Saturday, August 19th, 2017 03:53 am
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Three vultures and a crow in a dead tree. The crow seemed to be cawing at the vultures.

Impressive power lines.

I call this the "yellow brick road". Yellow flowers grow in this gravel path, and only in the path, not in the surrounding fields of grass.
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Turkey vultures hanging out by the pond, with Canadian geese swimming in the background.
The quality of the video isn't good, I know. I had to use zoom to take this, because if I go too near to the vultures or if they even notice I'm watching them, that usually scares them away.


flight skills

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 11:39 pm
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Walking back from my lunch break, I passed a group of 7 crows cawing and flitting between trees.

Next, I came across a group of vultures standing together in a group on the grass. At first glance, they looked like black crows too. I tried not to look at them very directly, as doing so generally scares them away. But I got out my cell phone and took a furtive photo.

A few of the vultures flew upwards and bumped into the side of the building behind them before landing back on the ground. Huh? A couple more did the same thing, and I wondered what were they doing. Then I realized... they were all younglings, and were frightened of me and trying to fly up onto the top of the building. But their flying skills aren't good enough yet to fly straight up 20 feet like that. I walked away, not to scare them further, poor things.

It reminded me of a day last week when I walked right past a single young vulture that was sitting on a railing, not even noticing it until the last moment, as I had just walked out of the building into the sunshine.

A few days ago I was reading about vines... ah yes, to see if my mom was correct that letting them grow up the pine tree trunks can hurt the trees. While doing that, I found out the name of one of the vines that grows in my yard: Virginia Creeper. It has little suckers on its tendrils that helps it climb, and 5 leaflets in each compound leaf.

Earlier today while walking, I saw a similar looking plant with leaflets of 3... and remembered that rhyme, "leaves of three, let them be". I wondered if it was poison ivy. It looks so innocuous; I walk by it nearly every day. In lieu of touching the leaves to find out, I did a web search on my cell phone to find some images of poison ivy, and sure enough, that is what it was. Now I know what it looks like. For the moment, anyway.

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Yesterday after work, I drove to Congaree Park with my mom. From the status updates posted by the park, the peak firefly activity might have already been over. But even if so, I thought it would still be neat to be in a wilderness area after nightfall. Most other parks around here close at dusk. The forecast was for clear skies, so maybe there would also be a nice starry sky - here in town there is too much ambient light to see more than the brightest ones.

I looked up directions on how to drive there. I found that the Google Maps app has an option for downloading a zoomable map of a selected area. You can download maps of where you are planning to go using WiFi, and later on use them to navigate with GPS, without using any cellular data.

But my car also has a built-in navigator. So once I reached the outskirts of town, I turned it on and entered the address. I just wanted to be sure that I didn't miss the turn-off way down on Bluff Road. The expected route displayed on the screen, but once I started driving, it told me to turn right when I was certain that I should turn left. I stopped to verify on Google Maps that my memory was correct. Then I turned left and drove on. It started nagging "Turn left... recalculating", "Turn left ... recalculating", "Make a U-turn!" and so on and so on. I have no idea where it was trying to take me to. I wanted to turn it off, but neither my mom nor I could figure out how. Finally, after parking the car again and pressing a bunch of things on the screen, I turned it off.

The park's website had said that only flashlights with red filters or covers should be used, to avoid disturbing the fireflies. I happened to have a flashlight, plus a small BugLit flashlight, plus a headlamp, all with red LEDs. As my mom was coming too, I also brought 2 other flashlights, with red/pink cellophane covering the lights. But they weren't necessary. I only needed a flashlight on the way out. My mom only used the BugLit. The ones with the cellophane covers were still really way too bright anyway.

The parking lot was full already at the park, so I parked behind another car on the side of the road. It was already dusk. On the boardwalk, we walked past a lot of other people. We finally stopped at what seemed a good spot. (Beset by thoughts of "Maybe there are more fireflies further down. Or maybe there are fewer. Maybe that would only take us closer to that crying baby.") There were a lot of people noises. In the beginning, people were also constantly walking past behind us in both directions. Later on, much of that subsided and it was more peaceful. Surely there are places in the park where one could see fireflies too, without the crowds of people. But you'd need to be familiar with the park to know where to go.

