Sunday, January 31, 2016

A warbler on the wing


Watching a pine warbler




Going on the attack.


He’s a bug eater.



There is a bug in his sights.



Fear the Beak!


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016



Did anybody watch that 2013 documentary? 


Years ago I went to Sea World for the first time just because I was in the neighborhood, no expectations, and was blown away by the killer whale show.  The power was overwhelming; the size of the beasts; handlers being launched high in the air in such a graceful cooperative precise ballet.  That moment left a mark.


We saw there was a documentary about orcas called Blackfish.  The documentary presents orcas as social sentient animals.  There are several distinct populations, sometimes overlapping, that don’t interact or interbreed.  They have complicated social structures in the wild consisting of pods and clans, each having their own dialect.


The problem was, this film was too heartbreaking to watch.  They maintain that these animals languish in captivity; away from their extended family structure.  Once they’re removed from their home in the sea and held for years, they can’t even be naturally released.  They have no place in a population foreign to them; that might not even speak the same language.


We had to fast forward through the saddest parts.  I doubt Blackfish is an unbiased view about keeping whales in captivity, we all have our agendas, but no matter how slanted this report is, if any part of it is true, it’s just too tragic to contemplate.  Of course, Sea World has their own slant on the subject and has mounted a vigorous campaign about how humanely they treat the whales, but the sight of Shamu will never be the same for me again.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

It's that time


…for our annual “Can you spot the common pauraque in this picture?”


Here is the first view.











A little closer.











…and closer.











…until we’ve got him full-frame!











What a cool bird.



Monday, January 25, 2016

Rubik's cube update


I got some responses to my last Rubik’s Cube post.  After I sent the report though, I worried that some might offer clues about whether I’m on the right track or not, so I set the responses aside.  I didn’t read them.  It’s like not being able to watch a football game during the day while it tapes on the DVR to watch the next day, and then trying to avoid hearing the score before you get a chance to watch it.  I want to know how this ends, but I want to work my way through it to get there.  I’ll read the responses later, thank you.


In the meantime I haven’t gotten anywhere by trying to solve the cube level by level.  I’ve been thinking more about breaking down the task into smaller parts.  There are 26 visible positions on the cube, 9 on the top layer, 8 on the middle layer, and 9 on the bottom layer.  Of those 26, 6 of them are fixed; pivot points that won’t change.  That leaves 20 individual positions that need to be solved.  Within that 20, there are two types of positions; 8 corner pieces with three sides each, and 12 middle pieces with two sides each.


Since we know the whole cube can be solved, it stands to reason that the individual smaller problems could be solved as well.  I’ve gone back to my effort to solve just the corner pieces.  Maybe it’s the simplest; it’s got the least number of pieces.  It’s not that hard to get four corner pieces right all at once.  I can get part way through the other four corners, but haven’t made it all the way yet.  I think I just need to be able to see a little farther out to get all the corners in the right places all at the same time.  Hopefully, if I can resolve all eight cube corners, the rest of the puzzle will follow; I’ll be able to solve the middle pieces as well.


My progress (or lack of progress) updates must surely be maddening to those who already know how to solve the puzzle, but please don’t shout out the answer.  I still think this is something I can figure out eventually.



It’s a warm night, the door is open, and there is a pauraque calling out in the park.  What a delight.  The pauraque is a night bird, so that’s when it’s vocal.  (These are the birds that sleep on the forest floor during the day and are indistinguishable from leaf litter.)  When it gets dark, they pop out into clearings and eat flying insects.  They hunt from the ground and jump up in the air to catch their prey.  In the early dusk, they look funny hopping up and down in the twilight.  This is the first one we’ve heard this season.  They’re a common summer chorus.



Sunday, January 24, 2016

Go Broncos!


It was a hard-fought hard-hitting game, but we provided just enough boost from Way South Texas that the Broncos advance to the Super Bowl!


Our contribution to the cause involved Broncos poncho wearing, dishes in the kitchen doing, yelling, running, jumping, high-fiving, and swearing.  Judy watched the last part of the game from outside on the deck, looking in at the television, trying to cool down a little.  And good thing for me; I had my neck-helmet on the whole time!


