Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mustang Island, Texas

Corpus Christi Airport Photo Display
We traveled to Corpus Christi to watch our no-longer-fledgling gain his full plumage on his wings. While there, we drove with some friends out onto Mustang Island to see the sights - and me get in a little birding. South Texas is a birder's paradise - this our second trip there. Even in the Corpus Christi Airport, there is a nice display of wildlife photographs being displayed.

Roseate Spoonbill - Photoshop
I have found, that different species have different tolerances before fright-flight. A flock of Roseate Spoonbills launched themselves when I came into sight of them resting in a wetland just off the main road through the island. When blowing up the image to the right, it was pretty grainy because of the distance the bird was away from when I took the shot. So in the spirit of the art display at the airport, I used the Photoshop software Artistic/Watercolor feature to make the image presentable. As an added feature, off to the upper left of the picture is a front-on spoonbill standing on the bank of the pond - its spoon-shaped bill can be obviously seen. This kind of gives the composition a bit of a naturalist artist appearance.

Below I am posting a series of bird photos taken from the break water south of Port Aransas, and a few from the wetland south of where I saw the spoonbills. (Identification will come later.)

Brown Pelican

Ruddy Turnstone

Great Blue Heron

Black-necked Stilt

Boat-tailed Grackel

Redhead Duck

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jaime Moyer - Wait 'Till Next Season

Sergio Romo - closer extraordinaire
The baseball season couldn't have finished any better than it did. I am glad that the San Francisco Giants got it over in four games through the World Series - the play-offs were exciting enough. The look of the team kind of reminded me of the Oakland Athletics back in the days of long hair, mustaches, and other facial hair - just a new GenX/NextGen spin to things. So many of those players look soooooo young. I really didn't follow what was happening out west this season since both the Nationals and the Orioles were in the hunt most all of the season - just caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye how the western divisions were doing. The season opened with excitement - Jamie Moyer had a run and made baseball history as the oldest winning pitcher. But when he faded in the first half of the season, so went my daily interest. With a young pitcher like Sergio Romo who is appreciated for his precision placement of a slowly sliding ball slicing through the air, who knows, maybe he will make it to middle-age as pitcher as well.

An article written by Tim Keowne at that my son sent me today just made me smile - I love good sports writing like this:

End of Game 4 - Giants sweep the Tigers
The final pitch of the World Series, a fastball down the middle from Sergio Romo that Miguel Cabrera took for strike three, is being held up as the ultimate and complete encapsulation of everything you need to know about the 2012 San Francisco Giants. Gutsy, arrogant, unexpected -- one pitch from a short, skinny dude to the most powerful hitter in baseball epitomized a team that didn't know its place. You could hear it everywhere, from your living room to the tone in Joe Buck's voice: He got away with one there.

That seems to be the overriding message of the world champion Giants: They got away with one there. They got away with one by winning three straight in Cincinnati, and they got away with one by winning three straight against the Cardinals, and they got away with one by catching the Tigers in some sort of mental and physical pre-hibernation sloth, as if all those big bodies sensed a seasonal change and just needed to lie down for a minute.

So nice of Romo to provide such a handy and symbolic means of telling the whole story in one 89 mph fastball. It tells the story of baseball's most unlikely mini-dynasty of the past 50 years (at least), and it tells it in the most extreme way possible: The most physically unimposing player on either roster staring down the biggest and baddest hitter on the planet and freezing him solid with a challenge fastball that practically cackled on its way to the plate.

But the lesson to be learned is not the one people are intent on teaching. Any attempts to paint Romo's pitch -- and, by extension, the Giants' run to the title -- as luck or trickery or some other form of the black arts is to miss the point, which is this: The Giants were better, and they were better because they were smarter.

The prevailing storyline -- the Giants as quirky underdogs whose run to the title made no sense -- was turned on its head in the World Series. Everything about it, down to the last pitch, made perfect sense.