There were a lot of fireflies, but not as many as I had hopefully envisioned. The peak activity must already be past. I didn't notice much synchronicity going on, although there were moments when a small group of them would flash at nearly the same time, and then go dark, and then do that again a few times. But there were also other fireflies around them doing their own thing, so it wasn't very obvious. The status posted by the park today said "Fireflies were again active last night (Friday, May 26). Visitors reported that separate groups of fireflies were synchronized (as opposed to all of them being synchronized together)." Maybe it was more obvious in other spots, than where we were standing.

When I see fireflies in my yard, the color of their flash is bright yellow. But the flash of the ones in the park was more white, like moonlight. (Maybe that was only because they were further away - the ones that were closer did have more color). But that white light made them look like twinkling stars in amongst the trees. Very magical. Twinkling moving stars. The kind of thing which might make you believe in fairies. In the moments when people were being quiet, you could hear the nighttime insect noises all around. There were occasional owl (I assume) calls. (Not hoot-hoot sounds. Though now checking YouTube for owl calls, it didn't sound like those, so maybe they weren't owls after all.)

We stayed after most other people had left. It was nicer then, without all the distractions, even though the twinkling fireflies seemed fainter by then, more misty and dreamlike. As we were on the way out, a few other people arrived. Perhaps they wanted to avoid the crowds too.

Other than the fireflies and the flashlights of people walking by, at ground-level it was quite dark. But looking up, you could see the sky a lighter blue between the dark outlines of trees. Even when we left, around 11pm, the sky still was that color. Not pitch black pierced by white stars, as I'd expect. Although the stars themselves were plentiful and beautiful. Does the night sky never really get black, even in the countryside? The moon was almost new, so the light wasn't from it. Maybe it was still ambient light from town; the park is only about half an hour away. Or do the stars always make the night sky seem a lighter color?

On the way out, I stopped at another small parking lot to get a better view of the sky. It was beautiful. I wasn't able to see the milky way (would it be overhead? I don't even know where to look). I think there was a pond nearby, but it was too dark to tell. There were some weird animal noises coming from the other side. I have no idea what it was. My mom guessed it might be a male deer. Maybe, based on this - the sound was sort of like that, though it's hard to remember now.

woodpeckers! argh!

Thursday, May 4th, 2017 08:35 am
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This morning was the 2nd time in the last week that a woodpecker has woken me up early by banging on the (vinyl) bedroom window frame. Yelling at it from the bed does no good. Last time, I banged back on the window from the inside, and that didn't stop it either. Opening the curtain, window or door is a sure method to get my heart rate up even further and to make it harder for me to fall back asleep, and by then the bird is gone anyway.


Thursday, May 4th, 2017 12:04 am
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Video title: "SEAGULLS! (Stop It Now)" -- A Bad Lip Reading of The Empire Strikes Back
Posted by: Bad Lip Reading

niceties, oddities

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 01:20 am
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The killdeer chicks must have hatched. I saw & heard the 2 adult birds along with at least 3 small ones cheeping about in the shade of a tree.

Worked late today. Left the office a bit before 11pm. The ..critters.. in the trees making their noises - I don't even know what they are (note to self: look up the critter sounds; do cicadas make 2 different kinds of sounds?), but the sound is so relaxing and peaceful for me. And the quality of the night - the temperature, amount of humidity, scents as well as sounds - reminded me of similar nights experienced when I was a child.


Outside the gate on my driveway, something odd. Reddish brown spots, like something bled along there. They don't look like rust spots, as they aren't directly under the gate. Maybe a dog was wandering around bleeding. Or maybe a dog caught some prey and carried it, bleeding, in its mouth.

Then I remembered something odd from yesterday. Driving home, I had passed a guy jogging along the side of the street. It's rare to see a jogger in that area. He had orange shorts on. The odd part was a black scarf over his mouth. It had white circles on it which somehow reminded me of those ghost/ghoul masks. It's summer and was probably at least 85 degrees outside. Why would someone jog with a scarf over their mouth in summer? It's not a dusty area. I wondered if it was some kind of gang initiation.


