Life’s little ironies

April 29, 2010

I saw a fellow driving into work the other day with one of those little god-awful donut spares on one wheel.  It was flat.

Anyway, yesterday I added a new bird to my hospital list when I spotted a Great Blue Heron flying overhead at lunchtime.  Beautiful morning; clear blue sky, cool, breezy (polleny, though).  Heading to the car I had a Titmouse calling across the street and a Catbird singing around back, plus some various warblery sounding things.  I can’t remember off-hand the early warbler that sounds like something interesting until you figure out what it is; sort of the warbler equivalent of Willets, but auditory instead of visual.  Maybe Redstart?  Have to hit the books again to refresh my memory.


They’re ba-ack!

April 28, 2010

The flying cigars rolled back into town yesterday afternoon – one second the skies were clear, and the next, it looked like someone had thrown a rock through a hornets’ nest, if the hornets were big, gray and feathered.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Swifts so frenzied in such large numbers before – I kept expecting to see a puff of feathers and a trail of cartoon stars, but as far as I could tell, no collisions took place.

Ends and Odds

April 27, 2010

Time to catch up on some stuff.

Last Thursday, I noticed that the Maple and Elm seeds were pouring off the trees in quite impressive amounts, and that the Oak trees were done flowering.  Meanwhile, the grasses and Spring weeds are in full flower (again, about 3 weeks earlier than 30 years ago), causing an allergy season that is exceptionally strong.  Friday, another big sunbow – I have no idea whether they are more common than when I was young, or whether I’m just noticing them more, but it seems to me that I’ve been seeing a handful of sunbows every year for the past few years anyway.  I saw my first one in 1997.

Monday I heard the first warblers of the year, as a small wave seemed to be working through the area under wet, overcast skies.  Later in the day, a Great Egret flew across Rte 1 down Herring Run, which may indicate that the feeble remnants of the shad run are beginning, or that this particular Egret was simply wandering.  Lovely bright white against the low overcast, though.

Today, another Turkey Vulture circling over the hospital; a fairly common sight, although not one calculated to reassure our more sensitive clients..  It made me wonder, though – Turkey and Black Vultures are pretty regularly seen circling over the rowhouses here in the slum areas – are there gas leaks, or are they finding lots of dead animals?

Well, all in all, this frog feels the water temperature getting uncomfortable, but I don’t see any way to jump out of the pot.

Lists served cold (the best way to serve this dish, too)

April 22, 2010

Before I forget, I figured I had better put down a couple of lists – I wish I’d thought to do this starting a few years ago; I’d like to see what I liked and how my tastes have changed over the past half-decade or so.

Anyway, let’s see; music, comma, favorites:

– anything Baroque (I’ve been on a Telemann kick lately; he varies from the very good to the PDQ Bach-reminiscent, but always nice to listen to.  Baroque elevator music, only better).

– Haydn (FJ), Mozart (WA), and a smattering of the other Classical and Romantic composers (especially Berlioz – love the guillotining bit in Sym. Fant..  Nobody could write a head bouncing into a basket like old Hector B)

– Zeppelin, Little Feat, the Beatles, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Hayseed Dixie

– pretty much all the good Bluegrass (hey, how about Allison Krauss and Robert Plant!  better than Reeses!)

– some C&W, like Jimmie Rodgers,  Hank Williams, Dwight Yoakam, George Jones and George Strait

– humor-for-highways, like the Arrogant Worms, Richard Cheese, Heywood Banks, and Dread Zeppelin.  The collected Prairie Home Companion Joke shows recordings are always good for a laugh as well.

– and open-road driving music, like certain selections from ZZTop, Kentucky Headhunters, Georgia Satellites, and some of the above.

Then a quick shot of webcomics:

The best, by far: Sinfest

All really good, in one way or other: Schlock Mercenary, Questionable Content, Order of the Stick, 8-bit Theater, XKCD, Dr. McNinja, and some others that don’t stick in the mind as well.  Anything available in newspapers doesn’t count.

Late, lamented: Sluggy Freelance and Shoot Me Now.