If Romo is a symbol of anything, and if the Giants are a symbol of anything, it's that baseball is as much brains as brawn. Romo didn't get lucky with a gutsy pitch. That pitch, in that situation, was unhittable. Romo set Cabrera up with five sliders -- a pitch that rivals Mariano Rivera's cutter as a singular weapon -- and then threw the one pitch that Cabrera had no chance of hitting.

Romo did what the best pitchers do: execute with surprise. There's a growing concept in baseball called "effective velocity," which is a theory devised by a really smart man named Perry Husband, who has analyzed every pitch thrown in baseball for the past several years. It's extremely involved and somewhat scientific, but it's based on the idea that a pitcher establishes a hitter's "attention" with velocity, pitch selection and location. It takes into account common-sense factors -- a 90 mph fastball on a hitter's hands is effectively faster than a 95 mph fastball away -- and what Romo did was textbook. The sliders lowered Cabrera's "attention" -- the speed Cabrera was expecting -- and then exceeded it with an 89 mph fastball that got past Cabrera before he could react.

Forget the radar gun; the "effective velocity" of that pitch rivaled any pitch Justin Verlander threw all season. Romo can't throw that pitch three times in a row and get away with it, but it's the perfect pitch to follow five sliders, especially against a guy who is fully capable of hitting a slider off the plate over the right-field wall for a game-tying home run.

That's the real story of the Giants: There was a lot happening beneath the obvious. Take Marco Scutaro. He was a huge surprise, right? The most unexpected hero of the postseason? Sure, but only to a degree. He had the best contact rate in baseball this season, and guys who put the ball in play find themselves on streaks in which it looks, in the parlance of the broadcast booth, like "everything's falling in." The fact that he got on one such streak at precisely the right time was fortuitous but statistically reasonable.

Did the Giants get away with one or two along the way? Maybe, but doesn't every championship team? Given their unusual path and the prevailing notion of the Tigers' perceived offensive supremacy, the Giants are probably destined to go down in history as somewhat of a fluke, a team that got hot at the right time and had a manager who made all the right moves and a pitching staff that made all the right pitches. But when history is written, there should be room for one footnote: Like a Romo fastball, there was more to them than meets the eye.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy - Good Night Irene

Path of the storm
No reporting to work today, or tomorrow. Lots of wind and rain, but doesn't seem any worse than a summer rain storm - just cooler, wetter, and lots of wind with really roaring gusts of wind. It is not the same as a year ago September when Irene stormed through. We went to bed the Saturday night Irene was to hit - that was a new experience. Tonight will probably be the same: I fall asleep right away - Jan records the blow-by-blow in her memory wide awake.

This afternoon around the 5:00, the wind gusts were picking up. The funny thing was the only activity on the street was the U.S. Postal Service delivery truck making its rounds through the neighborhood. The old Postal Service saying goes: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. Our carrier was not daunted - carrying out the spirit of his creed while Sandy makes her way to landfall.

I wasn't able to find a song about Sandy, but there is the old Grateful Dead tune, Good Night Irene - that can set the mood for a stormy night - watching the news updates, and reading a little Walt Whitman - the World Series over so quickly, with the Giants sweeping Detroit in four games.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Walt Whitman - No Baseball Tonight

No baseball tonight - it's the travel day from SF to Detroit. The West Coast games get over between 11:30 and midnight - that's too late when having to get up at 5:45 AM. But the games have been great - Sandoval record-tying home runs in Game 1, and Small-ball last night for Game 2. Reading the news accounts on-line; hearing some of the NPR Morning Edition short report this morning before getting out of my car before an appointment, and then listening to the whole thing this evening on my computer. I think I will read some my new book of Walt Whitman poems - he liked baseball: "it's our game: that's the chief fact in connection with it: America's game."

