Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Well, getting close at least. A wonderful start to 2009 to all! And because I've got year-end work to do early tomorrow AM (before the holiday skiers, snowboarders and sliders begin), to all a good night...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ego boost

Nothing like a second-hand remark from someone with whom you work quite closely that you are "worthless to the organization". Very nice, eh? Among the myriad reactions to this are:

1) curling up in the fetal position and waiting for death;
2) coming out swinging, especially after my first-ever visit to a gun shop;
3) shrugging it off and continuing with life as usual;
4) perfecting my "Mr. Worthless" persona, complete with robe a la Ric Flair;
5) asking said person "And your worth is ...?";
6) becoming the world's worst workaholic and forever muttering "I'll show you..." to nobody but myself.

or some strange and wonderful combination of the above and others. What matters most is the boss's opinion, and he just gave me the best performance review I've ever had. I must be doing something right...

To close this entry, some photos from this Christmas past. Enjoy!

Deer and lights

Manger in sunlight

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas oops!

I had full intentions of a pre-Christmas entry; well, see where that got me! I hope the readers had a fine Christmas, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, Solstice, Kwanzaa and any other celebration I might have forgotten. More in the next week... Enjoy, all!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Contrast: 2 music reviews

Josh Groban - Awake Live

King Crimson - Guildford

Of course one of the reasons I had to do this was to get Josh Groban and King Crimson mentioned in a single spot on the InterTubes. But another would be to say that someone really can enjoy such polar-opposite music. Even if a preference lay therein. Thus to begin with the more modern music.

Under most circumstances I would never have bought "Awake Live," one of Josh's (see, I'm already sounding like a groupie) latest efforts. But on recommendation of good friends I've given this a try. I will say this is perfect music. His voice is immaculate, the orchestration is astonishing, the songs are lush, romantic and every other nice adjective you could choose. I even have a favorite tune coming from this in "February Song".

It is obvious from the DVD portion of this release that the audients are in love. They know all the words, even the foreign languages. Every song hits every high and low note, the lights are bright and shimmery, the orchestra in perfect harmony.

And yet, for all its perfection, the whole effort strikes me as overdone. Yes, Virginia, something can be too perfect. One almost longs for something that sounds out of place (well OK, the "Kashmir" solo on the DVD somewhat fits the bill, which is why I like Ms. Micarelli's effort).

Which brings me to King Crimson's Guildford concert from November 1972 (as an aside, Crimso's Pete Sinfield pretty much invented modern music lighting in 1969). Nothing sounds right. For the audients at that concert, nothing (or very, very little) had been heard before. And in the midst of it all comes a 25+ minute improvisation; not just a bunch of solos strung together, but a band making a leap of faith. This is dangerous music, and far from perfect. But it is precisely this danger (as Sid Smith called it, "wiping the slate clean" and "the shock of the new") that makes this music (OK, most of Josh's fans wouldn't call it such) so much more interesting for me.

Don't get me wrong. Mr. Groban is excellent at what he does. But, in a massively weird combination of both music presentations, one longs for some "shock." Perhaps Josh can dress in fur wings (a la Jamie Muir), run down an aisle spitting blood and swinging chains like a madman, climb the amps, sing unknown songs a capella and never even mention "You are Loved" or others. Take a chance Mr. Groban, if your music and the music industry allow it. True Josh Groban fans will love it, really they will!

Cutest card so far...

A portion of a Christmas card from Birdchick and hubby. Enjoy!

Let your heart bee light...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Personal density...

A conversation today as I was handing out Clementines to co-workers:

Co: So where did these come from?
Me: Byerly's
Co: What COUNTRY... ?
Me: Oh... Spain...

Fellow workers were quite amused...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Keeping out the riffraff

This is a very bad thing to say for a born Minnesotan, but I've never felt as cold as I have the last two days. I must now be one of those folks that has to "pack up and go somewhere warm for the winter". My boss was telling me of his recent Florida trip, where he saw a gentleman wearing full coat and an ear-flap hat... at 75 degrees F! I think that will be me very soon.

Driving is already horrid, with a 2-hour slog from work. Toss in a few spinouts (not me, thankfully) and a couple crazy mergers and I was just glad to get back in the driveway.

Now to pack away some pizza (need that winter fat layer!) and climb under every bed cover I can find. BBBBRRRRRRR...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What to my wondering eyes should appear...

...but a car headed the wrong way right in front of me.

I was on my way home from a "mission" to the Henderson's and found a gas station selling at 1.499. As I turned to the station's street, I was confronted by headlights. All I could do was stop. Thankfully the perpetrator was going slow enough to swerve, missing me by about two feet.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

HO-HO-HO part I

A much better weekend than the Friday lead-in. Highlight thus far was gift shopping at a Saint Paul home-based boutique. Vendors and hostess were very sweet and glad to part me with my hard-earned moola. Many thanks to co-worker Michelle for the invite, and Samantha and Anne (I think) for their hospitality. Wonderful time!

I will have a Henderson Christmas this afternoon which also should be delightful. If any highlights arise, I will update accordingly. Hopefully the "seasonal spirit" is at hand...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

No fun...

...when one's work world segues right into one's dream world (hence the early hour of this post). Why this one co-worker so stubbornly refuses to assist in problem-solving is frustratingly elusive. Over and over and over again for 6+ years, I do the investigation, the attempts at resolution, and it always gets back to needing info he should provide, and he can't/won't. And thus the cycle continues... PTOOEY... Off to read something dull and hopefully get some more sleep, as I'm thinking the consequences of yesterday will cause my cellphone to ring today. And tomorrow (I refuse to answer for awhile Sunday for Christmas celebration considerations).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Who knows...

Way too long since my last post. Too much work, seasonal preparations and some time away from heavy technology have all combined. Plus, not much to say. No news is good news? More later, but right now work beckons.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The pause that refreshes...

I hope that all my readers have someone with whom the day is much brighter, life seems more livable and the upcoming Season (and every day, for that matter) is reason to celebrate. I had a chance to speak with that "someone" this evening, and what a difference. For a brief moment again, I am a happy boy!

