Saturday, February 28, 2015

Alex update


Final regular meet of the year.  The Colorado Open at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs.  It was a big meet.  Lots of kids.  Lots of states.


Alex medaled in all six events.  He took:


1st in vault.  Personal best.  12.7 on a 10 point scale.  (extra credit for bonus moves.)

1st in rings.

1st in floor.

2nd on pommel.


1st all-around.  Personal best.  63.3 on a 60 point scale.

And his team finished 1st.





Parallel bars:



He had a break-through day.

Next up, State Finals later in March.



Friday, February 27, 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

On the night before our wedding


Judy’s mom had “that” talk with her about sex.  Judy shared it with me.


She said Judy would put on a negligee and get in bed.  I would go in the bathroom and get ready.


A negligee.  Okay.  I get that part.  Not really necessary, but not a problem.  Getting in bed.  Yeah.  That works.


Fifty years later, I’m still in the bathroom wondering what it is I’m supposed to be doing to get ready…



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

We did not take this owl picture



We can’t take credit for it.


What we did do, is have a visit with a traveling birding couple we ran into at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park, and tell them how to find the owl.  Local knowledge that would never show up in a guidebook.  They found the owls and he took some awesome pictures, sharing this one with us.


He leads photography and birding tours in China.



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Death gets a bad rap


We justify all sorts of things by how many lives they each save; as if that’s a good thing.  We eliminate smallpox and save a million lives.  We improve treatment for heart disease; another million saved.  We improve safety standards and 250,000 less people die in car crashes.  C’mon people.  We’re all designed to die.  We want to keep on living, but we can’t extend life indefinitely.  If we all just keep on living, we’ll continue cluttering up the planet and *really* screw it up.


We have to let go of important things in our lives.  We have to leave special times; special places.  We have to let our kids go when it’s time for them to move on; we have to watch loved ones go when their time is up.


We don’t really have a choice in this.  Sooner or later, it’s going to be our time.  If we’re fortunate enough to get to that point where we recognize it’s the end, our final challenge is to let go of our own lives when it’s time; even if it doesn’t *feel* like time.



Monday, February 23, 2015

Red-winged blackbird



Brewer’s blackbird


And Yellow-headed Blackbird!




Sunday, February 22, 2015

Brown-headed cowbird



Red-winged blackbird


Bronzed cowbird.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Last year


Conner and his friend Ari did a science fair project.  They were 9.  They built and tested a “Death Ray” made by concentrating sun rays with four different magnifying glasses.  They took first place.  They went on to regionals and got honorable mention.


This year, now they’re 10.  They entered again.  This is Becky’s report.


They did a project designed to help children with special needs.  They hooked up a 3D scanner to a computer, and with some help from Brian, set it up to look for arm movements.  They made a video of falling balloons, and set it to music they made using a program called "Garage Band".  They then took Ari's brother, who has a genetic disorder that includes severe developmental delays, and taught him (over the course of 3 different days) to use the program.  When Paul would move his left arm, it would turn the movie on.  When he moved his right arm (or after 10 seconds of no movement), the video turns off.  They tracked the number of times he triggered the video on and off, at two different sensitivities (as in how far Paul had to move his arm to trigger the video), to see if he got better at using it over time.  The hope is that a program like that could help children with special needs learn cause and effect, and encourage them to move in a more deliberate and purposeful way.

They came up with the idea, and did all of the parts except programing the framework (they did do part of the programming, told the program what movements to look for, set the sensitivity of the program, made the video, set it to music, and added that to the program).  Their board is cool, and their presentation to the judges was awesome.  The first judge to see them told them "they set the bar so high he couldn't see how any other project could possibly compare".  They also ended up presenting for more judges than the other kids, because some judges who weren't assigned to them wanted to come see it.

The really cool part - on the third day of testing, Paul "got it".  You could see him thinking, moving his arm, smiling when the video turned on, looking mad when it turned off, and then turning it back on again.  His mom and I were both tearing up at that!  That's a big deal for him!  Conner and Ari have also gotten requests from a couple of people who work with kids with disabilities who would like to try using the program with their own students.  Conner and Ari both think it's a great idea, and Brian is going to try to get the program to a more usable state so that it can be shared.

Brian and I (and Ari's folks) are all so proud we can't even stand it!


You can add grandparents to that list of proud.


Friday, February 20, 2015



The sun is at the right angle.


The morning light illuminates Judy’s flower arrangements again.



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Maybe Henry


…thinks he’s a cat.





Wednesday, February 18, 2015

We got a golden fronted woodpecker


…in good light.



Well, at least his head was in good light.



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

We got a twofer


Judy and me both taken care of on the same day.  It involved an early drive north to Corpus, Judy’s pre-surgical check-in (lots of paperwork, blood test, chest x-ray, and ekg) for her knee (which happens in two weeks, the day after I’m cleared to drive), fish, shrimp, and hush puppies at Snoopy’s for lunch, my follow-up appointment with the neck surgeon (I’m doing great), back to the other office to finish Judy’s pre-surgical check-in, and drove off for home at 4:30 exactly.  Our timing was perfect to arrive home just as it was getting too dark for Judy to be able to see to drive.  I don’t drive at all right now.  She doesn’t drive at night.  Timing is everything.