True Conquerors

Old farmers, travelers, workmen (no matter how crippled or bent,)
Old sailors, out of many a perilous voyage, storm and wreck,
Old soldiers from campaigns, with all their wounds, defeats and scars;
Enough that they've survived at all - long life's unflinching ones!
Forth from their struggles, trials, fights, to have emerged at all - in that alone,
True conquerors o-er all the rest.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Cambria Time Capsule - Sculptor in Residence

Jean-Marie Bonnard - 1960's
As promised, my friend Mathias in France sent some photographs of his father from back in the 1960's at the site where Ellie Bogardus built her house. His whimsical wooden sculptures that were erected there were reminiscent of some of the characters in her paintings. The sculptures were made in the garden of the house - at that time he and she lived in a converted garage on the property. Mathias also mentioned that Ellie's aunt was the first Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles - I tried to find record on line, but wasn't able to find any information specific to the 1960's. The photo at the bottom of the series shown below was taken from the cliff area to the north of the house above the beginning of Moonstone Beach. Today there are no vacant lots between the original site of Ellie and her aunt's homes and the small state park on the cliff below where my parents' house further down the street.

Close up of the sculpture head - a self portrait?

Sculpture head and stand

The completed piece

Another sculpture - symbols of things to come

Ellie's Aunt and Jean-Marie

The housing compound - 1960's

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Community - And Not So

Farah (R) and Rupp
Browsing the Sunday morning Web-versions of the Washington Post, Gazette Times (Corvallis, Oregon) and Oregonian (Portland), I came on a sport editorial about the Great Britain-United States, 1-2 finish, Gold-Silver medals in the London Olympic 10,000 meter race yesterday. We didn't watch the television coverage of the games until last night, so missed the race and was unaware of the history that was made. It was the first time in 48 years that an American had won a medal in the 10-K race, and as it turned out, the first two finishers were products of the Nike-Alberto Salazar training program in Portland.

I watched the race over-and-over on the NBC Website, not only because of the exciting race, but after reading the editorial about how Mo Farah and Galen Rupp worked as team during the race, and seeing the genuine comradery of the two runners after the race at the track, and in a later news conference. In John Canzono's piece in the Oregonian, he pointed out how the runners were no more than five meters apart during the race - the African runners always work closely together. In the later interview, Rupp said in mid-race he saw the Kenyans  making a move, then Farah just tapped him on the shoulder and said, 'Just relax mate, everything's fine, they're going to come back. Play it cool right now and save everything to the finish.' They did, Farah taking the lead in the last lap, Rupp kicking at the end, history made - the Oregon way.

I have known of situations where team mates have worked together in running for good results. Our high school runner son was once carried along through most of the race by the team leader who held back to pace him until towards the end of the three-mile race - he got his best time-to-date with that help. Our youngest son when needing to qualify for a distance time in his Plebe Summer was paced in a similar way by a prior enlisted sailor who was given the opportunity to go Blue-to-Gold and become an officer - our son made the time, and was his friend's best man at the wedding the day after graduation. My running son liked the atmosphere of the distance runners - run for your personal best, it's all encouragement.

All of this is a contrast to the typical competitive atmosphere that seems to infuse most of life otherwise. Friday evening on NPR there was a news report about difficulty with harassment and abuse that occurs in on-line gaming. An article in the Washington Post yesterday highlighted how a former Facebook employee had cashed out some of her stock holding, quit the company, and moved to west Texas and abandoned her Facebook account to make real relationships. Maybe more folks should take up running - the example of Farah and Rupp is exemplary.
Speaking of not-so-encouraging on-line banter, I came across some comments on a Somali news report about Mo Farah's running (he was born in Somalia, but raised in Britain). Some of this dialog seems like it is out of the movies. Notice how the conversation goes south pretty quickly - just like following blog post comments in the U.S. Regardless, there is great pride in Britain and the Horn of Africa with the success of Mo Farah.

Comments to: 'Kenenisa Bekele main threat to Mo Farah - Haile Gebrselassie' from the Somaliland Press:

Kayse · I am looking forward to this event. Mo Farah is an exciting athlete and a marathon machine. He should move to Australia instead of that freezing old ugly UK.

M. Ali · Now you must have realized that my prediction of Mo winning the 10,000M gold was true !!!!

abdi · Yes 5000m he will win i doubt 10,000m last time he lost to's difficult to run both events and won The sometime in olympic stage.

