Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Tarantula

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Danger.  Spider alert again.

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We can go years without seeing one.

 

Now we’ve seen two just a few weeks apart!

 

Driving down a remote sandy track.  There he was, just hanging out in the road.

We had to drive around him when it was time to go on our way.

 

I put my glasses down close to him for perspective.

 

I guess he’s not quite as big as my head.

 

These tarantulas are pretty calm.  They aren’t aggressive to humans.  Mostly they just want to be left alone to eat insects and maybe the occasional small bird or reptile.

 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Monday, October 29, 2018

Anhinga

 

We take a picture of this anhinga.

 

Sometimes called a “Snake Bird” because when he’s swimming in search of fish, his feathers get waterlogged and his body submerges, leaving only this long thin neck and head above the surface.

 

Next thing we know, there’s a ringed kingfisher sitting right next to him that we didn’t even see until we got home and looked at the photos!

 

The anhinga is a southern bird.  Here is its range map.

 

That ringed kingfisher is a South Texas specialty!

 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Leafcutter ants

 

At work.

 

They carry leaf bits back to their underground nest, not just to eat, but to farm as well.  They create a garden underground and cultivate a fungus that grows on the leaves to produce a food for their larvae.

 

These ants live in large colonies and can excavate nests underground that are up to 100 feet wide!

 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Friday, October 26, 2018

I was just thinking

 

About the electoral college.

 

The presidency has traded back and forth about evenly between the two major parties for the last couple decades, while democratic presidential candidates have won the popular vote six out of the last seven elections.  That prompts some to wonder why we don’t just elect our presidents by popular vote.  Why is there such a thing as the electoral college instead of a direct vote?  Why this extra step of breaking the country into electoral districts, then determining who won or lost in each district, then adding them all up to determine who won each state, then adding up the states?

 

It all started with the Constitutional Convention.  The southern states didn’t like the direct approach because their states had smaller populations of voters compared to the northern states and they would be overwhelmed.  They had a lot of people in the South, but not all of them were permitted to vote.  The framers declared that for presidential elections, there should be electors, in proportion to each state’s representation in Congress.  That was more amenable to the southern states, because for congressional purposes, they were allowed to count 3 out of every 5 slaves to calculate their representation in the House of Representatives, bolstering their voting power not only in congress, but for presidential elections as well.  I read one other argument in favor of the electoral college at the time:  “… as a stopgap to potentially reverse the vote if the people elected a criminal, traitor, or similar kind of heinous person.”

 

The time of slavery has passed, so no more necessity to massage the count for the South’s representation in Congress, and the electors are declared for candidates and never substitute their own judgment now, so maybe the electoral system is obsolete as well.

 

A criticism of the electoral college is that candidates for the presidency can pretty much ignore the interests of states that are strongly in their camp and only have to campaign in the swing states, and the rest of the country doesn’t hear much from them.  That may be true, but the swing states change a little each election cycle, so that broadens the population to presidential exposure as the process evolves.  In these days of national media though, we may all get plenty of exposure to presidential politics even if we’re not in a swing state.

 

A criticism of a direct national popular vote is that candidates for the presidency would only focus their campaigning on large population centers and ignore the interests of the more sparsely populated rural and agricultural areas.  That could be a problem if every presidential election ended up dominated by the big cities.

 

So we’re left with this political oddity of an electoral system.  Is it a good thing or a bad thing?  Heck if I know.

 

Whatever, we voted today.

 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Looking to the sky in front of our house

 

Turkey vultures in migration descending to roost for the evening.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

RE: The Family Bassinet

I mean 1937.  In use since 1937.

 

From: Steve Taylor
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2018 10:12 PM
Subject: The Family Bassinet

 

 

In use since 1933.

 

Recovered from its holding place at Becky’s house in Colorado.  Packed in peanuts; on station for its next assignment.  Heading to Phoenix with us in December for Matt and Lindsay, and the arrival of the next grandkid.

 

Where it goes from there, nobody knows.

 

The Family Bassinet

 

In use since 1933.

 

Recovered from its holding place at Becky’s house in Colorado.  Packed in peanuts; on station for its next assignment.  Heading to Phoenix with us in December for Matt and Lindsay, and the arrival of the next grandkid.

 

Where it goes from there, nobody knows.

 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Some might call me compulsive?

 

Check out Jon’s year-list:

 

2018 Species

Insects: 1,132

Birds: 401

Fish: 133

Mollusks: 107

Reptiles: 83

Other Animals: 57

Arachnids: 42

Mammals: 35

Amphibians: 28

 

Total: 2,018

 

I rest my case.

 

 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

We lost a great friend today

 

Bill Grenemyer.

