Archive for March, 2010

Domesticated?

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Sunrise brightened the scene beyond my bedroom window and upon awakening I studied the bare crisscrossed limbs of English walnut, Black walnut, apricot, and plum trees. I flexed my muscles prepared to swing my feet to the floor and froze. I mean stiffened. I cringed at the grip of a charley horse in the calf of my left leg. Now if that isn’t a picture of misplaced animals I never heard of it. Closing my eyes I took a deep breath and willed myself to relax. Not easy. The muscles from my knee to the end of my big toe tightened. And the entire leg hurt. I had a good night’s sleep and was ready to face the day but as I fell back and pulled the leg in question upon the bed I felt the need for at least 40 more winks. It had been ages since I last had a visit from the naughty horse and my calf was not happy about it. What brought it about? Too much treadmill? Standing for hours at the Education Center greeting visitors? Or what? I stretched full length on the bed and tried to remember the yoga exercise for relaxation. That worked. I want to figure out why the animals decided to gather. I hope to avoid the feeling in the future. Leave the animals in the barnyard – please.

Geese Hang Around

Monday, March 29th, 2010

 

Geese and other waterfowl are flying in and out of McNary Pond, feeding and resting to continue on their northward migrating journey. Those that flew into the McNary Education Center are hanging on our wetlands wall. Joining our Cackling goose are a Snow Goose, Ross Goose, and White-fronted Goose. And guess where you find the white front? Not on the breast where you normally think of as front, but on the face just above the orange beak. Well I suppose that is very close to the front. Just makes me wonder how these birds get their names. Nevertheless these are wonderful additions to the mounted specimens in our Center. Easier for visitors to identify and much more comfortable viewing than in the outside winds that threaten to blow the hair off the head. The opportunity to get a good closeup view for study is what science education is all about.

What A View!

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Twenty four hours and one thousand festivalers later I am back at my laptop to blog again. Held as usual in Taggares high school, the festival was more successful than ever. The weather was as grand as necessary to encourage folks to take bus tours for crane watching at this annual event called: The Sandhill Crane Festival. Actually this is internationally advertised and families mark the weekend from year to year. People come from miles around to, of course, view cranes and whatever other fauna happen to cruise into view – burrowing owls and gophers among the most visible and unexpected this year. I hyped the McNary Education Center and worked with USFWS staff to get kids playing in the outdoors. Presentations were held in classrooms with scientists giving seminars worth clock hour credits to aspiring teachers. In Taggares gymnasium vendors declared their great products and abilities while volunteers entertained hundreds of kids with fun crafts. The kids made binoculars out of toilet tissue cardboard centers – they looked amazingly real, too. To the kids who held them to their eyes they were real. You would be surprised how those little round holes focus attention on details that eyes fail to pick out of a big wide panorama in a gym full of bustling people. Kids got faces painted. Little girls showed off cheeky butterflies and little boys had snakes slithering from eye to eye across their noses. The potato industry (that’s where Peter J. Taggares Sr made his fortune) furnished cloth bags to carry the colorful variety of crafted items proudly home. I am continually amazed how a tiny little kid - maybe a 30 pounder – can move their 180 pound parent off to their preferred activity by leaning heavily in a chosen direction with their feet stuck to the floor. The power of love? I spent a lot of time comparing variations of rear widths I saw dragged away. The crowd, men and women alike fit into a scale of overweight, fat and absolutely gross. It takes more than potatoes to do that. Whatever works.

off to Festival

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Just checking in to make you aware that I will be at Othello at the Sandhill Crane Festival from this afternoon March 26, 27, and 28. I am riding with USFW Ranger Jaynee Levy and staying at the Fire bunkhouse for the nights of 26 and 27. I will have my cell phone and charger so I hope to keep it useful. I will be doing kids activities (what else) during the hours of the festival. you might g00gle and look at the website if you want to join us. Jaynee and I will return to Richland on Sunday afternoon. My laptop will remain at home meaning I will not have cyberspace connection. I would be happier if my jaw wasn’t sore but that’s that. There is still hard wind this morning but forecast is for better days coming. Anyway I am out of touch except for the cell and by Sunday night things around home will be back to normal. I do not expect to see the cranes. Never have except for a long  distance but McNary has always had a presence at the Festival and this year is no exception. I fly away!

Did It Again

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Yes I did. I once again took the McNary Ed Center tub of pelts and skulls to a science night. This time it was for Liberty Christian School and the turnout was sparse. The hostess cited football, basketball, dance, and just too much all at once that keeps families on the go, especially since the displays of science data had to be set up at 4 pm, hours before the public was invited to see them. I wasn’t in the best of moods. My jaw still hurts from the tooth pull over a week past and I would rather have stayed at home snuggled away from the hard wind and chilly rain. Like I said I did this many times before in a number of public schools and kids are delighted to touch pelts of real animals. Yes, everyone delights in grabbing handfuls of beaver or coyote hair. However tonight there was a different display, one with which dead skins cannot compete. A local 4-H club brought live rabbits. Individuals representing ten different breeds were hopping around on little rug patches munching carrots and receiving ahh’s and ooo’s many times over from adults and children alike. Oh yes, and baby chicks with enough wing feathers to try and escape their cage. Quite a show. My next date is in three weeks and I will probably do it again.

