Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

August
16th 2010
Nature Conservancy photo contest!

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The Nature Conservancy is holding its 5th Annual Digital Photo Competition and invites all nature-loving shutterbugs to enter their favorite shots! This year, 35 photos will be selected as honorable mentions and finalists. The winner will be selected by public vote and featured on the cover of The Nature Conservancy’s 2012 calendar, which reaches over 2 million households. Enter at http://www.flickr.com/groups/thenatureconservancy/ before October 4, see http://my.nature.org/photography/ for more information.  I’m definitely going to look through my favorite photos and see if I have anything worth submitting.

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January
24th 2010
Oscar and Olive Osprey: A family takes flight. By Janie Suss

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A couple of months ago, I got an email from a marketer asking if I would like a copy of the book whose title is given in this post’s title. I said Sure, but (1) I don’t post much to this blog anymore, and (2) I wouldn’t guarantee to review the book and (2b) even if I did review it, I might not like it!

Well, here I am…I finally read the book, and it’s pretty good. I think it’s intended to be read to a child by his/her parents, or to be read by a child maybe in the 8-11 range. It’s about 100 pages, with a couple of dozen photos and with a fairly large font and double-spaced. 26 chapters in 100 pages…just takes a few minutes to get through each one, for an adult reader.

The book chronicles a season in the life of some osprey parents and their kids. Chapters are “About ospreys”, “Finding a place to call home”, “Finding a mate,” and so on. A sample of the writing: “All Olive could do was watch over the eggs and wait. Her babies had to hatch themselves with no help, and she knew they would come out of their shells when they were ready. It was a warm summer day when the first egg hatched. When the babies hatch, they weigh only two ounces and are one or two inches long. That is about the size of your mom’s thumb. That is very tiny for a bird that will grow so big.”

I don’t have kids and I’m not the intended audience, so it’s a bit hard for me to judge whether this book will interest most children. At least I think it would be good for children who have any interest in ospreys or who get to see them regularly. If you live someplace you can see osprey regularly (or, indeed, any other bird of prey) your kids might really like this. But for what I think of as the average soccer-playing, TV-watching, Wii-playing youngster, I dunno…I don’t think this will necessarily engage their imagination or interest. Still, for that niche market of kids-who-watch-raptors, I think this is a good choice.

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September
30th 2009
NY Times opinion says: please keep cats indoors. I agree!

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An article today in the NY Times (free signup needed) pleads with people to keep their cats indoors, to save migratory birds and other wildlife and to keep the cats healthier. Predictably, many people are posting comments that say that cats preying on birds is “natural.” It isn’t. The density of predators — cats and dogs — in cities and suburbs is dozens or hundreds of times higher than it would be if we didn’t subsidize the predators.

My wife and I have four cats, which puts us well into the realm of “eccentric cat lover.”  (Three is really our natural level, I think, but when we went to pick up #3 at the pound, we felt so sorry for #4, we took her too).  Believe me, this is a true cat-lover saying: keep your cats inside.  Keys are (1) have more than one cat, so they interact with each other to avoid being bored, (2) live up to your responsibility to play with your cats a lot, and (3) change their environment occasionally to keep things interesting (e.g. get a new cat tree, or install shelves at ceiling level so they can prowl around up there).  If you put as much effort into your cats every week as many dog owners do every day, they’ll do great.

By the way, check out the cool thing we built for our cats, and the unexpected way one of the cats uses it.

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September
19th 2008
Little Green Places contest; send a photo

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The famous Cornell Ornithology Lab is sponsoring a fun contest:

We want to see photos, drawings, or videos of Little Green Spaces that are good for birds because they provide shelter, food, or water. It could be an ivy-covered wall, flowers next to the stoop, a window box, a container garden on a rooftop or balcony, school garden, or potted plants by a library entryway.

We’re asking participants to send a photo, drawing, or link to their video to urbanbirds@cornell.edu . We’ll send the first 50 entries a copy of the new “Celebrate Little Green Places” poster and there will be other great prizes.The deadline is October 31.

Information about the Little Green Places contest can be found on our web site:  http://www.birds.cornell.edu/celebration/temporary/little-green-places-photo-video-contest

Sounds fun. If I can get a photo of a hummingbird at our feeder, or a bird bathing in our birdbath, I’ll send it in.

