Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Chickadees hang out for a drink

This is my favorite, a lot going on. Besides the wing stabilizer and the fact that
 the bird is drinking, notice you can see him through the clear ice. Also look
how it clings to both sides of the icicle. I suppose they do it but I have never 
seen a bird cling with its feet in opposition like that,
This year for the first time I was at the East Pole long enough to justify putting out a bird feeder. I hung it off a corner post on the deck and it was there and full most of the time from the middle of December until the end of March.
In that time there was a constant flurry around it. At first maybe a dozen chickadees began hanging out. In time redpolls discovered it and a couple dozen of them came over. Interspersed with them, a couple of Pine grosbeaks stopped by every day and one day a hairy woodpecker showed up.
My presence didn't seem to deter them a bit. A couple of times they almost hit me as they flew around. My chopping block was almost directly under the feeder and even that activity didn't discourage activity around the feeder. It is so quiet in the woods, I could hear their wing beats overhead as I wrestled with firewood and they flew back and forth.
Note the drop of water from another icicle at upper left.
In all it mesmerized me at times and I would discover I had stopped doing whatever my task was and I was watching the interactions among the various birds.
Then one day something new happened. It came about around the middle of March, a time when I have mentioned the temperature on the porch sometimes reaches 80 degrees in the sunshine. I had finished my work for the day and poured three fingers of an expensive scotch over a handful of compressed snow and settled into my deck chair to sip the whiskey and watch the birds. In that heat snow on the roof had begun to melt and icicles formed along the eaves. It took a while to focus on the fact that some of the chickadees were landing on the icicles, clinging to them and staying for a moment or two. At one point I noticed a couple of drips falling off the tip of an icicle and it was in that
Note two drops falling. My friend Gretchen Small was
inspired by this photo to paint the picture at left.
observation I realized the chickadees were drinking the meltwater on the icicles.
Over the next few days I sat out there for several hours with my camera in my lap, watching them drink and sometimes even forgetting to lift the camera. In the process I was able to capture several good photos of this phenomenon. I posted a few of the photos on the Birds of Alaska facebook page and one of them got more than 200 likes and the other about 150. It seemed few if any people had observed this activity by chickadees.
Artwork by Gretchen Small
I found it so interesting, if rain hadn't appeared in the weather forecast, I'd probably still be out there photographing drinking chickadees. I've posted some photos here that show different ways the birds approached the icicles in order to catch a drink.

This one's kind of a stretch.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A joke

So, Kid Rock, Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent walk into the White House …

… what are you waiting for? Isn't that enough of a joke?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

An interesting construct in basketball today.

Watching the Houston-Oklahoma City playoff game today might have held a lesson for young
Some James Harden friends.  Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle
players. To begin with understand that Russell Westbrook of the Thunder is in a neck and neck race for most valuable player with James Harden of the Rockets. Westbrook also set a record this year for number of games with a triple double. To those unfamiliar with basketball that means double digits in three statistical categories, in this case points, assists and rebounds. Steals and blocked shots show up once in a while.
What made it a little more interesting was something the commenters discussed before the game. The two players are friends in the off-season but agreed not to communicate during the playoff series. Then they quoted Westbrook as saying when he is on the court he has only one friend – the basketball. As one said, his only friend is Spalding.
Immediately I thought, what about your teammates? I guess a guy who sets a record for triple doubles has little regard for his teammates. I mean they made the playoffs, though a number six seed. We used to call that guy a gunner or a ball hog. Obviously he can perform, but even Michael Jordan acknowledged his teammates. It sounds like Westbrook plays by himself and those teammates who aren't acknowledged as friends or anything else are only there to feed him the ball.
Nothing was said about Harden and his relationships.
What does it all mean?

Final score: Hardin and the Rockets 118, Westbrook and whoever, 87.  Westbrook had 22 points and no triple double without any friends. Harden with a little help from his friends had 37 points. In the plus/minus statistic: Westbrook -22; Harden +22. Of course it's a seven-game series, so there are more games to play.
Update: In game two Westbrook scored 42 points, still lost. I can hear Joe Cocker singing.
As it turns out Westbrook's team lost the series four games to one. At the end he walked off the court without a handshake or so much as a head nod to his teammates or to the winners. He may need more friends than an inanimate ball.

The sounds of spring

Poets, naturalists and dreamers always look to the symphony of bird songs to welcome the Spring, In this neighborhood it's internal combustion engines and a couple of other loud noises as well,
From the high-pitched whine of two-cycle engines to the lower register rumble of four-strokes on such machines as four-wheelers including my own which I started for the first time this year today, the change of engines from winter to summer marks the arrival. A chainsaw snarls its way through a log, while another two-cycle, probably on a dirt bike runs up and down the scales as it rolls over lumps in the trail to the river or plows through a puddle of water and mud. When the sound stops abruptly you wonder if he didn't flip in the puddle. Over all that a big-block engine roars to life probably over at the drag strip, while small airplanes do touch-and-goes at the airfield.
Then there are more recognizable sounds: a couple of gunshots and from another direction a curse word shouted at some difficulty, the rooster crowing in the chicken yard across the street and occasionally a squirrel chattering at me from the trees overhead.
Such is the orchestration here as the neighborhood wakes up from the long winter. All  of the noise compounded by the scratching of a leaf rake gathering last fall's discards from the trees. Then in a moment of pause, the honking from a wedge of geese flying overhead sends a softer tune across the land only to be interrupted when a chainsaw again bites into a trunk of wood.
Amid it all a realization. Last summer I had great luck with sunflowers. I started them indoors and then put them in a raised garden out by the road where they would get the most sun. They grew to about eight or nine feet. Then in August one grew and blossomed in the garden next to the house. It reached a couple of feet and put out a flower, but I had no idea how it got there. I can't see that I got a seed mixed in with others or a bird found one and dropped it. Then today as I was raking around under the bird feeders before taking them down, as I looked at all the seeds that had been discarded uneaten, it hit me. Could that sunflower have grown from a seed the birds discarded during the winter? I thought those seeds were radiated before they could be sold to prevent invasive species, but who knows? Just for fun I am going to try a few of those seeds this year and see what happens. (That picture is the little sunflower growing amid the leaves of a geranium.)
And April 16, 2017, the ground is mostly still frozen just an inch or so below the surface, so it will be a while yet.
That's springtime in the Butte.