I’m doing great; I don’t see the neck surgeon for another follow-up for another two months.  I get to try sleeping without the neck brace, but otherwise I’m instructed to keep it on for a few more weeks.  Nothing new with Judy, we’re still trying to fit in that same knee repair we’ve been talking about for months now.  We’re determined to get it done on schedule now in early March.


A long day, with much shuffling about from office to office, but a productive day.  A good investment in our continuing health.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentine's Day was wonderful!

We both got to be right all day long.


Tomorrow is a big day.  We go back to the surgeon in Corpus Christi for my 4 week checkup.  If he likes my recovery, he should release me part time from the neck brace.  I know I’ll need to continue to wear it in the car, so still no driving, but I should be entirely out of it in another two weeks after tomorrow.


The day we got the brace on, the thought of going six weeks with this thing was imponderable.  I had to switch my focus to one day.  All I had to do is make it through one day and one night with this contraption on.  Then we could decide what to do next.  After that first day and night, we decided to make it through another day.  Now, suddenly, I’ve had it on for a month.  A month?  If I could move my head I’d shake it in disbelief!


Time flies even when you’re living in a rack.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

The great ferruginous hawk hunt


That’s an unusual bird here, the ferruginous hawk, so we drove out to some agricultural land north of us to where it has been reported.  (By “we drove”, of course, I mean that Judy drove while I hung my head out the window watching for birds.  Think Pet Detective, or taking Henry for a car ride.)  There is a prairie falcon out there too; another great bird for here; not uncommon out on the Eastern Colorado prairie, but a big deal here.  With two really conspicuous birds to watch for in only one sky, how hard could it be?


We started off with a long-billed curlew in a yard.


We moved on to a red-tailed hawk on a utility pole.


Annie and Henry had a chance to get out of the car and stretch their legs.



Annie still has her puppy moments.


We saw northern harriers galore.


…coursing low over fields in search of munchies.


We saw a peregrine falcon atop a distant pole eating a mouse.


There were horned larks.


There was a really distinctive red-tailed hawk

Not so much for the red tail, but for the wing pattern.


And a vesper sparrow.


Perched and posed.


Want to guess how many ferruginous hawks and prairie falcons we saw?


Not so many. 


No problem.  There is something enchanting about the vast emptiness of the Colorado Eastern Plains …and the vast agricultural land of South Texas.


We’ll be back.





I’m told this gray hawk, that I identified as a Gray Hawk, standing in a tree,


Is actually the backside of an adult Cooper’s Hawk like this (not my picture)


standing in bad light.


My bad.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Stakeout


Most birds we get to see on our own terms; we go out and look for them whenever we feel like it.  Some birds require an appointment.


The hook-billed kite is one of those birds that operates on a schedule.  If you want to see a hook billed kite, you have to fit your time to their schedule; but they don’t tell you exactly what that schedule is.  They change it a little each day.  You just have to guess.


We got word that a hook-billed kite leaves the forest at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park each morning and flies over the levee headed north.  That’s the viewing point for us; the levee.  He had been seen at 9:30 yesterday morning.  We didn’t want to miss him this morning, so we showed up at the state park at 8:00am prepared for a two-hour (or more) stakeout waiting for the fly-by.  We arrived on the levee at 8:04.  The kite flew over at 8:09, gave us a great view circling right overhead, then glided off to the north out of site.  That was it; the end of the stakeout.  A five-minute stakeout.


The kite is not a hunter that pounces on its prey from the sky.  It spends the day climbing around in trees like a parrot, finding little tree snails and eating them.


We’ve done well with rare raptors the last couple days.  Judy picked out a zone-tailed hawk soaring high with a kettle of turkey vultures and black vultures riding the morning thermals.

It’s so high we can’t see the markings on his tail but have to identify him by size and silhouette.


Gray hawk.  We’ve been seeing brown juveniles.



Then from the car, Judy spotted an adult standing in a tree within 50 feet of us.


Today, we got the hook-billed kite.




This birding thing is so easy…


Friday, February 13, 2015

Estero Llano Grande State Park


The scenery.


The great egret.





Thursday, February 12, 2015

Remember that gray-crowned yellowthroat


….we were looking for before we went to Houston?  It is still being reported down here in the Valley.  We missed it several times before, so we got serious and showed up right about dawn to find it.  That worked perfectly.  We walked right up on it, close to the trail, and photographed it.


Here is what common yellowthroats look like.

These are the ones we see almost every day.  They’re always near water.


Here is the gray-crowned yellowthroat.

He likes it drier.  He likes it in South America.


Way cool.  Lifer!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Falcon


We reported that Aplomado Falcon up by Houston on eBird.  We heard back the very next day from the moderator of bird sightings in that area wanting to know exactly where it was so other people could go see it.  That’s a very rare bird for that area and Judy and I just stumbled onto it.  We did what we could to help them find it and so far several other people have been able to locate it and record their sightings.  That’s fun.


Here is the original picture.


Here is the bird blown up a little.


Can’t see his facial features as well as we could with binoculars though.  If you zoom in with your viewer you can get a good look at him.


I know.  I’ll send it as an attachment too.