Friday, February 29, 2008

Birds, and other natural curiosities

So, birds.  As I said before, we've had some wonderful encounters with the feathered folk.  One of our funniest?  The day a bird knocked itself silly when it flew into our kitchen window.  We were all sitting by the window at the time and we hurried outside to find the injured, possibly deceased, bird.  We found the poor thing cushioned in the daylilies, blinking up at us, so we located a shoebox and lined it with a towel. Into the box went the bird.  We put the lid on the box and brought the package inside, hoping that a warm, dark, and quiet place would help our guest recover.  Our two teens headed off to an event and we settled into our morning routine.

Sometime later Ken and I sat down for a cup of tea.  We had heard nothing from the bird, no flutterings or chirps, so Ken removed the lid.  Was the bird still counted among the living?  Yup, just lying there and blinking.  Ken left the lid off and returned to the table saying that perhaps a little light would help.  I responded "What if it helps too much and the bird flies out of the box?"  "Oh, that won't happen yet", Ken replied, just as the bird hopped up onto the edge of the box.

We went into Red Alert.

It was clear that the bird was still a bit dazed.  Without speaking, we moved in slow motion, me toward the door and Ken toward the bird-on-the-box.  He picked up the box, the bird watching him from its perch.  Slowly, oh so slowly, Ken made his way through the kitchen and out the door, setting the box on the sunny porch step.  The question now was, would this bird be able to fly safely to a tree before one of the neighborhood cats discovered it?  We settled onto the grass a few feet from the bird, watching, ready to defend the bird from any passing predators.  At last, with a chirp, it flew into the nearest Fir.  Our job was done.

Our teens returned home shortly after this.  We excitedly told them, in full detail, what had happened with the bird.  Amy's response was "Cool!" and she headed to her room.  Alden stood with us for a few minutes, then fixed us with a stern expression and said, in a lowered voice, "Ok, what really happened with the bird?"  If the bird had died, well, we would have waited and buried it with full family attendance, as we have always done.  It took a long time to convince him that we weren't trying to shield anyone from a sad ending.

And that's it this time around.  Next time?  Other Natural Curiosities.

Stay tuned.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Rockin' Robin


A wonderful thing happened this morning - I woke up to a robin singing.  And he wasn't the only one.  Did all the spring birds fly home together?  All those lost-for-the-winter sounds echoing around our backyard was almost orchestral.

Then I heard our Mystery Bird.  In February?? I usually don't hear this bird until April.  It's an elusive one.  It always sounds like it's in our cottonwood, but nobody in the family has ever been able to locate it.  We're hampered by the fact that we don't know what we're looking for.  It sounds like a dove/great horned owl mix with a pigeonesque warble at the end.  Since the cottonwood is currently bereft of leaves, I thought I might have half a chance of actually seeing the bird this morning, but no.  Not even with field glasses.  I'm beginning to think we're dealing with a bird that has ventriloquist abilities.  Maybe it isn't a bird at all. Perhaps our backyard hosts a family of rare Northwestern Whooing Frogs.

When we lived in Seattle, we had all the usual birds like robins, song sparrows, house wrens, and crows, to name a few. We had occasional encounters with them, beyond the birdfeeder.  We extracted a juvenile crow from a rose bush once, while the parents expressed their alarm by swooping around our heads.  When we moved to South Kitsap, we began to see a far greater variety at our feeders.  At the appearance of a new bird, someone would sound the New Bird Alert and we'd quickly grab the identification guide.

The neighborhood has provided some bird sightings apart from the feeders.  Our kids came breathlessly into the house, one summer afternoon, to report that a tropical bird was in one of our trees.  It was squawking loudly.  We figured that somebody's pet had escaped and, sure enough, as we stood there watching it a neighbor came up and asked if we'd seen her bird.  The bird grew silent when she approached - this was one savvy bird that didn't want to go home.  Traitors that we were, we pointed to it.  It flew off and landed in one of her trees.  Her family spent the next several days trying to catch it.  This was a seriously-expensive bird, so the whole neighborhood went On Watch - somebody always knew where the bird was.  It finally flew right to her, presumably due to hunger.