For the past month, my LJ has been getting spam comments on old posts, all of the same style but with different wording and URLs, and from different IP numbers. At least one every other day. All comments on my LJ are screened by default, so it's not doing anyone any good.


Last Friday, the day I found out about my sister moving... when I went outside for lunch and a walk, I got caught in a rainstorm and got soaked. The forecast had foretold a clear sunny day, so although it started to get stormy and sprinkle, I didn't pay it much attention, other than bringing my umbrella along. My mind was on other things. Then suddenly it was pouring down, really pouring down, and even standing under a tree with my umbrella didn't help much. After it finally let up, I walked to our nearby Fitness Center to dry myself off with paper towels. It sounded like I was the only person in the building. Besides the paper towels, there was a blow-dryer that I used to dry my shirt. That was an experience. But my pants and shoes were still quite wet, and I didn't want to wear wet socks and shoes the rest of the day. So I drove home and worked the rest of day from there.

the bird is still there

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 12:54 am
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Oh, and today I saw a hot-pink colored caterpillar. I didn't think of taking a photo of it.
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On my lunchtime walk, I noticed some traffic cones in the field behind the tennis courts. They'd never been there before. Maybe there were there to keep people from falling into some kind of hole, or what else could the reason be? I walked in that direction to check it out.

As I got nearer, I saw that the cones were positioned in a circle. To my surprise, in the very center of the circle, a small bird was standing!

It felt surreal like a dream. Why would a bird be standing in the center of a circle of traffic cones?

Times like that, I wish I always carried my cell phone on me, to be able to take a photo.

I didn't want to frighten the bird, so I didn't go any closer, but rather walked on past while still looking. There was another bird of the same type outside of the cones. It walked into the circle towards the other bird. When it reached the center, it took the first bird's place, and the other bird walked away in the opposite direction. Half-way doing one of those funny bird-walks.

So. I can only presume that there's a nest of eggs on the ground right there, and someone put up the cones as a warning to keep the nest from being trampled or driven over with a lawnmower. I wonder who did it, and where they got the cones from.

It was a hot afternoon, and the whole area was in the sun. I imagine the birds were shading the nest with their bodies to keep the eggs from over-heating.

The birds were brownish, with a ring around the neck. Most likely killdeer:
The birds nest on the ground. They do not build a nest but will lay their eggs in a depression in gravel. The nest, and speckled eggs blend easily into the background making them hard to see. ... Both parents take turns incubating 4 buff, speckled eggs for 24 to 28 days.


After work, I drove to the grocery store. A car in front of me had a SC Equality license plate, like mine. It's the first time I've come across another car with one of these plates! I was tickled, and wished they could have seen my license plate too.

At Kroger, I checked the ice cream section, and for the first time they had non-dairy Ben & Jerry's. They had all 4 flavors, so I got one of each. They taste good!

They also still had a bunch of Clif Bars on the shelves, including the recalled flavors. I checked the use-by dates on them, and they seemed to be within the recall period. That surprised and unsettled me. I made a note to check the recall notice again after I got home, to make sure I was remembering the dates right. I didn't buy any of those, but got a few bars of the other flavors.

At the self-checkout counter, the automated voice advised me to check the bottom of my receipt for an important message. It was a note about the recall again.

After getting home, I checked the recall notification, and verified that the ones I had seen should have been recalled. (Unless I actually misread the dates on the items, which isn't to be ruled out, the way my brain has been acting lately.) So I called the store and advised them to double-check the items on the shelf. I'm not sure if the CSR took me seriously, but at least I tried.

Chickens and eggs

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 12:02 am
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Interesting chicken and egg facts:
What does a hen do with unfertilised eggs
How long can fertile chicken eggs keep
such as:
Chickens don't know if eggs are fertile or not.
Some chicken breeds tend to be broody (wanting to sit on eggs) and some don't (it's been bred out of them).
In a natural habitat, a broody chicken will build a nest of eggs over a few weeks, laying about one a day. During this time, it won't sit on them but may hide them. The eggs will remain in "suspended animation". Other chickens may contribute eggs to the nest.
The fertile eggs don't start developing until the chicken starts sitting on them.
It takes 21 days after that for the eggs to hatch - all around the same time.
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Friday, out by the pond for lunch. A big bird glided by and landed on a high tree branch on the other side of the pond. It wasn't a goose or a buzzard. It didn't look particularly eagle or hawk-like to me, but must have been. The head was light colored, whitish. The body was dark. It swooped down, dove into the lake and came back out again, still flying. Going after fish, I presume. It didn't look like it caught one. It landed on a different tree branch. It swooped back towards/into the lake several more times.