A comment on facebook from a friend in Fairbanks: Sharon Wright: "We always get some
sunflowers sprouting below the bird feeder but they land in gravel and poor soil. I do dig them up and move some of them but they're always stunted. Still, they flower. For our oak 1/2 barrels at the start of our driveway, I buy one Mammoth and one "other" from a local organic greenhouse. They turn out the best. Aren't they just fun to grow? The daily growth is incredible!"

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Taylor Momsen playlist

This is an experiment, For some time now I have been posting playlists on facebook, just music that hits my
Taylor Momsen as she is now, the lead
singer for The Pretty Reckless.
fancy of a given evening. This is an attempt to reproduce one here from tonight:

There's a joke that was going around toward the end of the era when you went to the store to buy your music. A man and his son were browsing through the albums when the man held one up and said. "oh. look, Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings." To which the son replies, " Wings?" That joke killed in the early 80s. A lot of music has gone by since then with a lot of new talent singing, but often without even realizing what the roots were. That's why the other night it was such a joy to see Taylor Momsen tweet a playlist of her favorites. If you don't know about her, you might have seen her in the TV series Gossip Girl or in the movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas. These days at the age of 23 she's a bit different from those roles now standing up as the lead singer for a group called The Pretty Reckless. But, she knows where her roots are. It was so cool to see someone so young playing her favorites and some of them were mine, too, So, instead of me, tonight, this is the playlist she tweeted last week during some downtime while on tour in Germany.

Here's the first song on Taylor Momsen's list.

Yes, my young friends, there was good music even before 1970. 

Anyway here's one that might surprise you. Not exactly The Pretty Reckless kind of music.

Getting closer to The Pretty Reckless, a little different sound. 

Here's a diversion. Doesn't it always happen? I can honestly say I had not heard of The Who until I heard this song and then saw the Woodstock movie. Bear with me. If you have never heard the rock opera Tommy, do it. 

Back to Taylor Momsen and Bill Withers 

Do you wonder who her biggest influences might have been? 

This is one of my all-time favorites. Tops on the The Doors list. 

Ok bear with me a moment. This one knocked me over. It took me a long time to discover how good Cyndi Lauper is, besides "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." I developed an appreciation for her, but I had never heard this. Thank you Taylor Momsen. ( this ends abruptly. On second thought let it play through into the next video, whole thing is there. There is a video available, one more wine and a credit card and I am sold lol)

All right that is the end of her playlist, but it just wouldn't right not to play some of Taylor Momsen's music too. So here come three of my favorites. 

Every musician worth the salt in jazz, blues, rock worlds pays some homage to the Crossroads. Here's one done by Taylor Momsen and The Pretty Reckless.

Well. we came to the end of that one, but I am still going strong and so I am going to explore a little and I might put up a couple more before the night's over. probably unrelated though. Hope you enjoyed this so far.

Well, this one was just too easy.

I think that's it for tonight.

Interesting quotations

"In the final analysis your life is only as good as the background music you dance to." – that was me

"Whether you think that you can or you think you can't, you are right." – Henry Ford

"You want to feel alive until the day you croak" – Frank Gallagher Shameless

"Smooth is good but sailing takes a brisk wind" – me

"I'm a drinker with writing problems." ~ Brendan Behan

"Religious Freedom is not about stopping persecution; it’s about being the one who gets to do it. Glory!" – Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's best Christian

It doesn't matter what you write, it only matters that you write.

"Give someone a book and they'll read all day. Teach someone to write a book and they'll spend a lifetime mired in paralyzing self doubt." – internet meme

"It's been a long time since I heard my backbone crack – Chuck Berry

“Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path.” – JD

"I was the only person up on the hill with both racing numbers and a handicapped placard." – Kitty Delorey Fleischman, a grandmother who occasionally still races her Porsche in hill climbs.

Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. – anon

"Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool." – Mark Twain

Shit happens; you just come up with a different plan. – Kitty

Your body is not a temple. It's an amusement park. – Anthony Bourdain

Never too late for a happy childhood – Berkley Breathed

A real writer doesn't just want to write, a real writer has to write. – Internet meme

"It was like the aftermath of an orgasm with the wrong partner" – David Lagercrants, "The Girl in the Spider's Web"

The non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

We never comprehend how heavy the things are we insist on carrying until we set them down. jd

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio talk show host

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve