Monday, December 31, 2007

Look out be-New Year!

...as I first exclaimed in childhood. Always apropos after such a fine year as 2007. We shall see what 2008 brings (hopefully an end to this dang election nonsense).

My commute takes me past Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport. This morning as I was passing where the airport is first close on the north to I-494, I saw a flying feathered friend heading to perch on a median light. Granted, driving in 6AM darkness at 60 miles per hour (or so) makes it slightly difficult to see, but I'm 95+ percent sure it was a Snowy Owl gliding past. Size and wing shape were wrong for anything other than owl. The overall lightness of the bird stood out, even in the freeway lighting; too light for a Great Horned Owl. Any other birder types see this bird either flying or perched? Sorry, no photos while driving...

Really, I hadn't started New Year's imbibing yet. None of that tonight, I'll be working while the revelers are hopefully reveling and not driving.

Have a safe and wonderful New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

God Jul!

Celebrating my half-Swedeness and wishing everyone wonderful Holidays whatever you are celebrating. I will be blissfully unconnected the next few days, watching wildlife, firelight and Christmas tree at mom's. Have to enjoy these days while they are here. Yes, the wild nieces will be there too. As I said, have to enjoy these days (cringe...). And to all a good night until about a week from now!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rejected (and OK with it)

No, not the platelets I just donated this morning. I received a rejection e-mail for a bird banding job in Pennsylvania I had applied for. This was fully expected and is only a slight disappointment. My application was going to have much competition, especially from folks with higher education and greater peer-review prowess. But it was also one that I had to apply to; who says I don't have an ego?
For an idea of what I'm talking about please go to Powdermill's superb website. I hope to visit their grounds sometime this spring. Meantime, I'm off to print the e-mail and find a good frame for it...

Stars in the east...

...and the west, north and south too. To explain:

Feeling very giving this year, I'd signed up at the Saint Paul Red Cross center for an apheresis (platelet) donation. Done this before, not a big deal. About ten minutes before the end of the process (according to those present), that peaceful queasy feeling started arising. Skin went clammy and whiter than a Scandinavian should. Sweats and chills. The need to send gastric contents across a crowded room (thankfully didn't come to that). Only after about ten minutes of almost being stood on my head did life seem normal again.

Of course, the nice part is being surrounded by hot babes in blue lab coats attending to all your needs (granted you still want to puke despite their efforts). Dear Ann mildly chided me "Did you eat a good breakfast today?" (I thought I had). "Did you get enough calcium?" (apparently not). "DON'T CLOSE YOUR EYES, THE ROOM WILL SPIN!" Delightful Theresa got me unhooked from machinery as quickly as possible (a few more arm hairs gone). Sweet Sally kept me in good humor. Man, you feel like a total doofus in the process, but they assured me everything was OK.

Once on my feet, I went to the sitting area to snack up, recuperate and depart with a Happy Holidays to all. Thanks again, folks, you are wonderful at what you do.

Despite this experience I will return and do it all again soon. I highly recommend donating whole blood, platelets, funds or whatever you can spare to your local center that does such things. I used to donate whole blood at the Hilton Building in Rochester (YUMMY cookies there!), so that comes with another personal recommendation.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Misheard (or warped) carols

Gotta love this time of year, with all the singing, the goodies, the presents and at least that momentary sense of "peace on earth, goodwill toward men". But of course with that Niles twisted sense of humor it is also fun to (sometimes deliberately) mishear or invent Christmas carol phrases.

Among my favorites from comic strips:

Pogo -

1) Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla, Walla, Wash an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

2) Good King Sauerkraut, LOOK OUT
on your feets uneven...


One Big Happy -

Olive, the other reindeer...

and then my own inventions -

1) Oh crazy mother Mary...

2) The King is born, oh well...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Balsam, tinsel and all that...

In a previous post I mentioned that this period from late November to early January can be a most irritating time of year. Fortunately another more pleasing aspect exists, as I experienced this weekend. Just give me a lighted Christmas tree and I am a happy boy. If they ever need to lock me away at the funny farm (now there's a truly non-PC statement), the lights (twinkling optional), the balsamic scent and an occasional carol and I will be a model patient.