The carcass of the dead goose is still there. A week or so after my last post about it, a scavenger must have pulled it out of the pond. It's been there ever since, just bones and feathers left now. I pass it every day on my walk. The other geese don't seem bothered by it. I've seen them sitting in that area a few times.


When I'm walking, the air smells of magnolia and honeysuckle.

One side of the big parking lot I circumnavigate is along the interstate. There's a narrow wooded area between them. It's kept cleared enough to be easy to walk through. I like switching over from the asphalt into the "woods". I like to walk at full speed through the trees, dodging low-hanging branches, avoiding stepping on pine cones and fallen branches, making split-second decisions of whether to walk to the left or to the right around each tree in my path. I like hearing the hypnotic zoom-zoom of cars as I walk, mixing with the rhythm of my steps.

left-right, left-right-left, right-left, right-left-right...

I like swinging my bag in rhythm with my steps. The rhythm comes naturally. But when I tried to count how many steps I take per swing of the bag, I couldn't figure it out.


In addition to tracking my steps per day, I've been tracking my sleep. I've put the numbers into a spreadsheet, and based on that, I'm getting on average about 7 hours sleep per night. Which is better than I thought. But it's an optimistic estimate, based on what time I go to bed and get up. Not counting any time lying in bed awake.

Saturday morning, when I could have slept in, I woke up after 5 hours sleep and couldn't fall back asleep again.
Sunday morning, the alarm was set for 8 hours, as we were meeting someone for lunch. If the alarm hadn't gone off, I could have slept much longer.

The Flying Turkey

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014 08:46 pm
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Wouldn't that be a good name for a pub or inn?

Today at work, I saw... no, not flying turkeys. But wild turkeys! Three or four of them. First I thought they were buzzards, as they had a similar-sized dark body and light-colored head. But they were in a wooded area I'd never seen the buzzards in before. And they didn't walk in that funny-cute way that I've buzzards walk. Their legs were longer, they had long tail feathers, and part of their neck was pinkish. And I saw one pecking at the ground.

After watching them for a while, I decided to stop staring at them in so obvious a manner. This time of year is not safe for turkeys. For all I know, if the wrong person came along, they might pull a rifle out of their trunk, and shoot them for dinner. Though I suppose people would get in trouble shooting or even having a fire-arm on company grounds.

Later I started wondering if wild turkeys fly. I figured they must be able to, in order to escape predators. Yep, they do.

maybe I helped

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 12:18 am
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At lunchtime by the pond, I saw something white near the edge. First it looked like a plastic bag, but then I saw wings spread out over the water. It was an egret, but in an unnatural position for an egret. Was it stuck in the mud maybe? Or was it doing some odd thing peculiar to egrets? I watched it for a while, uncertain. Then I slowly went closer to see if it needed help. But I wouldn't be able to pick it up with my hands - it had a sharp dangerous looking beak. There was a good sized stick nearby, so I took that. The stick was long enough that I didn't need to get my shoes wet and muddy. As I neared it, the egret flapped a bit, but still didn't fly away, so it seemed pretty certain to be stuck.

I think one of its legs must have been tangled up in roots or something. I gently pushed some thick stuff away with the stick, but the egret still didn't break free. It didn't move much at all, except to peck at the stick a few times. It might have been exhausted already to begin with. After trying to free it again a few times, it finally looked like the leg might be free, but the bird still didn't move away. I hoped that its leg wasn't broken.

Maybe having a human with a big stick that close was terrifying it more than being stuck was. I decided that I couldn't do much more, and walked away to my bench to eat, out of sight of the bird. Hopefully, if it put some effort again into freeing itself, it would be able to.

After finishing my lunch, I walked back by the pond. The egret was gone, and I was relieved. I wasn't sure there was anything else I could have done for it.


