Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Henry did an interesting thing


Last night we were playing Joker in the dining room with Barb and Henry.  They brought Bailey and Willow.  Judy brought several toys and stuffed animals and put them next to the table, so the dogs would all be right there with us.  This time she brought Henry’s soft puffy bed that normally sits in front of the fireplace, and put it there too.


That worked for a while.  Then we heard Henry wrestling with the bed and watched while he dragged it off back into the living room.  It wasn’t an easy process and involved a couple wrong turns, but when he got done, the bed was back in front of the fireplace; inside out and upside down, but right where it belongs.  Judy turned it right side out and his world was back in order.


When I was young, the prevailing attitude was that animals, non-human animals, were just reactive creatures, responding to their environment.  (Actually there was considerable resistance to humans being referred to as  animals.  Humans were separate and apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.)  The appearance of conscious thoughts and emotions, ideas and feelings, in animals were only illusions.


The understanding of animal behavior has evolved since my youth though, and we now realize that other animals are conscious creatures that carry on complex lives.  Watching Henry drag that bed, fix a situation that wasn’t right, and put things back where they belong suggests a certain amount of understanding, ingenuity, and determination.  He observed, figured out what was wrong, devised a plan, and executed that plan.  There is a lot going on in that furry little head.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Leafcutter ants


Well, we thought they were leafcutters, but on closer inspection it turns out they’re carrying berries, not leaves.


They harvest them here at the bottom right.


Then form up a line carrying them across the grass.


When we’re out hiking we see signs informing us that “It only takes ten people to create a new trail, please stay on the path.”  Maybe ten thousand ant steps equals ten people steps, but they have clearly trampled a trail through the grass.


Across the road.


And down into this hole!


That’s got to be some cavern down there to handle this steady stream of goods.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Time for more gymnastics videos?


Here is the high bar routine.


High Bar


And here is the Floor.




We’ll be heading out there in March for State Competition.

Sunday, January 28, 2018



We miss our nightly joker game with Becky and Brian!  (And by the way, if the women say they beat the men two out of the three nights, let me declare right now FAKE NEWS!  Believe me!)  We sent them off at the Harlingen airport at noon today.  They’re safe and sound at home now.


Just got Alex’s results of the gymnastics meet in Phoenix:


Rings               4th

Vault               3rd

Pommel            2nd

High bar         2nd

Parallel bars   2nd

Floor               1st


All-around      1st


He won the age group skill level!


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Sal del Rey


Another walk today; this one out on the shore of the salt lake.



The water was high, so there weren’t any exposed crunchy salt crystals to walk on.  There were plenty of animal track to wonder over though.




Fed them a pile of ribs for dinner.


Another good day in Texas.


Friday, January 26, 2018

A good day in Texas


We had a couple nice walks.






Pizza, parakeets, and tonight one of us set a new world’s record at Joker, by going an entire 20 turns to start the game without getting an out card, while one of the opponents got all their marbles in and the other had only two to go.



Thursday, January 25, 2018



Becky and Brian are here for a visit!


Smoked up a brisket for them.



Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A cool overcast day


Temperature in the 60s.  Perfect weather for a walk.  Highlights of a lunchtime excursion:


Eared grebe.


A bobcat.






Ladderback woodpecker.



White-tailed hawk.




And american white pelican.






Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Driving down the highway in the Jeep


Adaptive cruise is on, keeping us at just the right speed for traffic conditions.  Lane sense is auto-correcting if it thinks I’m too close to the lane line.  Thinking we’re halfway to self-driving cars already; projecting what might come next, I settle on the trucking industry.  We don’t need trucks that can make every decision on their own to drive all across the country.  All we need is a truck that will follow another truck on the freeway.  Imagine a freight train rolling down the tracks, but in this case it’s a truck in front with several trucks behind, all programmed to follow the truck in front, rolling down the highway.  Self-driving reaction time is so fast, the trucks wouldn’t have to be very far apart.  They could be close like railcars, but without an actual physical coupling.


There would have to be a low-limit on how many trucks could convoy together though, or they would eliminate too many driving opportunities for cars on the road with them.  Either that, or they would need to be programmed to stay far enough apart that car traffic could merge in and out of their lanes between them to get to and from exits.


This would be tough on the truck driver industry though.  It would only take one driver to manage a three or four or five truck train.  I can think of one application though that truck drivers would probably be glad to get out of.  It’s that barrier truck that follows along behind road crews.  The one with the extended collapsible barrier designed to absorb an impact before it gets to the workers in front.  Probably everyone would be glad for that to be a driverless truck that could just be programmed to follow along behind the crew and protect them, without actually putting a driver at risk.


Just wandering thoughts.



Monday, January 22, 2018

Green Kingfisher


It’s a pretty cute little guy.  (In this case girl.)


Its larger relative, the belted kingfisher is seen all over the United States.


The green kingfisher’s range centers farther south.  And only extends into the U.S. in South Texas and Arizona.


The green kingfisher perches low on a branch over shallow water.  It’s barely larger than a sparrow with a bill like a great blue heron.  It divebombs its prey of minnows and crustaceans, returning to its perch to enjoy the meal.




Sunday, January 21, 2018

The world's oldest, and coolest, elevator


It’s called a Man Engine. 



Installed in a calcite mine in Norway in 1881, it drops 900 feet.  And it’s still in use.  There is no elevator car that goes up and down.  It’s two side by side beams, reciprocating up and down maybe 10 feet each time.  These beams extend the entire 900 foot depth.  There are multiple platforms, just large enough for a man to stand on, attached to each column, and offset from each other.  (There are grab-bars to hold onto also.)  As you ride one platform down to descend, the platform on the adjacent column is coming up to meet you.  At the end of the stroke, the adjacent step will be right next to you.  You step across.  Then that column goes down while the other column brings a lower step up to meet you.  By stepping back and forth to each new step as it comes up, you end up descending the entire 900 feet.


Here is a diagram:



If you go here, you can see a gif of it in motion; men ascending.


As dangerous as this seems, it was a great safety innovation.  Without the man engine, miners would have to descend ladders that 900 feet (90 stories), start their shift, work 8 or 10 hours, then climb the ladder out.  Fatigue related accidents on the climb out were a problem.  Besides that, the miner’s shift didn’t start until they reached the bottom.  The man engine decreased the commuting time on the ladder and increased productivity.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Yellow-rumped Warbler


Usually, when I take pictures of this bird, the yellow rump isn’t visible.


Here is one that wasn’t shy about showing his colors.





Friday, January 19, 2018



Hey.  This is hard!


They said no memorization.  Spaced repetition is all I need to get there.


Now they’ve got me conjugating verbs.  I can’t do that without making notes and memorizing.  That’s just not fair!


(I’m not giving up, just whining while I continue.)


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Wednesday, January 17, 2018