M. Ali · Mo Farah will for sure win the Gold in both 5000M and 10,000 M races.

DAROODmadhane · lol you deluded haw!ye scumbag. is your mother high on habashi gus. he is a proud somalilander and was waving the flag arounf. but why do haw!ye want to show off their starving as* to the world. he wasnt born in sh!thole mogadizoo he was born in buro.

Truth · You retarded imbecile!! No wonder why no one likes Is@qs!! Mo Farah is been training for years while the other guys just trained for months! And the girl is a basketball players not a runner idiot!! And yeah Mo farah was Born in Mogadishu and he doesn't support your secession, how about that!!

Truth · No wonder why no one likes Is@qs, even Gadabursi don't want to be part of your secession because of your arrogance and back-stapping manners! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

What Do Birds Feel When They Land?

Goshawk preparing to take off
Here is a Navy story about T-45 Goshawk pilots-in-training doing Carrier Qualifications for the first time on the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier. From other accounts we have read, watching videos of the landings and take-off's, and talking with our own Lieutenant Junior Grade in the the same stage of training, it is an intense activity. It is also the kind of thing that mothers lose sleep over, especially if she takes an afternoon nap and then has a caffeinated beverage along with dinner the night before. Our experience today is that once you hear everything went well, the qualification is complete, and the student pilot is back safe on land in Jacksonville, it's time to celebrate. A short phone call is all we needed for the time being - looking forward to details later. We have heard the first-time sensations from landing and taking off are pretty intense.


T-45 Goshawk landing
The shaking some people experience during anxiety is usually most noticeable in the hands. Since social anxiety sufferers are often very self-conscious about others noticing their anxiety this can be a problem. Wobbling teacups, peas jumping off forks and shaking speech notes all make anxious shaking more visible and this can lead to sufferers avoiding these things when around other people. Shaking legs and quivering lips are also common visible symptoms.

The main worry of sufferers is that people will see their visible anxiety symptoms and then make a unfavorable judgement about them. The feared judgements will typically be that the sufferer is weird because of their odd movements or that they are weak because they are feeling anxious.

T-45 Goshawk take-off
People will often do their best to try and hide their anxious shaking, but this tends to only worsen the situation. Anxiety sufferers are nearly always caught in vicious cycles where the ways they try to manage their anxiety only serves to worsen it. Fears about starting to shake in front of people leads to increased worry about the onset of shaking. This worry then increases anxiety levels during social situations which in turn leads to the actual shaking they are trying to avoid. Self-consciousness is increased because of this visible shaking which leads to more worry and more anxiety and more shaking creating a distressing vicious cycle.

In addition to this, sufferers will try to hide or control their anxious shaking, but this only adds fuel to the fire. A common strategy is to tense up to try and keep movements still, but this increased muscle tension only exaggerates the shaking. Another strategy is to try and hide shaking through avoidance or keeping hands out of sight, but this too will worsen the situation. Avoidance strategies like these reinforce the idea that we need to hide these symptoms and that revealing them could have negative consequences for us. They prevent us from finding out that, most of the time, revealing our anxiety will nearly always have no negative consequences for us and that doing so will prevent the anxiety from occurring in the first place. (1)

T-44C Pegasus
With the Carrier Qualifications complete, the next stage of training is a multi-engine T-44 Pegasus. The Pegasus aircraft is manufactured by Beech Aircraft Corporation, Wichita, Kansas.The aircraft is used for advanced turboprop aircraft training and for intermediate E2/C2 (carrier based turboprop radar aircraft) training at the Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas. The T-44 is equipped with deicing and anti-icing systems augmented by instrumentation and navigation equipment which allows flight under instrument and icing conditions.The interior includes a seating arrangement for an instructor pilot (right seat), a student pilot (left seat), and a second student.Two additional passenger seats are included.A distinguishing feature of the aircraft is the avionics fault insertion capabilities afforded the instructor pilot from the right-seat armrest and the second student/observer audio control panel that allows the second student to monitor all radio communications.The T-44A is powered by two 550 shaft horsepower PT6A-34B turboprop engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney of Canada.