We get a chance to do it all again in two weeks.  We were scheduled to be in Houston, on a driving trip to watch Alex’s gymnastics meet on Friday, see some birds north of Houston on Sunday, then travel down to Corpus for a checkup with the neck surgeon on Tuesday.  We decided to scrap everything about that trip except the Alex’s gymnastics part.  We’ll fly back and forth to Houston so we can be home on Sunday for the Super Bowl.  The people at the Houston hotel who would have been our next door neighbors will likely enjoy a quieter stay.


Go Broncos!



Saturday, January 23, 2016

Then and now


I weigh the same I have weighed all my adult life.  That’s good, right?  As I’ve gotten older, I haven’t put on any weight.  Couldn’t tell that by the mirror though.  What’s up with that?


I thought about it.


Muscle mass.  I’ve read that men lose five pounds of lean muscle per decade after the age of 40.  I’m three decades past 40.  Let me do the arithmetic.  Oh shit!  I just lost fifteen pounds of muscle and I still weigh the same!



Friday, January 22, 2016

It's Henry's fault


We find ourselves sleeping in.


We’ve always gotten up at 6:30 or 7:00.  We get up and get about our day.


But without Annie now, there is no 6:30 puppy alarm telling us it’s time for us to get up, take the dogs outside, and bring them back in to feed them.  Henry Iron Bladder doesn’t care.  He’ll sleep as long as we do.  It doesn’t matter when he eats either.  Whenever we get around to it is fine with him.


Now Judy and I are underperforming and it’s Henry’s fault.



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sarah Palin


Campaigning for Donald Trump?  Pure genius.  Double down on your strength.


I’m feeling a Trump Palin ticket.



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Spoiler alert


If you’re working on solving a Rubik’s cube, I don’t want to give anything away, so you should change the channel right now.  If you know how to do it, I don’t want any help either.  I’m just stumbling my way through it; trying to figure out the patterns.  I could look it up on the internet; find the answer and move one, but I want to know if I can get there on my own.  (I don’t think I’m very close.)  I don’t mind if it takes a while.



I don’t know.


I got one side entirely done; I figured out the pattern for that. 


The keys for me were to realize that the center of each side is fixed; that will determine what colors go on which sides.  There are corner pieces and side pieces.  They will never intermingle; they will each solve separately.  Is any of this relevant to solving the puzzle in 3D?  Maybe, but it gets a lot harder from here.  Working on one layer without worrying about the two layers below it, that’s manageable.  Solving the middle and bottom layers while not screwing up the top one, that’s a problem I haven’t overcome yet.


I’m thinking maybe rather than solve the puzzle layer by layer, I might need to solve all the corner pieces first, then follow with all the side pieces after that.  My first forays that direction haven’t worked out so well yet though.  Each time I fix a bottom corner, I screw up a top corner.  Maybe I need to solve the middle row first, then work out the top or bottom.  Or maybe my attempts to find a pattern are totally misdirected.  Maybe all that is required is to be able to look several moves ahead; to be able to see what you’re screwing up as you’re solving each piece.


I’ll keep putting the cube down, then picking it up from time to time, waiting for inspiration to strike.  (..and no, I’m not going to ask Grandson Tony how to do it, then try to understand the answer.)


Maybe I can refer back to the directions for the pyramid.  “Make the red edge block in the plane, this is very easy, try to understand.”


Monday, January 18, 2016

Sunday's walk


Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.  One of our favorite places.




A small remaining stand of tropical woodlands.  Native ebony trees dripping with Spanish moss.  Sabal palms.  A hint of what it used to look like here.  Woodlands, marshlands, and scrub forest.  Crisscrossed with trails.  The northern limit of the range of many birds.


It’s always interesting.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

I want to know how the presidential campaign is going

It’s important for our country.  It’s important for our planet, picking a new world leader, so I turn on the news.  Someone is either interviewing trump to hear what he wants to say, or they are interviewing someone else to hear what they think about what trump said.  Within twenty seconds I have my fill of politics and turn off the news.  I tape the debates but can’t stand to watch them.