 

When we first moved to Colorado, Bill and Marge welcomed us into their house and their hearts.  We could stop by their farm outside Broomfield any time; we often did; and it was always hard to leave.  A second home for us.  Judy and I were practically kids ourselves, and *our* kids got to grow up knowing Bill and Marge, Debbie and Donnie, and the farm.  Chickens, cows, dogs, cats, sheep, hogs, horses, and guinea hens.  Corn fields, hay, and bales.  New and old tractors, parts, sheds, and farm equipment everywhere.  If we ever needed a part or fix, we always knew who to ask.  A farm pond with majestic old cottonwood trees around the edges.  So many memories and stories.

 

This city boy got to fulfill childhood dreams by helping on occasion with chores (mostly I just went with him and watched and talked), in the corral for a branding of that year’s calves (that was memorable and messy), and riding along on a corn harvest (I ended up back at the house because all the chopped crop dust in the air gave me hay fever so bad I couldn’t see).  It never mattered how much I could or couldn’t do, the welcome never changed.

 

Later, when it got too crowded where they were in the Denver area, they bought a farm outside Wheatland, Wyoming.  It became an annual affair to make sure we stopped in Wheatland for a visit while out and about on our travels.  Nothing but the location changed.  They might have just picked up their farm outside of Broomfield and dropped it down in Wyoming.  I can’t even imagine how many dinners they fed us over our fifty years together.

 

Bill and Marge.  Family you get to choose and that chooses you.  It’s hard to say Bill’s name alone, without saying Bill and Marge.  It will be hard to say Marge’s name alone.

 

Friday, October 19, 2018

We don’t live in a democracy

 

We live in a representative democracy.  We the citizens don't legislate directly, we elect politicians to legislate for us.  We don't vote on every issue, we just vote once every two years to elect the people who will vote for us.  Except when we don't.

 

Only about 60% of eligible voters vote during presidential election years.  Only 40% vote during midterm elections.  When on average of only 50% of voters vote, we're not getting the will of the people, we're getting the will of only the most agitated.  I don't think that's how the process is supposed to work.

 

And with this low a voter turnout; if on average only half the eligible voters vote, what's with these voter I.D./suppression initiatives that keep popping up?  With those, we're way more likely to discourage or turn away an eligible voter than to prevent a fraudster from voting.  I don't think that's how the system is supposed to work either.

 

How could we find our way to "Of the people, for the people, and by the people", instead of "by the most alarmed"?  How could we get more people to vote; get more people motivated?  Elections are turned by small differences in small precincts that all add up to making a very big difference.

 

 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sandpipers

 

Our “seasonal pond” out front has been discovered by wading birds.

 

White-faced Ibis.

 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.

 

Foul.  Beto O’Rourke.

 

He’s done it.  He finally went negative too.  He called Ted Cruz a liar.

 

 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Along the way

 

Longhorn Caverns State Park.  One of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project from the 1930s.  We’ve got them all over Texas; all still in use; all fantastic in their use of local materials.

 

Looking down to the cave entrance.

 

Looking back up from partway down.

 

If you’re not familiar with the CCC, it was a New Deal program that operated after the Great Depression from 1933 to 1942 all over the United States, providing work for unemployed unmarried men.  As well as providing employment and training, it was dedicated to the conservation and development of natural resources.  The CCC literally built the Texas State Park system.

 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Summertime

 

And the cotton is high.

 

 

High enough to be harvested.

 

 

It looks like a lot of cotton left on the stalks after harvest, but I guess that’s just the economics of the process.  I suppose it will be turned under with the stalks.

 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Horse apple

 

 

It’s such an odd fruit.

 

It’s about six inches in diameter.

 

We found some in San Antonio.  It is believed, but not proven, to have insect repellant properties.  The wood of the tree is prized for its strength, flexibility, and stability.  It makes good bows for bows and arrows.  It is resistant to rot, so makes good fence posts.  It is strong and flexible so works well in wooden boat building.

 

Nobody can figure out how the seeds are propagated though because the fruit oozes a white latex-like liquid that is bitter to plants and animals.  There is speculation that the animals that evolved to spread its seeds are now extinct.  These trees are cultivated and distributed by humans now.

 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Chachalaca

 

Large and loud, they can be surprisingly stealthy.

 

 

But not always.

 

 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A look out our back gate (to the north)

 

An impromptu pond in the agricultural field.

 

 

We got to practice our long distance waterfowl and shorebird identification without even leaving our park!

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged teal

Northern shovelers

Coots

Black-necked stilts

American avocets

Least sandpipers

Long-billed dowitchers (or stilt sandpipers; I can’t tell from that distance)

Lesser yellowlegs

Snowy egrets

Little blue heron

 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018