Of course, another work week looms. But it is thankfully a short one...

Not ready!

That whole Yuletide thing is fast approaching, and the mood just isn't there. Not sure what to do about it. Maybe shopping this afternoon. Gotta do SOMETHING!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Examined head; found nothing

Yes, that old joke comes into play. In a good way, that is. CT scan came up normal, everything seems OK. So of course, today I had an all-day headache. This was probably a combo platter of stress and sinus, which is in turn what the previous weeks' misery most likely was.

Many thank yous to Susie and Kevin Henderson for inviting me for dinner and laughs tonight (too pooped for a movie, though). Being the newly poop-ated social butterfly, I have a Birds and Beer tomorrow night, dinner with Sis and Ma on Wednesday and a "hot date" with my hairstylist on Thursday. Friday night's for sleeping!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Catching up yet again

So easy to "fall behind" with entries when high-attention items are happening in one's life. Or when one is really lazy. Guess which?

Last Lowry bird banding of the year was yesterday. Good crowd, good birds and a crazy lunch afterwards. The latter was to be expected, with a number of "the old crowd" there including my mentor, Kathy Heidel.

This past Thursday I did have a CT scan to see what all my headaches might be about. The interesting thing is, like taking one's car to the shop, the headaches "went away" the day of the scan. Probably all blood pressure related, as I had started taking medication two days before. We shall see; I think results come back tomorrow.

Sister and rest of the family are doing fine.

A dear friend is travelling for the next week or so; miss her already.

Holidays approaching. EEK!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

All in the family!

Well, for the most part the appointments of the past two days went well. The teeth are polished, the eyes can see, the heart is still ticking. On that last point, however, I do get to join in a ritual very familiar to mom's side of my family tree. The doctor (a very good one, I might add) has officially and unequivocally prescribed blood pressure medicine. With that, and the recommendation of a daily multivitamin, comes a new Christmas present idea: a pill container! Don't everybody be sending one, now...

More on my visits later. Meantime, I have places to be and the roads are slippery from rain/sleet/snow/everything. Not fun...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Poke, prod, repeat...

I decided to cram as many appointments as possible into the next two days. I'll start with dentistry later this morning, then have eyes checked this afternoon and the whole body checked tomorrow. The latter will be my first time at a new clinic with a new doctor, so that will be loads of fun.

Only areas of concern

1) I'm sure my hygienist will be scraping extra hard and cursing me wildly because of my flossing drop-off the past few months (bad, bad, BAD!).
2) Slightly more concerning are the headaches I've been having the past two weeks. Same place (left side), same time (at night). Very weird.

We'll see how all this orifice work affects the rest of my week. Whee!!

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Still excited after Tuesday's results, but sleep is beckoning; I've been a trifle low on it lately. Hope to make it north to Ma's this weekend but the weather might be a little tricky. Catch y'all on Sunday or so...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Morning in America

I vaguely remember the tumultuous year of 1968. Perhaps our "40 years in the wilderness" is finally done. Graciousness on all sides is a good start... Thanks to all who voted, no matter who your candidates of choice.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Intriguing times

A shout-out to friend and co-worker Susan, who today made my day, my month and the rest of my year, possibly the rest of my winter. She is amazing...

Another shout-out to dear sis, who has started her four weeks of cardiac therapy. Everyone is doing OK. The job situation will be clearer once therapy is done, but the future is probably obvious already; those involved just have to recognize and accept it.

I will be in line early tomorrow for the quadrennial test of our democracy. OK, I know there are annual elections of some sort, but the leap-year one is always filled with the most excitement, the most anxiety and the longest lines. Thus, an early AM walk (only a mile away) to the polls awaits. Please do vote, dear readers, whomever your candidates of choice are.

I will be either laughing or crying hysterically at Merlin's Rest on Thursday, depending on tomorrow's results. A few close friends will be joining me, so it should be a good time. When did I get to be such a lush? Oh yeah, I only drink Coke at the bars...

The above brings up a saying by my dear alter ego, Mediocrates:

Always have more than one friend, just in case.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Economy casualty?

Well, I needn't have worried about the big day of ski registration yesterday. Eerily quiet, with totals down nearly 25% from a year ago. Only two explanations make any sort of sense:

1) Changing demographics; perhaps not that many folks are interested.
2) Less discretionary income; perhaps not as many folks can afford the lessons, or it's not as high a priority as it might have been.

So a relief, but a questioning sort of relief. And yet -- relief!

Onward, slow and steady...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Small escape part 2

A couple photos that Ma took at Naniboujou. Nice to see I can actually smile! Especially before a possibly ugly workday tomorrow; believe me I'm praying otherwise. Enjoy the photos!

The nieces and I

Naniboujou sunrise

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Everything is going well with my sister's recovery, and as expected she will be home tomorrow. Ma made the trip from Nisswa to "see for herself" and appears satisfied with the situation. I ate dinner with the family tonight to get all the latest news, and the nieces seem to be taking everything in stride.

Many "Thank You"s to all the well-wishers, both on- and off-line. Your thoughts and prayers are GREATLY appreciated!

Hopefully back to normal this weekend, as I think we could all use some sleep...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I wish the title was only a reference to a high-caffeine soft drink...

Thankfully my sister should be OK and home on Friday. But today she suffered a mild heart attack. At least she was fully aware of what was occurring and got herself to a hospital. The blocked artery is small, the body will heal.

The psyches of herself and those around her are another matter. Once over the shock, I'm pretty sure that she, I, my brother-in-law and my nieces will be OK. Mom, however, is taking this hard, especially after the joys of the past weekend. As she says, she has to see that everything is actually OK before she believes it.

All will be well. We just have to give this a few days...

Monday, October 20, 2008


One of Amber's efforts from a September bird banding session. Thanks to Jessi Henderson for "lending a hand." Enjoy!

Warbler and dragonfly

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A different perspective...

...of photographer Amber at work, here photographing the Great-crested Flycatcher we banded near Menomonie, Wisconsin.