Another time, I was gazing out the window while washing dishes and was startled to see a male peacock sauntering down the street.  I called the neighbor two doors down and let her know that a peacock was headed her way.  Hers was a well-behaved four-child household and I thought they might like to see it.  They liked it very much.  We watched all evening to see if it would return, but it didn't.

Last summer, I looked out the window just in time to see a mother duck and nine very young ducklings lined up behind her, walking up the street.  My first thought was Oh no! because our arterial street is a dangerous route for wildlife - due to dogs, cars, and children - but they made it safely into a neighbor's garden.  That garden is a wildlife paradise, with lots of shrubs and low plants for cover, and a small pond.  It's a good place to raise ducklings, except for the fact that it's only partially fenced.  Later that summer, a roaming Beagle discovered the little family and scattered them far and wide.  Several of us spent the next few hours gathering them back together.  One neighbor snagged the Beagle, marched him home, and made sure that the owners put him back on his tether.  This Beagle is not well-loved by the neighborhood.  He visits all of us, rampaging as he goes.  I frequently see him on unescorted walkabouts.

My kitchen and dining room windows look out onto the neighborhood.  It's the sunny side of the house and I'm usually near one window or the other when I'm home.  I could easily turn into the classic Neighborhood Busybody because I can see everything that happens on the street.  I can hear nearly everything too, if it's said outdoors.  Our house is located in an acoustically-odd spot and our garage door acts as a sound board.  We discovered this shortly after we moved in so, when we introduced ourselves to our immediate neighbors, we mentioned the peculiar sound-collecting ability of our house, in the spirit of just so you know.

Anyway, birds.  If you'd like to hear some North American Bird songs, click on the title of this post.

Next time:  more thoughts about birds.  Ah, Spring!  Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Stray Shopping Carts

This is a quick post.

A couple of weeks ago, Dee booktalked some books that could be considered, at the very least, unusual.  I've just discovered that one of them, Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: a Guide to Field Identification, was published because of a website. You should visit  The Stray Shopping Cart Project and look around, especially if you could use a smile.  

Blogger.  It has it all.

On a post-krl2.0 note, I tried to add an image of the book and just couldn't do it.  I did it in previous posts so what's the problem (she muttered)?  Maybe it's The Drug.

Next time? Honestly, who knows, given my penchant for nosing around the 'Net?  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Neville vs. The Drug

The score thus far is Neville 1, The Drug 2.

I've learned a lot about the world of the nerve, thanks to Diane, my physical therapist.  Now I know where the nerves in my arm and hand live, and what they're called, and which fingers they affect.  I know that an injured nerve can affect muscle loss and circulation, and prompt the formation of unnecessary scar tissue.  I know why, when I drink something cold, I can feel the cold go right down my arm (Neville is very, very alert.)

When all is well, a nerve checks in with the brain at a slow, steady pace, a sort of bip.....bip.....bip.....bip..... When something goes awry, the pace speeds up to get the brain's full attention, bipbipbipbipbipbip.  The Drug is supposed to help the nerve calm down and increase the blood flow around it.  The Drug has a score of 2 because 1) my arm's circulation has noticeably improved and 2) I'm actually able to sleep, which means Neville's bipping has slowed down.  Neville gets one point because my lower arm and hand is still mighty prickly. The only soothing surface is paper, especially newsprint.  All fabrics feel like woolly burlap.  Thank goodness for short-sleeved clothing.

One unforeseen side-effect of The Drug:  I'm humming a lot.  As posted before, I am a humming person, but the humming seems to have intensified.  I'm humming along with household appliances (like the vacuum cleaner) and, disturbingly, I'm harmonizing with them.  I've sung harmony most of my life (low alto) but this is a little over the edge.