Apparently this dates back to 1959 when I spent the Yule cranky with roseola. My parents kept me relatively happy and calm by firelight and tree light.

Enjoy below, taken in 2002...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Commuter wail

Ah, yes, the 3:30 to 7:30 evening shift. If only those were my "full benefits" working hours. Alas, that was my typical 35-minute home commute today. Unbelievable, exasperating, and a few choicer words that I shan't repeat here.

I don't doubt I'm partly to blame for this. I took my normal "heavy interstate traffic" route through the Twin Cities. When I take this route I always count on one hour, but I do so with knowledge that the normal route would take at least that long. In the past this has worked well through rain, accidents and other obstacles to home. Not today.

Just sitting in downtown Minneapolis took 45 minutes. I should have stopped at Merlins Rest to rest the car and recharge my psyche. I kept going; BIG mistake. The maximum speed for the next 10 miles was 10 miles per hour, and that was right at the end. Those 2 hours got me to the last stretch of freeway (why these towns have only four bridges across the Minnesota River is beyond me; as a birder, more swallow and peregrine habitat!). Another 20 minutes and finally home.

In that time, 10 (yes, I counted) LRT trains each direction sped along happy as clams on speed. If only the transit routing from my home to work wouldn't take until Tuesday so I could be at my Monday staff meeting, then back home Sunday to get laundry done. I've heard all the arguments about moving. Sorry folks, my place is paid for and the old mortgage payments still cover the gasoline bills (for now).

This is only a five-inch snowfall, people! We can drive better than this! Must be all of those folks who have read the Money and Fortune magazine articles about how nice it is to live here. Lies, all lies! It snows all year! We tow your cars at inopportune times! We tax you for everything! GO AWAY!

OK, I'm done now... To bed to do it all again Wednesday morning. And to the pub on Thursday for some R+R (twice in two weeks? I'm becoming a lush in my old age...).

Friday, November 30, 2007

Yet another "new" relative!

I'm quite new to this genealogy thing. But with time and relations running out, I thought I'd make a belated stab at understanding those before me in both the Niles and the Newstrom sides of life. Most interesting, so of course now I regret never asking questions when people were around to ask.

Today, courtesy of another far distant relative whom I hope to meet in April, I learned another thread in the Niles tapestry. Our common ancestor is the great matriarch Jane Hadlock Niles, who could truly as stated "put the fear of God" in someone. I leave it to readers' judgments to determine that statement's accuracy:

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Birds and Beers recap (nightcap?)

Another fine Birds and Beers evening at the wonderful Merlins Rest pub. Delicious food, wonderful company. BirdChick is to be commended for devising these get-togethers, a great way to meet new folks with a common interest in bird-related recreation and science.

The waitstaff this evening is also to be commended. As the first of the group present, I warned them that more would arrive (just didn't know how many). I think we had about 20 at final count, and they kept all of us and our orders straight amidst the chaos. Great job, hope to see you all again soon!

And thank you to all the participants, great to see old acquaintances and new folks alike. A great time, great discussions, superb food and drink. Can't wait for the next one!

And yes (for those there), I did call myself a S-L-U-G...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Music Review: Norman Luboff Choir

This is truly the most irritating time of the year. Well, OK, not quite that bad. It's just that the same Christmas (Holiday?) music is played so repetitively, even more so after Thanksgiving. By December 15 I'm quite ready for the regular repetitive tunes to be back, like tolerable neighbors. Something I discovered last year has softened this somewhat, nay, quite a bit. A very sweet discovery, or at least half of one. That is "Songs of Christmas" put out in the late 50's or early 60's by the Norman Luboff Choir:

Sadly (or is it marketing genius?) this gem of the Christmas season is paired with a horrific try at calypso music which is so dated that even karaoke fans would riot upon hearing it. I gladly skip through those first 12 painful tracks to get at the goodies.

I have fond if vague childhood memories of the choir's efforts. Many a night long ago I would sit by our colorfully-lit tree with these carols providing the background. A perfectly Minnesota "Lutheran" (Congregational actually) time. Occasionally when I would fall half-asleep those "FIVE GOLDEN RINGS" would jolt me, but for the most part these were and still are very soothing.