Bird and photog

A small escape

Celebration of Mom's #80 is now complete after a very relaxing weekend at Naniboujou Lodge north of Grand Marais, MN. On to the ugly business of software upgrades and ski registrations, which will occupy my next two weeks.

Some photos from this weekend... enjoy!

Naniboujou Lodge

Rock hunting

Lake Superior shore 1

Lake Superior shore 2

Thursday, October 16, 2008

No NSWO, but...

My foray into the world of attempting to band Northern Saw-whet Owls has thus far come up empty. However, the evenings that the group and I were outside were wonderful. Last night stands out, ending our night with a bright near-full moon, howling coyotes and overhead avian chip-notes. I don't know the species of the latter, probably some of the various late warblers and sparrows on their way south some of the sounds did remind me of Horned Larks). But despite the cold, a magical evening. Thanks to all who participated, we will try again next year!

Off the the north shore of Lake Superior for the weekend, I will check in again (hopefully with photos!) most likely Tuesday. See y'all later!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rain Man

Having more time to myself than expected (nothing worse than an ill dental hygienist), I decided to walk this morning. Not just any walk, but one loosely based upon the Henri Nouwen quote in my previous entry.

Nature was cooperating with a gently soaking rain. The rush hour was basically over, so traffic noise was minimized and fellow walkers were more amiable. My conclusion after my forty-five minute jaunt:

1) It truly is quite comforting to just be out on a quiet fall day, before the coming raw days of transition to winter.
2) One does feel more open to the world, more willing to say Hello and be at peace with one's fellow man.
3) I am gently soaked.

How many of these feelings I'd have if my home (if I was "lucky") was a cardboard box under a bridge is open to question.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Better times... least personally. Stock market news (now supposedly down 39% from its highest level) doesn't worry me, whether it should or not. From the low spirits of earlier this week, life is seeming better. As part of this, I share some quotes from items written or read in the past 24 hours. Explanations as needed. Enjoy!

...don't write from obligation.

From an e-mail to a very dear friend. "Obligatory" writing should be reserved for tax forms, bill payments and similar. "Creative" writing must come from within as the Spirit moves you. My friend is doing a delightful job of the latter, I can't wait for her first publication!

...the white line was brightest just to the edge of the shadow. So I thought about the reasonable physics of this, the natural coolness of this, looked around at how light was different at various angles, etc. All while managing to stay on the road[.]
But my main jump was to here: when I feel the darkness, the shadow descend,.... if I can only remember or will myself to look, that just behind that "it" the brightest light.

From an e-mail from another dear friend. More than anything else this week, this note helped me out of my depths. My heartfelt gratitude to the author...

..."Isn't the rain beautiful?" he said. "Why do we keep resisting rain? Why do we want the sun when we should be willing to be soaked by the rain? The Lord wants to soak us with his grace and love. Isn't it marvelous when we can feel the Lord in so many ways and get to know him better and better! He lets us experience his presence even now in all that surrounds us...

Not my alter ego the Preacher, but Henri Nouwen in his book "The Genesee Diary". It is very much like the thought I express to others, that my "church" is whenever I am outside. It is where I feel most surrounded by grace and love, especially when accompanied by close friends like those above. It is also one of the most difficult things to remember when one's thoughts are spiralling downward, out of control.

Many thanks to the both of you, and all my circle of friends. I really needed all of you this week.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Highs and lows 3

It started innocently enough. I remarked in a friend's e-mail how I plan my vacations, trips etc to sort of get from one round of work to another. But then something kicked in that hadn't been around for many years.

One's thoughts and emotions twist in an eerie downward spiral that is very difficult to stop. Nothing was really "going wrong", but it didn't matter. Life was just getting worse by the minute. The topper was to read this article and its associated heart-wrenching letters, and today felt like a total loss.

No need for readers to worry (no need to cheer either); I was not that far down. Yet I was far enough that the cycle of thought in the above article becomes understandable.

Only friend Sharon and others were able to help stop the cycle. At tonight's Birds and Beer (for which I thought I had the wrong date as I was alone the first half-hour) she, Linda, Sue, Kirk and the rest of the crew got my mood turned way around to at least salvage part of an otherwise dismal day. Great people (thank you Val for being such a wonderful waitress!), funny off-the-wall jokes and a side of a participant I never knew existed. A very needed evening. Kinda fun to meet state senator John Marty in person!

Today's downside is certainly not gone. But perhaps now it can slowly retreat and be gone for another 40 years...

More from Saturday

More photos from Saturday, courtesy of ace photog Amber. Enjoy!

Orange-crowned Warbler

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Swamp Sparrow

(Western) Palm Warbler

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Bite, bite birdie

Yes, the bird was already free to go. Yes, this did hurt. Banding can be hazardous!

Determined cardinal

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Taking de bait

Watched as much of the vice-presidential debate as I could stand (which wasn't much, in fact it's still on as I write this), but barring a major faux pas in the last few minutes I think that:

1) We need to institute a "getting back to" rule in these things. That phrase and anything similar should never be allowed. Answer the question you were asked!

2) I give a very slight edge to the candidate who was not winking the whole time. I'll let you guess...

Overall, PTOOEY I say! Let's get the next month over with ASAP...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Boobird is dead

Yay, I finally got myself down to one e-mail account! My old account through aol served me well for many years, but with this last upgrade forcing the issue it was time to put it to rest. Paying money for stuff that I never really used anyways was getting stupid. And all the fluff that would come with the free account wasn't needed. Where I am now, through gmail, makes more sense with what I am using on the InterTubes. And that isn't really much.

Hope to band a few more songbirds before our big push the 12th-15th giving a shot to banding Northern Saw-whet Owls. That will probably rank as the nuttiest thing I've tried (sorry, no bungee-jumping for me), besides actually trying to win the lottery. I'll keep you all informed.

Also, be prepared for a first appearance of yet another alter ego, the Preacher; sort of a cross between John Hagee and Ric Flair. What he has to say will probably not sit well with folks, which is why he doesn't come out often. As soon as he gets his notes together, he'll be ready...