T-44C Pegasus


Primary Function: Training platform for Navy/Marine Corps pilots.
Contractor: Beechcraft
Propulsion: two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6A-34B 550 hp engines
Length: 35 feet 6 inches
Height: 14 feet 3 inches
Wingspan: 50 feet 3 inches
Airspeed maximum: 245 knots
Ceiling: 31,300 feet.
Range: 1,300 nautical miles
Armament: None
(1) Source of the explanation for shaking.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Comparative Robins - European Versus American

American Robin
When visiting the Brownshill Portal Tomb near Carlow, I identified my first European bird - the Robin. That bird was quite different than the American Robin (shown at the left) - eating insects instead of worms, and being quite smallish in comparison. I have been slowly reading through a book one of my sons gave me as a birthday gift last year that is a compilation of literature that mentions birds, or stories about birds. The night-before-last, I happened on a poem by the Scottish author, Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) titled Proud Masie. Had I not seen the Robin in Ireland, I wouldn't have had an accurate picture in my mind of what Scott was writing about. I found the poem at the Poetry Foundation Website as well, but the spelling of the subject was Maisie, rather than Masie, as found in the Graeme Gibson compilation. It is interesting to hear an writer talk about his perspectives of birds, and what motivates him to consider birds and wildlife.

Robin ('Erithacus rubecula')

Proud Masie

Proud Masie is in the wood,
   Walking so early;
Sweet Robin sits on the bush,
   Singing so rarely.

"Tell me, thou bonny bird,
   When shall I marry me?"—
"When six braw gentlemen
   Kirkward shall carry ye."

"Who makes the bridal bed,
   Birdie, say truly?"—
"The gray-headed sexton
   That delves the grave duly.

"The glowworm o'er grave and stone
   Shall light thee steady;
The owl from the steeple sing,
   'Welcome, proud lady.'"

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Clouds, Asphalt, and Northern Mockingbirds

This afternoon was one of those days with heavy air trying to rain, but doesn't get around to it. The clouds on days like this are spectacular, high-rising thunderheads that along with the heavy, still air give everything else a subdued mood. When looking west towards sunset on days like this, there can be a golden tinge to the edges of the puffy white-colored water suspended in sky. Other than a few large drops of rain that fell while I was walking out to my car after work, there were no other results from Beltsville to Annapolis during the commute home. But when I was walking away from my office building, a friendly Northern Mockingbird tempted me to bring out my pocket camera - dropping down from a tree to the grass, luring me after it, jumping into a shrub, and then to a window ledge on the building before flying off when I got too close. The mockingbird is a regular to the grounds at the Carver Center, often singing other bird songs from high up in the trees that are no older than the grounds around the building, or from the tops of the parking
Northern Mockingbird
lot light post that are white-washed white from the droppings left behind by these birds perched there where singing their serenades. It is funny how I never see a Northern Mockingbird in our backyard, or on our street, but just around the block at the intersection of Bay Ridge Road and Bay Ridge Avenue, regular sightings can be made. It isn't more than 880 yards as the crow flies from our back yard to the intersection, but it is a world away for these birds. They seem to like an asphalt habitat, like that found in parking lots and at busy intersections.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Three Is Better Than Two

The final word came out in the news today - Peter Jackson's interpretation of the J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit will be presented in three installments, beginning in December 2012. Earlier hints were that there would be three movies, now it is for sure. I bought a paperback copy of the book way back in undergraduate days, and hadn't read it until I was doing my Ph.D. I enjoyed it, and followed it up with the Lord of the Rings trilogy - reading through the series a second time in the year or so after graduate school. I remember when reading The Hobbit having a nightmare after a grand battle scene with Smaug the dragon. Here us the official movie trailer - it is good to see familiar film faces.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Oregon Birding - Day Twelve, Exit

