrops along the rails-to-trails bicycle path.

It will be fun to get back out in and bird watching with some good folks again.

RU falls to UConn, 66-56

Rutgers R.small

The Rutgers Women’s basketball season came to a close last night with a loss to #1 seeded Connecticut in Greensboro, NC. The No. 2-seeded Scarlet Knights fell 66-56, but the game was much closer than that. The RU squad led by as much as 14 points in the first half but the Huskies battled back. When UConn’s Maya Moore hit a tie breaking 3-pointer with less than three minutes to go in the game, UConn was in the driver’s seat.

Having to make some jumpers while at the same time fouling to regain control of the ball (and hoping UConn would miss the foul shots), RU couldn’t get the ball to go in the hoop and UConn couldn’t keep it out. Rutgers rarely scored in those final minutes. The Huskies were a perfect 14-for-14 from the free throw stripe.

UConn now advances to the Final 4 to face off against Stanford, a team they beat way back in November at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. The score then was nearly identical to last night’s: 66-54.

Full story and stats here.

Mets lose to Fish, 5-4 in 10
Lose Pedro too

The New York Mets lost their second game of the season to the Florida Marlins last night 5-4 in extra innings. Reliever Mat Wise yielded a two-out, walk-off home run to rookie Robert Andino in the bottom of the 10th.

While the loss is disappointing, it’s what happened in the fourth inning that hurts even more. After giving up two runs in each of the first two innings to trail 4-0, it looked like starting pitcher Pedro Martinez had settled down . There was a 1-2-3 third inning and a quick out in the fourth when Martinez pulled up with what’s being called a left hamstring strain. He’s on his way to NY for an MRI and will do some time on the Injured Reserve list. How much time, will depend on the results of that MRI.

Full story here.
Box score here.