Monday, September 22, 2008


Worn out from the past week's banding efforts. I think what affected me the most was crowd control, especially on Saturday with 75 first-outside Boy Scouts. Otherwise the overall effort went well, yielding 80 birds of 28 species.

Trying to get back into cross-stitch, with Christmas approaching quickly. It really shows how my eyes have changed; working with 32-count fabric is now OUT without magnification. Getting (and today feeling) old...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mid-vacation, mid-migration

Very nice to be away from work for the next couple weeks, especially considering the calls I got from friend and co-worker Susan about a situation there. All I will say is I almost got to travel to Vermont after all...

It's being very difficult to judge the state of the southward avian migration thus far. Wednesday was a nearly incredible day, with feathered friends of varying dappling everywhere. Yesterday not as many, then today barely a peep anywhere. Then to hear from Ma in Nisswa that her driveway is covered by Yellow-rumped Warblers. Crazy!

Hopefully not contracting a bug, almost called off banding today. Probably should have, for the sake of the one bird (a Ruby-crowned Kinglet) we trapped... Hopefully the public programs tomorrow at Carver and Sunday at Ritter Farm go better than that.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Migration days

Probably as much as it's going to be, the southward avian migration is in "full swing" now. At least that is the impression the last couple days, with short (necessitated by attention to "real life") banding sessions yielding 21 birds of 14 species. Beginning this Wednesday I will be in the field for eight days straight (weather permitting), so this will hopefully be a varied, fun time.

Had a wonderful day yesterday with friends Susie and Jessi, watching old movies and being silly. I'm not sure if I can handle this new thing called a social life...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Latency and meat cleavers

OK, now that I have your attention... Actually two totally unrelated subjects tonight, hopefully a trifle more logical than yesterday's when I was operating on fumes. Nothing like at least a partial night's sleep!

With the first, I begin with a wit-bit from Mediocrates:

Adding more lanes does not solve the traffic jam.

The above, according to traffic management theory, is true. If the same bottleneck exists before and after the lane addition, you solve nothing. A similar situation is potentially true at work, where a major system realignment might be forthcoming. This will in effect give us two servers instead of one. However, these servers must communicate, and thus we create a bottleneck where one did not before exist. When these systems can't communicate, the traffic between them wants to go but can't. In techno babble the waiting time is called latency. With enough latency built up, communications just stop. Adding more bandwidth won't cure it, either, in fact it could make the situation worse. And yet we are just plowing ahead, as I sit on the sidelines saying "But, but, but...". I guess my head is up my but.

With the second, sweet friend Jessi and I yesterday began a wild tangent of a conversation about authors, books and the hideous movie translations to be endured. As we finished up, she said she might dedicate a book about the subject to me. I was flattered and honored that she would think such. As an addendum, and entirely appropriate to our conversation, I told her to add at dedication's end: "Sorry about the meat cleaver." I know it's one of those "you had to be there" moments, but the laughter on both phone ends was rollicking.

And now to get out of work-mode thinking by frying my brain with an extreme-level Sudoku. 'Til we meet again, everyone!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Hit me with lime Jello and call me Lutheran...

...because that would actually make sense after my day today. I'm totally addlepated so if none of this is coherent to the reader please forgive me. The day started at 4am (3:15 actually) to begin yet another software upgrade (have to be done during the business "lulls"). The rest of the day was pretty much fielding calls about minor after-effects, but that still made for a full 12 hours. I'm wiped.

A shout-out to friend Lucy, whom I saw for the first time in three weeks. May your health improve, dear friend. Another shout-out to friend Nora, I will pray for you and family in this trying time. And one last shout-out to friend Susan, whose sense of humor and sense of fashion helped me survive today.

Sleepy time... well, maybe not until 7:30 purely because it's otherwise too early. Hard to believe in a couple months it will be extremely dark right now. ISH...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Saving grace

My avocation of bird banding is truly my saving grace from the stresses of "normal" life. Yesterday at Ritter Farm (20 birds of 13 species, about 50 visitors) and today at Menomonie (53 birds of 9 species, Sharon and Amber presiding) were absolutely wonderful. Amber was again true to her "good luck charm" role today, with our captures and releases of an Eastern Tufted Titmouse, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush and Great-crested Flycatcher. The topper was a second foreign retrap of an American Goldfinch, this one numbered (I hope I remember) 2200-14660. With luck we will hear about this quicker than our previous, which has still not been determined after a year's wait. The government (or those who report to it) can take its time sometimes...

Another grind of a week upcoming, with my annual review tomorrow and yet another software upgrade early Tuesday. Awaiting on Saturday, I hope, is a fancy-free day with Susie and Jessi Henderson. I hope I make it that far; goals do help...

Friday, September 05, 2008

A long week... slowly drawing to a close. With bird banding planned both days (Lakeville tomorrow, Menomonie Sunday) and the fall migration kicking in, with luck I will have good reports and good photos soon.

Meantime, another bit of average wittiness from Mediocrates:

Some take initiative. Some take credit. Some take the money and run. Some take the cake. Few accept responsibility. No-one wants blame.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

This mortal sin...

Yes, I was a bad boy today. And I suffered for it. Well, OK, maybe just a teeny bit. I'm not sure if this falls under greed, gluttony, sloth or another one of life's main baddies:

Did a little shopping at the local grocery. Had my usual small basket as I tend not to get that many items at once. As I stood in the Express line, I realized I had 11 items and the line had a 10-item limit. Not a big deal, I thought; I've seen others do the same thing (some with nearly double the magic number). So I continued. I got to the checkout, had my check ready, and the clerk started tallying. 7 items. 8. 9. 10. 11, and then the total...

Just then the 11th item, a small box of blueberries, burst open and scattered.

10 minutes passed before a replacement blueberry box arrived...

Not just a coincidence (or as Josh Groban would say, "kwinky-dink"), I'm sure...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Our State Fair...