The combining of these 22 songs into 6 tracks is rather odd, but I'm used to it now. My favorite of the Luboff workings here are the combinations of "What Child is This", "Twelve Days of Christmas" and "Baloo Lammy"; "The Holly and The Ivy", "A La Nanita Nana", "Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine" and "Whence Comes this Rush of Wings"; and "Oh Tannenbaum", "O Holy Night" and "Coventry Carol". These songs, especially A La Nanita Nana (which my cousin Julianna can sing exquisitely), will always remind me of the great family gatherings at my aunt's and uncle's home, where singing was a part of the Christmas Eve festivities.

You don't hear music like this much anymore (on EITHER album). Times do change.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankgiving Thoughts

A best Thanksgiving Day (here in the USA) to the reader. No major feast for me today, but quiet repose and reflection. I was going to do a whole rant today, but just not the energy for it. Instead I just direct you to what I feel is today one of the most neglected passages in the Bible. Please go here to peruse and contemplate. Enjoy life, everyone! My thanks go to you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Music Review: "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" by King Crimson

OK, this isn't really a music review. I highly recommend this album solely on the two-part title track, like nothing else created in the music world. What has me ready to shell out my hard-earned money is the "call to action" of King Crimson in 2008. For me this new lineup (as presented here or here) has the same potential as the Larks' Tongues variant to go where no music has gone before. That is what has drawn me to King Crimson since I first heard it in 1974 (ironically just as the band "ceased to exist"): no fear. For many artists, adventure is just the other side of the same bubble. For King Crimson, the bubble wall is an obstacle to break and see what's out there. Just listen to the band, approaching its 40th anniversary, and you'll know what I mean. May God, Euterpe, band and audience all be in harmony at Park West in August, 2008 (no I'm not smoking anything weird when I say that). No photos or recorders, please...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Green-breasted Mango: my 0.02

Friend Sheri Williamson has eloquently stated what is probably the best opinion on the case of the wayward Green-breasted Mango here. As to my own way-late opinion, the bird should have been left alone. Would it survive? Probably not. But in the less-than-lottery-odds chance it did survive in southern Wisconsin, perhaps this pioneering bird could have started something. Or not. Isn't this what nature is all about?

Music Review: "8 armed Monkey" by KTU

As you will discover, my musical tastes are across the board (as I hope yours are). Avant-garde, big band, bluegrass, classical, folk, jazz, progressive rock and the like are in my CD cabinets (at least while CDs are viable). What won't be found are most of the usual radio trappings (classic rock, soft rock/jazz, etc.); just not me. To hopefully introduce the reader to some interesting listening, I present some of my favorite sounds, both conventional and unconventional, starting with:
Who would think that one could rock out so with an accordion? The heavy stuff, not just your typical Cajun or John Mellencamp fare. I can imagine someone playing this at Woodstock '69, dressed in Lawrence Welk garb and totally flooring the masses. Taken from live recordings in 2004, the band of Trey Gunn (Warr guitar), Samuli Kosminen (sampling), Pat Mastelotto (rhythm) and Kimmo Pohjonen (accordion, voice) make music never heard before (and for some, never to be heard again). Personal favorites amongst the five tracks are the lush "Sineen" and the crush of "Absinthe." The last 90 seconds of the latter should be played at the start of the third period of every NHL game around. Grab this one soon (or at least peek at the band's MySpace site) and enjoy!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ah, yes my first effort in the great, grand, loony world of blogs. Many thanks and "Happy Birthday" to my fine AZ friend (and Hello to her hubby) who foist this role upon me. Because this is my first entry it is necessarily void of anything sensible, and will be the first of many similar. However, I will try to stick with my above raison d'etre and occasionally say something profound.

My three-day trip to Arizona was wonderful, I highly recommend checking out the southeastern corner of the state to anyone remotely interested in avifauna. Highlights for me this trip were the close looks at Greater and Lesser Sandhill Cranes and the Crested Caracara. As soon as I get some links added to my site, one of them will be for the folks I most highly recommend if you need birding assistance down that way (and yes, you will see this push is something of an "inside job").

With a little luck, my first music review tomorrow...