Odd Bird Friday

This has been a week and a bit for odd birds. Part of it is because the cold front last week slammed through with winds of up to 80 MPH, and chased birds into town. Part is, well, just because this past two weeks have been strange. It IS 2020, after all.

A week ago Thursday, once the wind settled down to “weak gale” from howling ‘Norther, I went strolling. Tucked into the front flowerbed at Redquarters I saw a wren, three vireos, and the hummingbird. The hummingbird was more active than the other four birds. The vireos got blown in, the wren was out at midday for unknown reasons. The wren is a local, the vireos were not.

The next morning, as I drove into work, a roadrunner crossed my path on the road. I’ve never seen a roadrunner out there before.

Fast forward to Tuesday of this week. As I drove to work, something large and increasingly slow flapped its way toward one of the power poles. It landed and surveyed the world. No other birds, aside from two more large fowl, moved. It was a hawk. A huge hawk. The Mississippi kites have already departed, it wasn’t a merlin, and the colors and size were wrong for a Coopers or sharp-shinned. I didn’t ask its name, just drove on to work. It’s possible it was a variant marking of the red-tailed hawk. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-tailed_Hawk/media-browser-overview/60384771

Tuesday afternoon, I took out the litter box. There was a ground-feeding bird in the alley that was not a dove. My first thought was, “quail.” The shape, movement, and size screamed quail. Except, 1) no topknot, 2) only one of them walking about, and it wore 3) the wrong colors, in that this one was brown striped. But my gut kept insisting that it was, indeed, a quail.

The Asian rain quail. Image fair use under Creative Commons: https://download.ams.birds.cornell.edu/api/v1/asset/126574241/1800

As it turns out, it was an Asian rain quail. No, I have no idea where it came from, how it got there, or where it was going. It wasn’t banded. Just an odd bird in a week of odd birds.


Medical Techs, Legal Secretaries, and Career NCOs

What are three types of people without whom nothing would work in their various organizations and institutions? I was musing on this Saturday, when a former co-worker of a family member approached us at lunch and talked about how much she appreciated how my family member never lost their cool, never took frustration out on subordinates, always tried to teach subordinates a little bit about the “other side” of the professional curtain so that the subordinates could do their jobs better and more easily.

This person’s job was one that is absolutely vital for the overall profession to function, but one that doesn’t get as much credit as the white-collar side of the aisle does. There are a lot more things besides medicine, the military, and the law where that’s true. Continue reading

1.2 Alarm Call?

Someone having to call fire and rescue wasn’t funny. What came trundling up the sidewalk after the call was funny.

Some background. Over the past few years, there’s been a steady turn-over in the population in the neighborhood around Redquarters. Older people are moving out, and new families, often with several small children, are moving in. The area seems especially popular for families with at least three kids, and “Kid crossing” signs have started appearing in front of houses. This is very good, and I like having to look out for small herds of grade school and younger kids. Continue reading

Then Untouch It!

It’s one of those basic rules. If you touch something (switch, lever, button) and something interesting but undesired happens (sparks, smoke, odd sound or smell), untouch it. Turn it off, back away, and start trouble shooting. In aircraft, this is especially important with the flap switch, because split flaps (one down, one not so down or not down at all) mean loss of control of the plane. Landing gear are somewhat similar. Down is good, up is workable, one or two down, one still up, tends to get “interesting.”

I was thinking about this the other day when a colleague pointed to the desktop computer in her classroom. “It’s making funny noises. I rebooted it, but it’s making a grinding noise.” Continue reading

Eggplant Surprise

Mom came home from something or the other with a large eggplant. I was surprised. I’m not an eggplant fan, because of the bitterness in so many commercial eggplant dishes. MomRed knows that I will walk miles to avoid eggplant. So I was not consulted, just presented with eggplant, quantity 1, going into the oven as I came home from work. Since it was storming outdoors, my storming out in search of a non-eggplant supper was not going to happen.

Mothers are sneaky. Did you know that? Continue reading

Data versus Knowledge

“How do you know so much?” This is a question I hear fairly often. I have a very broad but shallow knowledge base, with a few deeper sections (certain fields of history, geology and physical geography, German language). That’s knowledge, not data. It is built on decades of acquiring information both deliberately and accidentally.

Today, those with internet access, or even access to a decent public library, have an amazing amount of data flowing free for the taking. But all that data seems more and more to interfere with getting knowledge. So much material of varying quality but enormous quantity flows across our screens and over the pages of our books and journals that building knowledge from that flood has become very difficult. Continue reading

And the Sun Was Dimmed for Five Years . . .

Something went strange in the mid-500s AD/CE. Multiple accounts from Europe report the sun being dimmer, the sky turning yellow, and crops withering. People also fell ill, and the land ailed. Then came terrible storms that destroyed the coastline of the North Sea, and probably other places for which we have no records or archaeological finds. After a few years, the sky returned to normal and slowly, order seeped back into Europe. And into China, and Southeast Asia, and perhaps South America (archaeological records are still variable.)

In the early 1600s, the sky dimmed, milky white with high clouds that blocked some sunlight. The weather turned cold, bitter cold, the Kattegat froze solid enough that armies marched from Denmark to Norway. Ice locked in Constantinople/Istanbul, causing hunger and pestilence. The English colonies in the Americas suffered crop losses, as did parts of Spain and Northern Europe. China saw frosts as far south as the border with Vietnam, and snow. The disasters led to up to 50% population loss in late Ming-early Quin China.

In the early 1800s, the sky dimmed in the Northern Hemisphere, and a year passed without a summer. Glaciers advanced so fast that they destroyed villages in the Alps.

Right now, Monday afternoon, the sky is tinged orangy-cream, the sun has dimmed, and the shadows are orange. Instead of 98, the temperature is 90. The smoke from California and Colorado has dimmed the sun, as it did on Sunday, although not as much. My lungs feel uncomfortable when I walk around outside for extended periods, and my eyes ache. Something is not right. The birds are quiet, the air feels odd, and I can almost smell smoke, perhaps. Now I understand in my gut the disquiet felt by the chroniclers in the 500s, 1600s, and 1800s. Those events were exacerbated by volcanoes. This is “just” forest smoke, and will pass sooner than later, once the arctic front arrives with rain.

But still . . . Darkover, Land of the Bloody Sun? It’s disconcerting, to say the least.