Wow, post #100! At least that's what Blogger is telling me, even though only 97 show as published. Never thought I'd last this long... Many thank yous to dear friends Tom and Sheri at SABO for getting me started on this journey.

Also, many thank yous to the Henderson family, with whom a journey is underway and the destination of which is not known right now. Well, OK, their physical destination is near Durango, CO, but I'm talking something beyond that. OK, maybe I'm weird and have no idea what I'm talking about. Anyways, that's not the subject of this entry.

The four Hendersons I know (Susie, Randy, Jessi and Kevin) and I met at the Minnesota State Fair yesterday. It was my first visit in 15 years. That's seems about the right interval for me, when in 2023 or so I can pay the senior fare. This is not a knock against the fair, just an expression of my need to be there. Everything was in place yesterday: beautiful weather, people everywhere (my people-dodging skills need tweaking), myriad things to see and do, and of course nearly any food variety one would want, presented in skewered ("on a stick") form.

My personal favorite food, as recommended by my work boss, was the "Australian Battered Fries". This was presented as a long slice of potato, deep fried (of course! This is the fair, after all.) in a unique batter and semi-smothered (thankfully not fully smothered) in a ranch-style dressing. And not on a stick! A very interesting combination of flavors. Randy bought some and shared with the crew; very generous of him! I also enjoyed a to-die-for strawberry shake; has to start thick enough to be unslurpable, and mine truly was. I hope Jessi's chocolate shake was as good. How I managed to avoid the staples of Pronto Pups (fair-speak for corn dogs) and mini-donuts is beyond me.

Later yesterday I rejoined the Hendersons for a spaghetti dinner, quality dish-washing time and the movie "Glory" which they had not seen before. The latter seemed to impress them, which pleased me; one never knows if one's own likes will translate to others.

On another note entirely, for the first time in I year a have an inquiry on the Ancestry web site. Always neat to hear from extremely-distant relatives (are they relatives if that distant?). So I best respond, probably later today. A shout-out to Vermont friend Jackie (sorry we missed connections earlier) for her aid in family research.

Whatever journey my life is taking will be documented here. At least the shareable parts. Thanks to all who contribute, your friendship and love mean everything...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Not quite a panorama...

Live and learn, although this is something I should have realized right away. My digital camera has a wide-angle lens, which does not allow me to take my usual panoramic shots of the cabin garden. So instead, I present a "north to south" (or right to left) mini-tour of this year's florid fancies. If you use your imagination and "connect the rocks" in the masonry behind the garden, you'll get the idea. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A question of balance

Not a Moody Blues review, although perhaps I should someday. Life is somewhat back in balance after a spirit-shredding couple days (28 hours Wednesday and Thursday). When granted the past Monday off, I donated my time to friends Susie and Jessi and assisted with their first of three moves. The rewards of time with them and a DQ Blizzard restored my soul; thanks to all!

The weekend did help the restorative effort, with some time at the family place near Pequot Lakes. Someday I will have the full garden panorama ready for everyone, but stitching six or seven photos together isn't easy. A couple photos are provided herein, including one appropriate for the title of this entry; enjoy!

(Grand)Ma's flowers

Tiger Lily and guest

Sunday, August 24, 2008

An added dash of Mediocrates

Not much to be said about the past few days, basically spent recovering from the crushed spirit of the previous entry. I can truthfully say that late on Thursday I walked into a co-worker's office, sat down and nearly lost it, just repeating "I can't do this anymore."

I console myself with the kindness of some very close friends and the strange wit(lessness) of Mediocrates. A few more items came to light this weekend. Herein is a disclaimer that these are not necessarily original (e.g. the last one was heard in an episode of "HOUSE MD"), but they all fit the mold. Enjoy, dear readers!

Waste not, waist yes.

Droughts are the times that dry men's shoals.

If you can't say something nice, go into politics.

Two wrongs don't make a right,
but three rights make a left.

If at first you don't succeed, OH WELL...

There's no I in TEAM,
but there's a ME if you jumble it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More pith(ss?)iness...

...after taking until 2:15 this morning to return where we were at 5PM yesterday. As always, this wisdom is courtesy one of my alter egos, Mediocrates:

Technology is not the answer, even when we make it so.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Reversal of fortune

And things had been going so well... Here I sit at work as a beleaguered hardware technician attempts to repair one of our servers; he's been at it since 5PM (now 11PM) to no avail. Long day (started 7AM), no end in sight. I'm really tired of the grind. "No running water and no electricity" sounds rather nice right now.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Words of wisdom

A brief time-out from the helter-skelter of the day-to-day for a dash of sage advice from one of my numerous alter egos (none of whom are schizophrenic), the Greek philosopher Mediocrates. Three sayings of variable pithiness are herein provided:

Winning isn't everything, ties are OK too.

A fool and his money are still usually richer.

Behold the industrious ant: it sizzles quickly under a magnifying glass.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Spirit renewed

Despite the dreariness of this bird banding weekend (8 hours work for 18 birds total), I feel happier than I have in years. Perhaps there is new life in this old beast. Most of the credit goes to helpers Susie and Jessi, who invited this non-social person to a party Saturday night at which I had a grand old time. Grins, bad jokes, a good movie ("Amazing Grace") and enough DQ cake to regret later. But so what? For a brief moment in time I can truly say I'm a happy boy. Thanks so much for extending your family to the new "crazy uncle."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Spirit flown

A good colleague and acquaintance from Lowry Nature Center died this past Tuesday. Her ways with people and helping us to learn the natural world were a lesson and joy to all. Michele Clark, you will be missed.

The Brown Canyon challenge(s)

Brown Canyon is the "next canyon north" of Ramsey Canyon, where my now-forgotten vacation was last week. Hiking its trail can make a very pleasant if somewhat huffy-puffy loop of 7 miles with Ramsey. My challenge (and friends Tom and Sheri if either choose to partake) is to walk that loop during my 2010 visit. Granted it should not be that difficult for a flat lander. But the loop has just enough tricky elevation changes, especially "towards the end" (perhaps I should walk the other way?) that it is not to be taken lightly. With the walk being in May, though, it should be gorgeous, with lots of interesting cheeps and twitters in trees and bushes. We shall see.