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August
24th 2008
The nerve of some (more) people

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Yesterday, my wife and I were awakened early in the morning by the sound of a dog chasing a panicked deer through our backyard.  My wife went out back to try to control the dog; I went out front to try to find whoever was walking their dog and let it run loose.  Sure enough, up the street was some guy with his (unleashed) dog, standing and talking with another dog owner.  I said “do you have a border collie?” and he said “yeah.”  I told him his dog was chasing deer in our yard; he said “oh, is that where she got to?  OK,” and made no move to come get his dog!  I insisted that he come down right away and get his dog; he said “oh, OK” and came down.  But rather than show any interest in controlling his dog, he started trying to chit-chat: “Oh, that’s a nice gate, did you make that?,” and “Oh, you have a creek in your back yard, that’s really nice”, and so on.  I said “listen, I have no interest in making nice, I want you to get your dog out of my yard right now.”   He still didn’t care, nor did he apologize…unless you count “I can see you’re upset” as an apology.  The guy’s whole attitude was that it’s no big deal if his dog is running around in our backyard and our neighbors’ backyards, and that he was just humoring us by removing his dog…which he eventually did.  But I guarantee he didn’t learn any lessons or resolve to change his behavior in the slightest; in his world, it’s fine if his dog roams other people’s yards.  I try to remind myself of the many good, responsible dog owners I know, but encounters like this make it hard not to hate the whole group of people.  The sense of entitlement of some of these people is just incredible. (See the discussion of a previous post on this blog for more). 

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August
18th 2008
The nerve of some people…

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True story:  I was at a party last night of a friend who has a huge redwood tree in his backyard. He said an arborist estimated that the tree is about 350 years old.  A neighbor insisted that he cut the tree down, because it blocks the neighbor’s view of the Golden Gate. My friend refused, of course, but the neighbor insisted! My friend said “Your house has never had a view of the Golden Gate, the tree was here for hundreds of years before your house was built.  If you wanted a view of the Golden Gate, you should have bought a different house.”  The neighbor threatened a lawsuit; my friend said “Here’s my lawyer’s phone number, call anytime.”  They’re no longer speaking.  

I can maybe imagine asking someone not to plant a tree that will block your view, or even asking them to trim a tree that is growing to block your view, but to not just ask, but INSIST, that someone cut down a 350-year-old tree in their backyard because it blocks your view…the mind boggles. Or at least, my mind does. 

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July
15th 2008
Farewell, Dona Spring

Posted under Uncategorized & government

Very sad news yesterday, Berkeley councilwoman Dona Spring died.  She was a great champion of environmental protection, in spite of the fact that her severe disability — she was wheelchair-bound and often in pain — made it very difficult for her to travel at all, so she really never saw wilderness and rarely was out of the urban environment.  (In an article a few months ago about wheelchair-accessible vans that are available for rental, she was quoted as saying that she had a lifelong dream of visiting Point Reyes.  My wife and I had decided to arrange a trip for her in the fall. Very sad that she’ll never make it).  I was Dona’s appointee to the Berkeley Parks and Recreation Commission for a couple of years, and also encountered her in other political settings.  I really liked her, and I’m very sorry that we’ve lost her. 

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June
17th 2008
Custom bird guide, cool idea

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I’m a bit reluctant to blog about this, since I’m basically giving free advertising to a for-profit company…so, OK, there’s your fair warning, if you don’t like the idea then don’t read any further.  I recently came across a company, whatbird.com, that sells custom bird guides: you select a bunch of birds from a list, and you get a guide with just those birds. (It turns out I had mentioned the main page of this website before, since they have bird identification page: you input information about the color, size, etc., of a bird, and it gives you a list of matching birds — great idea, but the execution is poor.  For some reason they don’t mention the custom bird guides on the main page).

Why would you want a custom bird guide?  Same question I asked myself — I already have the excellent Sibley guide, plus an Audubon photo guide as backup, why would I want to make my own guide with just 10 or 20 or 50 species?  But the more I think about it, the more the idea grows on me.  For one thing, I could use a guide that just shows the 60 or so species that I’ve seen in my yard in the past ten years. What with my famously bad memory for birds, I have to look up some of these repeatedly. It would also make a fun gift for the neighbors: “Birds of Glen Avenue.”  Why not?  But I haven’t done this yet, so I can’t vouch for the quality — don’t blame me if you get one and it sucks!

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