Sunday, November 30, 2014

The White Pelicans


…are back.




They spend summers up north,




…breeding on inland lakes in the northern Midwest all the way up through central Canada.


They winter down south with us.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

White-tailed Kite


Way out there on a post.


It used to be called a black-shouldered kite.


But names change.  (Even if shoulders don’t.)





They hang in the air when they’re hunting.


Anything the size of a large insect is at risk.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Saw a really cool hawk the other day


Zone-tailed Hawk.


Got him right down on the Rio Grande.


Not many places in the U.S. for this hawk.


Got to be south and west.


Never got him in good light.



But we got him nice and close.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

I've been thinking


I heard during the last election that we spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined.  I was stunned.  I googled it.  According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, it’s roughly true.  I did the arithmetic on their statistics and found that it took the military spending for the next 9 countries to equal that of the U.S. in 2013.


I’m still stunned.


Then I wonder what that means in economic terms.  Is that sort of spending a drain on our economy?  If we didn’t have to spend that money on defense, does that mean we could have spent that money on directly improving the lives of our citizens instead?  Is that how it works for countries that don’t have world-wide military forces?  Do they have an economy and standard of living an order of magnitude better than ours?


I don’t think so.


Or is it more complicated than that?  Is “national defense” actually an economic engine?  Is there a net gain to our country by all that churning of money; taxing citizens, buying munitions, employing armies, and deploying them all about?  Certainly there are other motivations for our military actions, but since we do it so much, I have to wonder if maybe our economy is better when we’re pumping out war goods than when we’re at peace.



Sunday, November 23, 2014

What happens to spider webs


… if we never walk through them and flail them down with our arms?


Judy and I were on the deck watching a web high in the avocado tree.  There was a spider maintaining it and running out and back to collect stuff.  This went on for quite a while, then suddenly the web started disappearing.  The spider was taking it down!  All that web, and it only took him about four trips around it and it was gone.  It didn’t look like he was balling it up and rolling it away, it looked like the web was disappearing.  We googled it.  Sure enough, spiders will consume their own webs when they’re through with them, to recycle the ingredients for spinning more webs.



Saturday, November 22, 2014

I got chastised


…for referring to those things with blades in the sky as windmills.  There are no mills or grinding of grain involved.  The chastiser prefers the term wind turbine.



Friday, November 21, 2014

Judy, Valium, and an MRI


They said my claustrophobe wife didn’t have to go all the way into the machine; they only had to put her knee in.  Yeah.  Right.  She’s not that tall.  To get Judy’s knee to the correct place in the machine, she went in the tube all the way up to her chin.


They put her in.  We both got earplugs against the noise.  She got headphones and music.  I stood by and held her hand.  She practiced slow measured breathing.  She counted backwards from 100 to zero.  Several times.  She burned through 10 milligrams of Valium.  It took 21 minutes.  We made it to the end.  Judy survived.  The MRI machine survived.  The process was a success.  My wife is still a claustrophobe.


We all went out for ice cream.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

2,157 people died


There is a sign over the highway that lists how many people have died so far on Texas roads this year.  (It’s warning us to be careful.)  The number I last saw was 2,157.  2,157 people died.  That’s a lot of people, but it’s just a sign over a roadway.  It’s just a number.  Minimal impact.


A crazy person goes into an elementary school, guns down 20 children, and rips our hearts out.  20 innocent children.  It’s unbearable to ponder.  Still.


There had to be at least 20 children killed in that traffic toll of 2,157, but somehow it’s just not the same.  It’s a mind boggling disconnect.  Of course the death of a friend or loved one has a greater impact than the death of a stranger, yet there is more to it than just proximity and knowledge.  The children killed in an elementary school on the other coast are no nearer or known to us than the nameless children killed in traffic right here in our own state.  Death is so absolute, yet at the same time so relative; the impact is relative and I don’t even know relative to what.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Long haul trailer odometers




Do truck trailers have odometers to track miles traveled?  Turns out a lot of people knew the answer to this one.  There is a hub meter to track how far trailers have gone.  They need to know that for monitoring tires, brakes, and wheel bearings.  Not all trailers have them, but many do.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Arie's birthday


A year ago today.












It was an exciting, exhausting, rewarding time.


Monday, November 17, 2014

They must have odometers on long-haul trailers


That’s my guess anyway.  Since trailers get dragged from place to place, and not always by the same tractor, they must have really good logs, or have their own odometers.  Trucks need speedometers and odometers so they can monitor their speed and distance and track service intervals.  Trailers don’t need speedometers but they must need to track distance for service intervals.    If they’re not always attached to the same truck, they must have odometers of their own too.


A trucker would know…



Sunday, November 16, 2014

We have a winner!


Fox Sparrow.  That’s the bird I most want next.  It’s a good one because it’s not extremely difficult to find and also because it lives in the north part of Texas in the winter.  We don’t even have to travel out of state to see it; we just have to go to a part of Texas we don’t usually go to in the winter.


Not only do we have a winner, we have an alternate.  The next most wanted bird after the Fox Sparrow:  Mountain Quail.  It’s nowhere around here, it lives in the High Sierras in California up through Oregon so it will have to wait, but we’re going to the family reunion on the eastern slope of the Cascades next year.  That will put us within a state of him.  Maybe we can drop down a state and get him then.


Saturday, November 15, 2014



A long stretch of interstate 10 across West Texas.  The left lane is in fine shape.  The right one is worn out.  It’s a bumpy rattly ride in the right lane.  The left lane is smooth.  There is not much traffic.  I drive in the left lane.  Then we come to a diversion for construction.  We’re rerouted to the other side of the freeway while our side gets a redo.  Both lanes are being resurfaced.


What’s wrong with this picture?  Only one lane is worn out, because it gets 90% of the traffic, but we have to replace both.  We have to replace both because of our driving convention: pass on the left, drive on the right.  After we pass someone, we move back over to the right lane.  (Not all of us always do, but enough of us do to make a big difference in lane wear.)


What if we could extend the life of the freeway for several years, for essentially no extra cost?  All we have to do is periodically reverse our driving convention.  On these long open sections, invest in a little signage that says “Drive on the Left, Pass on the Right.”  When the right lane starts to wear out, put up the signs and switch to left lane driving.  We wear down each lane equally before we have to replace anything.


Chaos would not ensue.  The human brain is an amazing thing.  It can accommodate change, sometimes without even thinking.  Drive down the open highway with one hand on the top of the steering wheel.  Unconscious hand and arm movements keep the vehicle in its lane.  Switch the driving hand to the bottom of the wheel.  The brain adapts.  All the necessary corrective movements are reversed, but they still just happen without any conscious effort.


We’re that good at driving.  We can effortlessly adapt to whatever is required.  Surely we could respond appropriately to signs directing us which lane to drive in.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Talavera grasshopper


Know that Talavera pottery look?  A jumble of bright colors.

We see a lot of it here in South Texas.


Well, in Arizona we saw some unexpected Talavera.


It’s called a Horse Lubber grasshopper.  Surprisingly, we found him eating a dead beetle.


What’s up with that?  Grasshoppers aren’t carnivores.  They eat plants!  It turns out this grasshopper is an opportunist and will munch down meat when presented with the chance to stock up on protein.



Thursday, November 13, 2014

We missed Pam and Dan in Arizona


They were just arriving in Tucson for the winter as we were headed east.  Bummer.


We didn’t miss Ralph and Diane at Davis Mountain State Park in Texas though.  They came from their home in Fort Davis to the campground for dinner, a sunset, and a visit around the campfire.