The other challenge is working on whatever digital photo techniques might help me develop better photo-stitching skills than those showcased here. I give you two very poor 90-degree rotated panoramas from Brown Canyon, but hey they're the best I can do right now. Don't strain your neck trying to see them fully (do I need a health waiver here?)... Enjoy!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lazy AZ memories

A couple more photos from the recent vacation. Still working on stitching together the big panorama shots; wish me luck...

Ramsey Creek


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Home (again?)...

Back from a most wonderful, refreshing week in Ramsey Canyon, deep in the heart of Arizona sky island country. While there, I believe I've found my new home:
Barchas Ranch

No running water, no electricity, in other words absolutely perfect... I just have to agree to be on-site caretaker of the place for the US Forest Service. Oh yeah, I guess they'd have to want me there, too... I'd find some way to keep blogging, perhaps by carrier pigeon.

More on my trip as I have time. Meantime, preparing for back-to-work Monday.

Friday, August 01, 2008

To Ramsey Canyon and beyond!

Survived the week, now off to my sanctuary in Arizona land, Ramsey Canyon Inn. After a short adjustment period with the demise of the Mile-Hi (run by the Nature Conservancy until 1998), the Inn's peace and hospitality have been unmatched. I don't know how much longer it will be in business, so I have to savor every moment of this upcoming week that I can. Shouldn't be a problem...

I will be offline during my time away, unless I sneak in an entry via friends Tom and Sheri. Toodles, all!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Not in a bad way, but a way not suitable for minors. My sweet stylist of 20 years was on form tonight. First the scalp massage to die for. Then the slightly naughty jokes as she trims away. Add a pinch of simple joking, a dash of sadness on the home front and the zest being with such a friend, and we cooked up 45 minutes of total heaven-on-earth (sorry, food analogies fit better). I could barely keep the car on the road going home, my mind was so blissed out. And now with my screen saver delighting me with a photo of a dear, dear friend that I haven't seen in awhile, I can't even think straight anymore. You have your own thoughts, I'm signing off now with mine...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"God wants me to be rich..."

...supposedly attributable to some televangelist, describing his personal wealth. All well and good. But whom is one serving with all that money: oneself, or others? I think there's at least one Bible verse addressing this issue...

Monday, July 21, 2008

If only...

Ah, yes, if only. Instead, I'll keep selling wheel prototypes because I've been re-inventing it so much lately...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Another fine banding weekend...

Ever get the idea that my best days somehow involve bird banding? Must be telling me something... Another fine weekend, with 18 birds yesterday at Lowry Nature Center and 17 today along the Carver Park horse trail. Below are photos of frequent guest photog Amber, first banding a Northern Cardinal youngster and then with fellow bander and photog Roger capturing some of today's session:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Looking for inspiration...

...apparently in all the wrong places. Suffering through my own personal writing doldrums. We shall see. Perhaps I can start anticipating August in Ramsey Canyon.

On the family front, two #80 birthdays are approaching in September. My father's is September 29, and it looks now like he will make it after the near-death experience noted before. I will say this about both sides of my family, we are fighters. My mother's is September 28, and she wants my sister and I to join her at Naniboujou Lodge for a nice long stay. Of course we've both agreed, so that should be a trip!

Off to work now.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Independence Day thoughts elsewhere

My dad is having surgery this evening after a series of minor heart attacks. This is one of those cases where said surgery will help him immensely or do him in. A fine combo of angioplasty and stent. We shall see; might have to fly to Toronto soon... Otherwise a Happy 4th to all, I will be incommunicado for a few days.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

End of an era

The time has come to face reality. And therefore I've set myself a goal. Not a major one, mind you, but one of those little things that has nagged for many years until, finally, enough is enough.

By the end of this year I will be retiring... my account. This last unannounced, pretty much unwanted upgrade by the dear folks at AOL is so horrific that one actually gets less bang for the increasing buck than before. And with so many other good options available, why keep torturing myself?

Granted, I have numerous online accounts to change, friends to notify and other sundries, but the effort will be well worth it. Those of you who need to know, don't worry I'll keep you informed...

It's been fun, but it's time to move on. Now if I could make the same decision about other aspects of life!


No, not what you might think. The title is shorthand for Purple Martin (progne subis). I attended my first Minnesota Purple Martin Fest on Saturday. Finding my way to Hugo, MN is a story unto itself, but I will stay on the subject at hand.

I was the guest bird bander for the festivities, and had a wonderful time. Good food, good presentations and a not-overwhelming banding effort. Purple Martin banding concentrates on the nestlings, and most in this colony were too young. I will likely return in a few days to complete what I can. A number of other colony landlords expressed interest in banding. If by me, there's a danger of being spread too thin. If by them, then I suggested making contact with the North American Banding Council who might provide references to willing-to-train banders.

I'm hoping for a quiet day today. Non-work, non-banding things are happening that will likely have major repercussions. At least it's not my personal health. I think... Undoubtedly more to follow in the coming days. Meantime, a couple photos from yesterday. Enjoy!
Purple Martin colony site

Colony detail

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Summer banding

So far a quiet but rewarding two days of bird banding this summer. Yesterday the formal public program was a struggle, but we did band seven birds (including three American Redstarts!) and retrapped two over the course of four hours. Today for the private training session we managed another eight birds and one retrap. All in all a great day; many thanks to volunteers/trainees Susan, Susie, Jessi and Amber for the help!

Highlights today (for which I will post photos if I receive any) were the unexpected Bobolink (the weather was windy and the birds flying high) and the two Cedar Waxwings. Amber was so excited with the latter she was very much doing a happy dance, especially when we let her band the first one. Susan banded a Clay-colored Sparrow, and Susie and Jessi did the bulk of the rest. So fun to see the enthusiasm!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Life's little embarrassments...