Winds that Blow

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Ever hear that seaman’s ditty: Blow ye winds heigh ho, A roving we will go? Today we had wind blowing up the dust and pushing me around on the freeway. At 15 miles per hour. Bicycle riders do that speed but with a real physical effort. When driving it is about the speed of a golf cart. Not fast. When driving a car it is too fast to go through pedestrian traffic. What about driving through a wind? One that blows freely over the open spaces of agricultural fields? Today it was enough to keep desperate concentration on driving. Ever so gently the wind pushed me toward the right lane, toward other cars driving slowly to lessen the pressure. Dirt filled the air. My eyelids feel gritty with the dust. I stopped at the Community Center for a fitness session and the wind fairly snapped the car door open even within the protection of a bluff and the big building. My hair is short but it felt as if the wind would blow it off my head. I have a school visit this evening to show animal pelts and skulls so I must face another walk in the blow. Weather reports showed wind speed at 8 mph with gusts up to 15 and more from the west southwest. High wind is not an unusual occurrence in the Tri-City area. Many mature trees lost their balance and turned up their roots to the onslaughts in the past. The trees that were left dug in their heels. I think they are here to stay. Maybe when the sun goes down the wind will slow down too.

Teeth at Work

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Sometimes being a volunteer requires more walking than a health club tread mill. Sue McDonald, USFW Park Ranger, discovered the work of a beaver and Deb Jennings tracked the critter from the cutting on the Birding Spur to the water’s edge by the Bird Hide. I searched for the route used by the mammal and found the dragging trails. The critter would have eaten the bark off after felling the tree as it chewed the tree into manageable lengths for hauling away. We know many skills of animals in the evolutionary scheme of things are innate in humans. The evidence of the beaver’s work on McNary trail will be noted when students come to visit. Luckily the incisors of the beaver and other rodents were left behind in some past glitch of evolution. I am happy that my front teeth do not keep growing all my life like rodent teeth. I use my incisors to bite food into small pieces that my tongue and mouth can chew up and swallow. You can be assured we will take the students on the route of the beaver. Walking. Walking. It will be exercise. But then, remember I will not be dragging a log along with which I must later build my house. With my teeth, no less.

Organizing Tidbits

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Takes much hard thinking to recall the beginning of this day. At least I think this is all one day. I wake up at four thirty AM and there is no sunlight – not even dawn but I have to get up to drink. The allergy pill I’ve been taking absolutely dehydrates me and when I get up for a potty run I also drink water but it is not enough. At the slightest headache I found that a glass of water chases it away. Doesn’t take but a couple of minutes and the hot water pot boils to mix my oatmeal. And I can manage that in the gleam of the neighbors’ porch lights. I had sauce and toast. After Freethought I steamed broccoli and that was good. Somewhere in there I also had lettuce and green peas. All from time to time on my sun porch. The forecast of 40% rain actually fell – I think about one drop out of five got to the ground the other four evaporated on the way down. Sprinkles like that leave dirty spots on the car so I had to hose them off but the sun finally shone and everything looks shiny. In my search for negatives I discovered many loose stamps – used US postage stamps that I’ve collected over the years. Well from other countries too. In all the countries I’ve traveled I bring home souvenirs – no more tee shirts – I get their stamps instead. They don’t take up as much space in my suitcase as anything else I am tempted to buy. I got the nicest collection of the Netherlands at the Amsterdam airport on my way home from Kenya one year. Usually I go to the post office in the town I am visiting and get new ones. (my collection is mostly canceled stamps) I was surprised that I had to argue with clerks. You see I am ignorant of the denomination of stamps and I wanted a variety but to explain what I wanted took some time. The clerks were sure they could give me more help if I showed them what I wanted to mail. I was a crazy tourist so they shrugged, sighed and humored me. And for as many countries as my stamps represent they take up surprisingly little space. But not so little time when it comes to organizing and looking up the world issue numbers which are critical in trading with other collectors. Hungary has the most artistic stamps at least in greater numbers than most countries but there are many good pieces of art world wide. I am enthused and not lonely.

Positive Negatives

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Cameras that took pictures on film that required processing in chemicals are rarely ever used anymore. For at least four years I’ve used a digital camera from which I could take the chip with the photos and plug it in my computer and transfer the photos into dated folders. Handy when searching when I can determine the year and approximate month. Goody for me. However for years and years before digital I did use film that required chemical processing so I have oodles and oodles of negatives that I want digitized. I’ve taken care to keep the negatives cool and clean in the hope they do not lose the image sharpness. Only recently I saw an ad for a little machine that would take the image from the negative and put it in digital form. I’ve never tried it but it always sounded pretty nifty. Thinking about it was as far as I got. Well Jerry ordered one and I began to go through my boxes of photos to figure out just what see how much work there will be when I get the opportunity to try it out. When I say boxes I am not joking. If I stacked the envelopes in one row they would take up several feet. And that is just the envelopes. The prints have been placed in albums with dates and labels. How exciting is the prospect of turning the negative film into digital for storage. Something wonderfully positive from a negative.

Science Facts?

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

The book “Denialism” by Michael Specter with a subtitle – “How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives” was on Danny’s coffee table when I was visiting and I wanted to read it again to look at the chapter headings. The fear of science to me is difficult to believe, knowing that without science our society would be in deep doo doo. But somehow people more quickly believe the wrong things mostly because they put more trust in a the rantings of a notable personage than they do in facts. Inoculation against small pox is a big deal. The fact is it has saved millions of lives over the centuries. Yet inoculations are now noted as the cause of autism. Heartbroken parents of autistic children are looking for a scapegoat. Those inoculations the kid got at six months! Of course there’s the culprit. So there is a movement to convince parents to skip those life-saving facts. Never mind that autism occurs in families around the world that know nothing of inoculations. The first signs of autism occur about the same time that pediatricians advise inoculations. So the doctors are in league with the pharmaceutical companies! Think about the logic in that. Researchers are working on the source of the affliction. Evolutionary biologists are finding proteins, hox genes, and switches in development and have discovered how genetics influence the present. They may find the speck on the helix where a glitch occurs. Maybe the source will be discovered. That does not mean autism can be prevented. It certainly does not come from childhood inoculations.