I  recently talked with a staff member about this.  She'd been processing serials in my office and I realized that I had been humming the whole time she was there.  When I apologized for it, she said that she, too, was a hummer and completely understood.  We had a delightful conversation about the difficulties that arise from being the only hummer in a non-humming family, and how we both find ourselves humming tunes that come from who-knows-where.  We wake up with tunes in our heads.  We hum really bad songs and we don't know why we're humming them.  They are just there.   Why is it always the rotten song that surfaces when there are so many good songs in our mental archives?

Dave Barry addressed this in a column about his least favorite songs, the songs that are stuck forever in his head, and he asked his readers to vote for their least favorite song.  Over 10,000 readers wrote in, the best response he'd ever received with a column.  These people were passionate in their dislike of a particular song.  Dave tallied the votes, wrote about the results, and received even more letters.  He realized this was a book-worthy subject, which led to Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs, a book I recommend to anyone who listened to a radio between 1960-1980.  You will recognize these songs.  I bet some of them are stuck inside your head.  Should I reveal which song received the most votes for Worst Song?  Nope.  You'll have to read the book.  Besides, if I named it here, you might end up humming it.

Next week:  harmony and me.  Stay tuned.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Sharing on Sharepoint


Why oh why is it so difficult to give a blogpost a title?  I'm probably trying too hard.

I'm delighted that we're at the last module, Sharepoint.  Um, I'm not delighted because it's the last one, I'm delighted that we're at Sharepoint.  Sharepoint is the new environment for most of the stuff we'll be doing and I can hardly wait for the day it's completely up and running.  The scavenger hunt was fun and provided a good look around.  Great job, Nancy!  Everyone should take a look even if they're not participating in 2.0.

I haven't posted on the Sharepoint blog yet but plan to when I'm at the branch tomorrow.

My doctor gave permission for me to start using my left hand when I type.  That is all well and good, but my little finger is still completely numb (alien appendage), and the feeling in the finger next to it is only half there, lengthwise.  Trying to type two-handedly at this point is slower than typing with one hand.  Slow but oddly entertaining. 

Other news:  today I started taking a drug that's supposed to calm Neville The Nerve.  The main side effect?  "You might feel a little cloudy first thing in the morning."  Ha!  I'm already a little "cloudy".  My brain hasn't had a break since November 30 - all Neville, all the time - and there have been many days when I can hardly think.  Cloudy is just fine, as long as Neville settles down.

Next time?  Neville vs. The Drug.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ah, to be a student

We bought our first family computer in 1994 or so. It was a Sony Vaio: sleek, charcoal-grey, one incredible gigabyte's worth of memory...and it had these cool computer-animated videos that played while it was booting up. Amazing. The Internet was a bit like Wonderland, even in its text-based form. I taught our kids the joy of Boolean (How do I find a picture of a manatee skeleton?)   I admit it, I still miss Alta Vista.  It simply took my search terms and didn't try to 0h-so-helpfully second-guess them.  Do you mean toe jam?  (No, I do not.)

We had conversations about site credibility, and how important it was to close an inappropriate window.  I wonder how many children, doing research on presidents, typed whitehouse.com instead of whitehouse.gov and got an unintended eyeful?

Students still need those conversations about using the Internet wisely.

Doggone, this is going wildly off-track. I shall refocus.

Students today don't know how good they have it when it comes to Web 2.0 stuff.  Admittedly, some of those tools are unreliable - here today, gone tomorrow - but most of the best ones will stick around.  Zoho is one of them, word processing wherever you are, especially useful on our opacs.  Alas, if only the opacs would allow tabbed windows.

I signed up with Stikkit, curious to see how useful it might be.  It could be terrific for a student, with all those organizational tools.  Useful for me?  Probably not so much.  I love computers and other technological coolness, but I don't want to be online quite that much.  At least, not for organizing myself.  I'd rather be listening to a podcast of Says You on npr.org.

And that's about it for me this time around.  There's nothing very humorous about this 2.0 section.  But, in honor of Super Tuesday, I could refer you to an article I enjoyed in the January 14 issue of U.S. News & World Report, titled "What They Should Have Said".  One quote:  "I don't approve of political jokes; I have seen too many of them get elected."

Stay tuned.