1. Had a wonderful evening meal and conversations at Merlin's Rest.
2. Feeling tired and a little claustrophobic from the crowd, so drove home.
3. Got almost to my garage (about a 20 minute drive) and realized...
4. ...I had departed without paying. YIKES!
5. Did a wheelies U-turn in the Aveo.
6) Drove back to Merlin's Rest.
7) Paid. Added a bit extra for the embarrassment factor...
8) Drove home. Actually stayed this time! My punishment is both feeling totally stupid and the wasted $4/gallon gas.

Many thanks to Sharon for being a wonderful hostess and covering my major faux pas.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Check out these bird photos...

The May update for bird banding at Powdermill, seen beginning here, is superb. Enjoy some up close and personal views, including an immature male Orchard Oriole (YAY)! Compare the photo there with Amber's photos in prior entries here, including the infamous "blue at the base of the beak." Congrats to Bob Mulvihill and crew for a fine, albeit slow for them, spring. As you'll see, they also had their share of storminess and cool weather.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What not to be at work...

Proactive. This is according to some people "in the know." Especially if you're being proactive in an entirely different direction than everyone else... SIGH... And another fine week gets underway!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mauston - NO

Too much rain, too many washed-out roads. Better to be safe, however. Meeting Jackie will have to wait until September. I hope she and all my other new-found relatives can ride out this craziness...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Certificate of Appreciation

I received a note today from a contact for whom I have done banding of Purple Martins (Progne subis). At one of his two sites he reported a dead martin to the Bird Banding Laboratory, part of the US Geological Survey.

Yes, bird banders are your tax dollars at work. Many of us (myself and sub-permittee Roger included) receive volunteer's wages for this. But we do it to learn, to teach and to share notes. As Bob Mulvihill at Powdermill so aptly states, we are akin to auto mechanics looking at one part (birds) of the car (Earth, Gaia etc). OK, enough of the soapbox...

When you find a banded bird, you can report it in the US in one of three ways:
2) 1-800-327-BAND
3) for the non-squeamish and a dead bird, remove the band, attach it to a postcard and send it to the address on the band (yes, there is a usable address on that little silver bracelet!).
In all cases, report the date, where you found the bird, its condition, what it appears to have died from, and other information as noted on the Web site. In due time you will receive a certificate similar to the one below.

Any reported band is important, as waterfowl hunters know very well. The odds of a reported songbird band are about the same as winning the lottery, so all recoveries, even of a dead bird, are very much appreciated!
Certificate of Appreciation

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Today I had my first actual conversation with distant relative Jackie, who is herself visiting not-quite-as-distant relatives near Burlington, Wisconsin. We both noted the fragility of our meeting plans, with the recent inundation of the southern part of the state. We're both keeping fingers crossed that the weather breaks enough that travel is not too crazy. We shall see. If everyone does get together, it's going to be great fun (at least as much as a Niles can ever have...)! I'm taking pictures off my walls as we speak; gotta show 'em off!

Friday, June 06, 2008

A tinge of envy

A co-worker of mine will be participating in a cross-country bike race as part of this team. I wish them and their fellow racers all sorts of good luck. Please donate if you can!

Someday I hope to do a cross-country "pilgrimage" of some sort, although my currently preferred mode is walking on rail-trails. Someday, if health allows...

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dichotomous Key

OK, folks, even duller entry than usual today, so if you're not into a somewhat scientific look at some bird photos:
Immature male Orchard Oriole
Female Orchard Oriole

The species of the top bird was called into question by one of Minnesota's better birders. This led me to also question the ID of the second bird shown. I confirmed my field judgment with the help of two books:

"A Manual for the Identification of the Birds of Minnesota and Neighboring States" by T.S. Roberts
"Identification Guide to North American Birds, Volume I" by Peter Pyle

The first book contains a dichotomous key for all the various species. This is a fancy way of saying that you choose either answer A or answer B to a series of questions until you get to the final answer. Pretty neat if you can follow along! To go though the full set of questions for the first photo (yes you can tell all the answers from the picture):

1. Whole head, throat and upper breast bright yellow (YES) or not (NO)?

The NO eliminates adult male Yellow-headed Blackbird
2. Body below dark chestnut (YES) or not (NO)?
The NO eliminates adult male Orchard Oriole
3. Underparts, including throat and breast, wholly black, brown or slate (YES) or not (NO)?
The NO eliminates a whole host of blackbirds
4. Throat bright yellow, pale yellow or buffy (YES) or not (NO)?
The NO eliminates Meadowlarks and a number of female blackbirds and orioles (we will revisit this item shortly)
5. Entire head and throat pure black (YES) or not (NO)?
The NO eliminates the adult male Baltimore Oriole
6. Throat pure black, underparts greenish-yellow (YES) or not (NO)?
The YES arrives at immature male Orchard Oriole!

For the second photo, questions 1, 2 and 3 are answered the same. However, question 4 is answered with a YES which takes us to:
5. Upperparts striped (YES) or not (NO)?
The NO eliminates Meadowlarks
6. Bird uniform grayish-brown (YES) or not (NO)?
The NO eliminates female Brown-headed Cowbird
7. Head buff-colored (YES) or not (NO)?
This eliminates young Yellow-headed Blackbird
8. Entire underparts pale yellow or yellow-orange (YES) or not (NO)?
The YES eliminates female and young male Yellow-Headed Blackbird
9. Entire underparts greenish-yellow (YES) or orange-yellow (NO)?
This is the most difficult to judge, but the YES leads to female Orchard Oriole and the NO leads to female Baltimore Oriole. The choice of the former was confirmed in hand by measurements of wing and tail as detailed in Pyle's book, the Orchard Oriole being a smaller species than Baltimore Oriole.

The question had arisen if the first photo was of a Hooded Oriole. This was a very good possibility, but the some blackish feathers in the bird's crown (as barely seen in the photo) and some chestnut feathers above the bird's tail (not seen in the photo but seen in the field) were present. The plumage clues were once again confirmed by the smaller measurements of wing and tail detailed in Pyle.