It’s funny how things go – some comics start with a bang, then fade quickly (like Garfield); some hang on long past the time they’ve stopped being even amusing (with a great deal of respect to Mr. Schultz, Peanuts from before about 1970 is still pretty funny; after that, it gradually eases off into a couple of familiar jokes replayed over and over with an ever-diminishing cast.  Some never die (I still laugh at Pogo (all the way to the end) and Doonesbury, after lo! these many years).  And some die too soon (I keep leaving out tunafish sandwiches, but he never takes the bait..)  Webcomics are no different, except insofar as they can often get away with stuff that would make editors blanch.  Not that that’s a bad thing.

Oh, It’s spider time again, etc. etc.

April 22, 2010

A lovely, misty morning today, and so on the way out I saw the first Bowl-and-Doily web of the year at the fence line.  There was a loose tangle of dew-covered silk nearby, but I’m not enough conversant with the less formally structured snares to know who made it.   I’ll just call him ‘Bo-o-ris the Spi-i-der’ after Pete Townsend’s little pal (although I have no idea if he’s black and hairy or very small).  I’m still recovering from the stresses of Tax day, although thanks to the Feat (who played ‘Fat Man in the Bathtub’ on loop for me while I was wrestling with my 1040 and state forms) (“I hear him moan”, they said, and so did the neighborhood), I pulled through only a tad crankier than usual.  And speaking of cranky, every time I see one of those asinine “Tea Party” protests, I think (uncharitably) to myself – “Well, then, why in God’s name don’t you start by refusing all the money you get from the Feds, if you’re so dead-set against it?”  But of course, they’re only against Federal spending if it goes to somebody other than them.  It’s only “Socialism” if it benefits the ‘wrong sort’ of people.  Why, oh why can’t the modern Republicans be honest and forthright about their drives and their goals?  Is there a single one of their oft-proclaimed ‘moral and ethical principles’ that the group doesn’t violate on a daily basis?  I won’t even go into the neo-Pharisee wing of the GOP and their clear disdain for the 10 Commandments (that applies only to thee, not me!).  Oy!  What a world, what a world….

Do only Ruminants ruminate?

April 20, 2010

Busy week.  The first House Wren of the year rolled in Saturday (4/18), then off to the Valley for the weekend (Redbuds all the way down, Sonny!), then back to work at home and the job.  Almost makes me forget tax time.  It’s interesting – I keep hearing that Federal taxes are lower, but my experience over the past 5-10 years says the opposite.  There was a big jump when the GOP decided that those of us with less should pull our weight more to make life easier for the vastly wealthy, and every year things get a bit worse.  Oddly enough, my state taxes go up only slightly year-to-year – I still get a refund there, although it’s dropped from about $500 to about $250 over that period.  Meanwhile, my Federal tax has gone from about $800 (giving me a refund of about $600) to about $1700 (leaving me owing about $700) in that same time.  It doesn’t help that we moved out of the EIC bracket, and one of the kids is now too old for the Child Tax Credit.  One of the big kickers, though, is that my wife’s disability Social Security is now taxable at about 80% what with the various increases in my taxable income.  So, in effect, her disability is now her job.  I guess I shouldn’t complain much, though – the GOP has been trying desperately for about 80 years to kill the legacy of the hated FDR, and the Reaganomics strategy to bankrupt the country in order to kill the social programs seems to be finally bearing fruit.  Thanks, Grover Norquist!  Not that he devised it, and not that he hasn’t had a whole lot of help.  Serves me right for being careless enough not to have not been born into (or married into) a wealthy family, I suppose.  How thoughtless of me.

Oh, it’s cryin’ time again

April 8, 2010

I was reminded again yesterday of the changes that have occured over the past few decades.  When I was in college, not all that long ago, I could keep the windows open and enjoy spring air until about the middle of April when the medley of tree pollens finally became too strong.  The oaks traditionally joined in about the end of the month, just as the warbler migration revved up and shortly before finals.  This year, as is the new normal, some Maples started flowering in early March and the first oaks I saw in flower were at the beginning of this week, with oaks in flower everywhere as of yesterday.  We shut the house and turned on the air conditioning anyway because of the 80-90 degree temps this week (which at least have caused the global warming deniers to go into suspended animation until the next cold spell wakes them up), but that helps with the sneezing and weeping at night.   By my estimate, that makes about a 3-week shift earlier in only 30 years.  The warblers have shifted a bit as well, but not that much.  I have no idea whether that has been much of a factor in the decline of warbler numbers now, compared with what I used to get 30 years ago, but I have to think it hasn’t helped.