Bananapecker

28 June 2009

Hmmm.  I’d never seen anything like this before, but a woodpecker was getting after the banana tree in our backyard.  It was a little dusky when I took these, so they’re blurry, but you get the idea.

Anyone else seen this?  I assume it was after bugs, but it almost seems to be sucking nectar.

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Badlands & Black Hills

25 June 2009

Just got back from a much needed vacation to South Dakota, one of the few states I hadn’t seen before.  After grading AP psyc exams for 12 days, we were ready.  We tacked the camping onto the free flight to KC, so we could just rent a car and save a ton of money.  Well, not so much.  Because of the idiotic fees Continental charges now, the extra bags (backpacks) and my overweight bag meant we paid $130 each way in baggage fees.  Plus, we rented the car for $300 for the week, which seemed reasonable, but KC has the 2nd highest airport fees in the country, so the $300 car cost $430.  That’s almost 50% in taxes & fees.  Bullshit.

Good thing the trip was so great.  We drove up from KC and camped in the middle of South Dakota the first night before we made it to the Badlands.  They were amazing.  Incredible views, tons of wildlife (more on that in a minute), and just a great vibe.  After that we went to the Black Hills.  I’d never seen Mt. Rushmore, and I have ambivalence about it, but it was very cool.  And I’d heard of the Crazy Horse memorial, but I didn’t know much about it.  It’s great too, but it’s not nearly done, and it won’t be in our lifetimes.  There’s a Werner Herzog waiting to happen if he hears about Korczak Ziolkowski.  Another obsessive crazy genius.  I like what he tried to do, but c’mon….  More great hiking and camping there, and then we came back through part of Nebraska and visited Carhenge.  Awesome.

Below is me at Stonehenge, 1990, and at Carhenge, 2009.  Anything changed?

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Other highlights of the trip:

  • E almost got bit by a rattlesnake.  Seriously.  I saw it (first rattler I’d ever seen in the wild) and it got within an inch or 2 of her ankle.
  • E got attacked by ticks.
  • E went head to head with a bison.  Actually, we got the hell out of its way, but that meant treading back into rattlesnake area.
  • E braved Wind Cave, which wasn’t her cup of tea.

So, it was a trying trip for her, but we both had a blast.

Fauna:

  • The aforementioned rattlesnake
  • Lots of bison
  • Lots of pronghorn antelope
  • Lots of deer
  • Lots of prairie dogs
  • One marmot
  • Two mountain goats
  • Some other snakes
  • Lots of beautiful birds
  • Toads
  • Hares

For me, the animals are always the highlights, but this time another thrill was finding a fossilized jawbone, probably from an oreodont, whatever the hell that is.

Advice for traveling there:  Skip the roadside “attractions.”  S. Dakota is lousy with them, and they’re generally cheesy and lame.  Yeah, even Wall Drug and the Corn Palace.  Stick to the national parks and forests, and you’ll have a real time.

Carhenge may seem cheesy to some people, but not me.  It’s very cool.

Anyway, here are the pix.


This doesn’t look good, Barack

6 February 2009

Thanks to a brilliant piece of photography and arrangement, we may have a scandal greater than any tax-dodging cabinet members.  These folks can NOT be pleased.  Just look at that laugh!

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Brilliance found at YepYep


Bummers

7 May 2007

Haven’t blogged in a while.  Hope it’s not depression creeping back (one of the signs is losing interest in things you used to enjoy, but everyone reading this probably knows that); I think it’s just the insanely busy month I’ve had.  Lots of late nights, but it’s hard to complain when I still find time to make it to every day of JazzFest, as I’ve done for years.  Not the greatest JF, IMHO, but more on that later.

dsc_0016-medium.jpgNow I’m motivated to post just to get a little sadness out there.  We found out recently that McGuire has the Cancer.   This will be our 3rd pet lost within a year, when we only started with 4.  Slim died last June, and WhoopyCat in January.  McGuire will be the toughest for E.  She had him and WC before we met (in fact, my allergies to them stalled our relationship a bit–she would have been my roommate right when I started grad school if she didn’t have them or if I wasn’t allergic), but Whoopy was never the lap cat McGuire is.  E can’t be in the house for 5 min before Mc is on her lap.  It’s only gotten more that way since he went blind shortly after our return from Katrina.

We thought he’d die about 4 years ago when, after a lifetime of being a big old cat, he started losing weight fast.  We decided against invasive treatment and went with steroids, which did the trick, obviously.  But then a few weeks ago, we noticed his leg was swelling, and we took him in for a general update.  Dr. Matt found a tumor in his leg that disrupted the circulation, and they diagnosed him with plasmacytosis, basically leukemia.  He’s still fairly comfortable and can get around ok, but we’re watching for the signal.  It’ll be a bad day when that comes.  E’ll be a wreck, but she’s kept a good perspective on these last 4 years being lagniappe.

Then last night after we got home from JF, another sad event.  We heard a thud on the back of the house.  I heard a whiny sound and climbed the ladder to the roof over the back of the house where the sound was coming from.  In the dim light, I saw a young raccoon, who apparently had fallen from the huge pecan tree that goes over the roof.  I can’t take the sound of suffering animals, and I’ve broken a few necks when I’ve found something I couldn’t help or get help to.  In this case, E and I decided to leave the young coon alone to see if its mother could do something.  We later heard a couple more thuds and at one point saw the mother (I assume it’s the mother, but at least a large adult) come to the fork in the tree and call out (again, I’m assuming it was calling, but it at least made a noise directed toward the house) and come snoop around the ground.  We’ve never seen these raccoons anywhere but in the tree.  I don’t know if she could have figured out how to get to the roof safely, but we decided not to intervene, for fear that we would really doom the youngster by scaring the mom.  Well, this morning I went out and found the young one dead on the roof.  In retrospect, I wish I’d killed it right then so that it didn’t suffer as long as it did.  I told it I was sorry and then bagged it up and threw it away (I don’t have a drive to be ceremonious about the dead, including myself).

This really made me sad, for the dead one but also for the mother.  I haven’t read the whole thing, but the book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” notes that the reason is that although other animals have a flight-fight response to danger, they don’t anticipate it and dread it, as humans do.  Regardless of the instinct involved, this raccoon’s mother sure seemed to be searching and trying to help, and I can’t help but think that she at least temporarily has some sadness, even if it’s just an innate drive to protect her young.  I don’t think I could’ve helped, but this is the kind of thing that I cry about.


Pause for Bunnies

10 February 2007

On days like this with such tragedy and strife in the news, sometimes it’s good just to come home to the fantastic CuteOverload (alright, I admit it, I’ve been a daily user for a while now), especially with posts like this one.

I don’t mean to be flip about the awfulness, but we have to maintain sanity in order to keep on fighting.