Isn't science fun? For even more fun check out the hybrid warblers at Powdermill's web site.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Back to Earth...

...with a THUD. Nothing like that first day back at work to make one forget about vacation and all the previous fun. To top it off, almost all co-workers were some degree of cranky. YEOW!

Thank goodness for cohorts Susan, Nora and especially Jackie; your smiles were the only highlights today.

A full week lined up, which is fine because outside is rain, rain, rain according to the forecasts. We shall see...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Now I just need an Old Milwaukee...

...because life can't get any better than this. Then again, if I was retired it could be better...

Had another great bird banding weekend, yesterday at Ritter Farm (18 birds of 11 species) and today at Carver Park (12 birds of 6 species). The phenomenal birds were today, photo'd by Amber:
Adult male Bobolink

Adult female Bobolink

Immature male Orchard Oriole

Adult male Orchard Oriole

I need to get back to work to take a break from the intense excitement bird banding has held for the past month. Of course, not too much work.

And only thirteen more days until meeting some new old relatives... YIPPEE!!

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Sorry for the hiatus. A combination of lack of inspiration and sowing my wild oats...

More later...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Blessing of birds

An incredible bird banding weekend has just passed, one that will probably not be encountered again for at least a few years. In two days the crew banded 88 birds of 27 species. Throw in 3 recaptures and we finished with 91 birds of 28 species, 44 of 20 at Carver Park and 47 of 15 at Ritter Farm. Two of those species I had not banded before (the last on the list below). The birds were everywhere, sort of our "manna from heaven." The better sight was most of the birds having very healthy amounts of fat stored for their next leg of migration. Between the bugs and the buds, birds here in eastern Minnesota seem to be doing much better.

Along the way I met my now-retired bird banding mentor (Kathy Heidel), a former soccer player (Stewart Jump), a former co-worker and his wife (Jim and Peg Hassett), and some VIPs of the City of Lakeville (Patty Ruedy, Steve Michaud, Mayor Holly Dahl). I think we made a good impression at Lakeville's bird festival today, but I leave that to others to say for sure.

One last item to note about the birds: many of them today had yellow pollen on their lores, apparently from them taking nectar and bugs from the old Ritter plum orchard. Another good reason to have flowering fruit trees in the yard!

The species list:
American Redstart
Wilson's Warbler
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Tennessee Warbler (18 today, none yesterday!)
Common Yellowthroat
Black-and-White Warbler (1 today, 11 yesterday!)
Least Flycatcher
House Wren
Black-capped Chickadee (1 recapture only)
Yellow Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
(Western) Palm Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
American Goldfinch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Song Sparrow
Swainson's Thrush
White-throated Sparrow
Brown-headed Cowbird
Cedar Waxwing
Gray Catbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Hairy Woodpecker
American Robin
Orchard Oriole
Black-billed Cuckoo

Orchard Oriole
Black-billed Cuckoo

Many thanks to great volunteers/friends Susie and Jessi Henderson for the photos!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Exciting times?

I checked my schedule today and finally realized that every weekend through July 4 has something planned. YIKES! I usually don't have such a social life; my reputation might be shot.

Actually the bulk of the weekends are involved with bird banding, as this is the prime time of spring for us northerners. This year especially so, but one wonders of the state of the wildlife that makes our extreme fortune in 2008. Avian migrants are everywhere and grounded. Some sad tales have emerged: Tree Swallows jammed and dead of starvation in nest boxes; Yellow-rumped Warbler flocks being struck by vehicles (to the anguish of the drivers in the cases I've read). In phoning my mother tonight, she jokingly (?) said she is tired of trying to keep up with the warblers, grosbeaks and orioles. They are eating suet, oranges, grape jelly, finch food, sunflower remnants, emergent bugs all along the house (as I mentioned previously, almost out of "The Birds"), anything remotely edible and fattening. I hope the food supplies hold out and the bug supplies fill in soon.

The other excitement will be June 14-15 weekend, when I meet some very distant relatives in Mauston, WI. This includes dear friend and relative Jackie from VT. For me this is extraordinary, as usually I find any way possible to get out of meeting new people. But this is the Niles in me speaking, and as this branch of the renegade westerners dwindles, I need to reach back to my roots. Must be one of those middle-age crisis thingies. I'm really looking forward to it.

I heard earlier this week from someone I wasn't sure I'd hear from again (both of us had lost each other's contact info). My last college chum (from 1978) Amy was going to be in town last weekend, but unfortunately I was out. At least we now know again how to reach each other. A trip to Appleton, WI coming up?

Exciting times all around! I think...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Hitchcock of warblers?

This past weekend was truly remarkable both for the numbers and variety of birds seen at the Nisswa townhouse and cabin. It is unfortunate that the birds’ poor fortune in finding food was our good fortune in viewing and banding, but being able to watch some species forage on the ground that are otherwise in treetops is a remarkable experience. It is also unfortunate that my photo skills aren't nearly as good as others I have presented in this blog. Hope you guys can come north sometime!

Blackburnian Warbler foraging in the cabin yard

As a steady rain saturated us Saturday, my mom (yes, it was Mother’s Day weekend, after all) and I watched between 1:30 PM and 2:30PM at least 10 to 20 birds per minute (no exaggeration, folks)pass along the West Twin Lake shoreline; mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers but also Palm Warblers and other species (poor light precluded an ID). Upon our return to the townhouse at 3PM we watched her backyard feeding area for four hours straight. Among the species seen in just one pine tree during that period:

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-winged Blackbird
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Baltimore Oriole
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch
Yellow-rumped Warbler
(Western) Palm Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Tennessee Warbler

At least for those birds the previous evening’s Cooper’s Hawk was not present.

Today being a colder but nicer day some banding was attempted at the cabin. For those who are struggling as I am with molt limits and the like for in-hand avian age determination, I present these other photos to see what you think (along with my own decisions):

Second-year Western Palm Warbler

Second-year male Yellow-rumped Warbler

After second-year Least Flycatcher

Note that this last could very well be second-year because of that odd covert towards the right in the photo.