Wouldn’t it be nice if the conversations around presidential politics were carried on at an adult level, and the candidates would only say things that are true?  This is not a reference to trump, this is about all the candidates, regardless of party.  They could talk about their vision for the future and what they would like to do, rather than trying to outdo each other’s hyperbole about how bad their predecessor is, or knowingly distort how bad all the other candidates are.  They wouldn’t claim they are going to do things we all know they can’t do.  It’s not like we’re all being misled.  We know it’s bullshit, but it’s just part of the process.


In a way it’s like every guilty person walking into court and declaring “not guilty” and getting their best possible defense, to see what they can get away with.  We know right from the start that guilty people are trying to take advantage of the protection that innocent people need; but knowing that, we still have to sort through it every time.


Maybe though, if candidates only told the truth, focused on what they wanted to do, and didn’t promise what they can’t do, then there wouldn’t be so much to talk about anymore.  The airways would be empty.  It would be a very quiet election season.






Saturday, January 16, 2016

A little quality time


…with our devices.


Some milling about on the deck.




And our part of a good trip is over already.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Morning mist



And morning light.


A nice sunny mid-eighties day on the deck.  Perfect weather for hanging out in the shade for a long visit.


Fed the kids smoked brisket, burnt ends, and cowboy beans.



The sliced brisket was on its way to a perfect presentation, but it fell into a pile on its way from the cutting board to the serving platter.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Matt and Lindsay are here!



We picked them up at the McAllen Airport last night.


We’ve having a good visit.  They’re staying in the guest cottage; the chalet; aka the motorhome.  It’s fun that they can stay right here in the park with us.


Today we took them to one of our favorite places for a walk, the Edinburg Wetlands.


Fired the smoker up this morning for home-cooked ribs tonight.  (Well, ribs for us, atlantic salmon for Lindsay.)


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Another gymnastics meet for Alex in Colorado


Here are links to the videos Matt took:






Parallel Bars


High Bar







There seem like more bobbles in his performances to me, but he scored the highest he ever has.  His average score was a 12.4.  He scored a 13.3 on the floor; his first 13 ever!


I think the degree of difficulty has gone way up, and as soon as he gets smoother, so will his scores.  This was good enough to get him 6th overall at his level; way better than he placed his first meet at Level 8 this year.


In February he will be attending an invitational meet in Houston.  Judy and I will drive up to meet them and watch.




Monday, January 11, 2016

Supreme Court Justice Scalia


Supreme Court Justice Scalia made that amazing statement about black college students: “Maybe they would be better off attending “slower” schools.”  He said this in a case addressing admission practices at UT Austin.


I think this is the direct quote:


There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.


Okay, so he didn’t really say it, he just said that “There are those who contend…”  He only said it by implication.


I wonder how our president feels about that statement.  I wonder how Neil deGrasse Tyson feels about that.  Actually, I think I can guess how every black person on the planet would feel about that.


Somehow black people evolved from being counted as 3/5ths of a human in our Constitution, through the civil war, past the post-civil war beatings, lynchings, and cross burnings; to being able to play baseball, join the army, sit at the front of the bus, sit at lunch counters, and attend integrated schools.  Now they can play any sport, coach the teams they couldn’t play on before, run our businesses, and even be president.


But imagine having to coach your son on the consequences of getting pulled over in his car, or god forbid wearing a hoodie at night.  So many myths; outdated convictions that just won’t go away.  And Supreme Court Justice Scalia perpetuating the one that says black children should attend slower schools……because they’re black.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sensory overload


We day-tripped to Falcon State Park, a little northwest of here, and an hour and a half away.


map for Edinburg to Falcon Lake State Park and Salineno.


We saw, and heard, a lot of birds.  Had a nice picnic.  Then we went by the DeWinn’s Yard in Salineno; that’s where the sensory overload happens.  Feeders stocked and maintained every winter.  Swarming with birds.


Green jay

Bewick’s wren

Altamira oriole

Audubon’s oriole

Long-billed thrasher

Great kiskadee

Northern cardinal

Golden-fronted woodpecker

Ladder-backed woodpecker

Black-crested titmouse


















All in one continuous flurry.  A bunch of really good birds; especially the orioles.  Southern specialties.


Altamira oriole range map:



Audubon’s oriole range map:


And the great kiskadee.  The kiskadee range map:


Always a worthwhile stop at Salineno.