Western Scrub Jay
Really no time the past five days to get in any birding - nothing more than casual glimpses. We have helped our oldest son paint this house, and yesterday painted the nursery at our daughter's house. We are getting ready to head to the Portland Airport, and while watching the London Olympics, happened to notice a Western Scrub Jay in the back yard. I have learned to notice Spotted Towhees fly by while driving - had not noticed them in the past. The towhee, Bewick's Wren, Bushtit, and Cedar Waxwing were the best new finds on this trip.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Getting Down To The Wire

Tailhook down, T-45 Goshawk
Our son is approaching the end of his Intermediate Flight School training. The crechendo - landing his T-45 Goshawk on an aircraft carrier. From what we understand, it is four touch-and-goes, and then down goes the tailhook, followed by 10 cable-arrested landings. In preparation for the real-deal, the training involves practices landings on land. Here is a video showing what he will be doing soon. The drawing of the T-45 shows the tailhook down - you can see it momentarily being tested before takeoff in the video.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oregon Birding - Day Seven

American Crow
Today was a by-opportunity kind of birding day. When we had finished helping our son and daughter-in-law, along with our grand kids, paint the front of their house, it was time to grab the camera and walk down the street to get some closer shots of a couple of American Crows resting at the top of some sort of spruce tree. After greeting some of their neighbors a few houses down, and clicking off a few shots of the crows, I noticed a flock of small birds chattering in some shrubs across the street. I started taking some shots of them, and then the dozen or so of them together flew back across the street into a small tree. I took more shots until they went back back to where they came from - more shots. All the
time I was checking them out, they kept up a constant stream of chatter among themselves, and all the time the crows were keeping up their watch far above us - silent, not a peep. I took my camera up to Salem today, hoping to get a shot of the crows that are residents of the neighborhood. Occasionally while painting,  I looked up and noticed the trek of crows carrying various objects in their beaks: an orange peal, small twig, other things; along their path over the spruce tree and beyond to the stand of oak trees next to Wendy Kroger City Park at the end of 2nd Street. Given that the Bushtits came out in a chorus line - swarming as they sang in a choir, bringing the camera was timely for a little birding fit in at the end of the day, taking in a couple of big birds in the tree tops, and lots little ones in the bush.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Oregon Birding - Day Six, No Birding

Beaver-felled tree
No opportunity for birding in the Beaver State today - maybe there will be a chance to do so tomorrow. Beavers are interesting engineers. I remember seeing one of the PBS Nova weekly science programs titled: Still Waters in 1978 that showed a year in the life of a beaver pond. The program also introduced me to Aaron Copland's Our Town suite that was the background music to the narrative. Even though the beaver pond on television was in New England, beavers do the same in Oregon.

Oregon Birding - Day Five, Evening

A friend of mine and I drove over to Talking Waters Garden park this evening after dinner, where walked the perimeter of the facility. His firm had done the engineering for the various ponds and connecting pipelines used to treat the water from the industrial park before going into the Willamette River. We just about had the place to ourselves, except for the birds. The Red Wing Blackbird were roosting in the some old barren trees, the Mallard Ducks were still feeding, but some were already tucking their heads in for a night's sleep, the light was subdued as the sun was getting ready to set somewhere behind the ceiling of clouds that had muted light all day - a different way to look at the birds and their environs than earlier in the day.

Silhouettes at roost
Cedar Waxwing
Barn Swallow
Song Sparrow
Ducks down for the night
Teasil near the tracks
Tracks near the Teasil

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Oregon Birding - Day Five

Jackson-Frazier Wetland
We took a casual walk through the Jackson-Frazier Wetland north of Corvallis. There were lots of families out doing the same, so the birding opportunities were poor, since the foot traffic disturbed most chances to see birds doing their thing in the brush. All together, there were Cedar Waxwing, Black-capped Chickadee, Song Sparrow, American Goldfinch, and Red-winged Blackbird. Here are a couple of bird shots, along with some other sights.

Black-capped Chickadee
Cedar Waxwing

Common Wood-Nymph
Poison Oak