It reminded me of another day at work a few months ago. While working away in my cube, I heard a coworker exclaim "what a beautiful golden dragonfly!". Curious, I went to look. It had gotten into the building and was by the window. Our windows don't open. But fortunately I had a clear plastic container at my desk. I used that along with a thick piece of paper to catch the dragonfly, and then walked it downstairs to let it loose outside. The dragonfly buzzed in the container, making me feel nervous and a bit elated. Yes, maybe anyone looking at me would think it a strange sight, but this is what I do. It's not the first time I've walked an insect outside at work, but it was my first dragonfly. After letting the dragonfly loose, I remembered that I had seen a listless looking bee in the other stairwell on my way out to lunch. As I now had a bug-catcher (ie., container) in my hand anyway, I went to check on it. It was still there, so I scooped it up and took it outside too. Then on my way back inside, there was even a moth fluttering near the door trying to trap itself inside the building too! But I blew at it til it flew away in the right direction.


Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 03:46 am
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The weather was so nice today. The high was near 80, 24 degrees higher than usual. Oh! And it was the solstice too, wasn't it? So the days will start getting longer again. Yay.

Below are photos of the pond and Canadian geese where I walk and eat lunch on work days, from a week ago.

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Caught was my eye, by a curious ornament on a tree. Printed on it, "Four Colly Birds". A nearby ornament of the same make expressed "...Pipers Piping".

Mightily confused was I, by the "colly" birds. Surely "calling" birds, it's supposed to be... birds a-calling, like birds a-singing and a-tweeting, isn't it so? Or could all these years the lyrics I have misheard, of the days of twelve? Quickly to a web search, I tapped.

The great web of knowledge issued forth an answer. "Calling birds" an Americanization, it is. The "colly birds" to blackbirds originally did refer. Four black birds. Four black birds to be eaten! Three french hens, to be eaten! Seven swans, likely to be eaten! Five rings! FIVE GOLDEN RINGS! AAAHHH THE SACRILEGE!!! THE RINGS AREN'T EVEN RINGS! Ring-necked pheasants, to be EATEN!!!!

The holiday song innocuous no more!

And the partridge in the pear tree? Surely now one would expect the partridge and the pears all to be eaten in the great slaughterous carnage too, wouldn't we not? But nay! Christ and Athena, they are proclaimed to be!

Ah! Blessed relief! The great web of knowledge has issued forth an alternate answer. The five rings, still rings they be! Ah, mercy me! Perhaps the birds alive may be?
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I counted 67 turkey black* vultures congregating in that favored spot by the pond at lunchtime today. It was neat to watch some of them flying in to land. One kept circling in the air, seemingly having a hard time descending. Then as I walked by, I saw a bunch more of them in the trees.

Naturally, I didn't have my camera/phone with me.

*They must be black vultures, not turkey vultures, as their heads are gray, not red.
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Oh, and by the way.

At work, there's one area by the big pond, where both the Canadian geese and the turkey buzzards like to congregate. I was walking around the pond one day, when I was surprised to see a bunch of both in the same area. About 10 of each... a few geese together, a few buzzards, a few more geese, more buzzards. They didn't seem bothered by each other.

Today, both were in the same area again, although not as interspersed as last time. One buzzard drank from the pond, and then waded in a bit to splash in the water.

(no subject)

Saturday, June 29th, 2013 12:50 am
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This afternoon at work while I was looking at some code, I came across a section which included the exact same case statement twice in a row. The 2nd one was commented with "Extra code added for ..." (where ... was a project from a long time ago).

After looking at it a few moments, the comment started to seem very funny to me.

As a co-worker said one time when his screen flipped sideways for no apparent reason, it was the highlight of my day.

Maybe you just had to be there.

Oh. I also got fairly close up to some turkey vultures today while walking around the pond at lunchtime. One was sort of chasing another to shoo it away, like the geese do sometimes. The vultures have a rather elegant way of running.

I need to go to bed. All I need to do is to click the Post button and shut down the computer. I can do it. I can. I can.


nothing important to say, I guess.
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Video title: Kung Fu Bear- Unedited Footage(NOT FAKE!)-ORIGINAL
Posted by: alexbuzzkentaroguy's channel

(embedding is disabled for this video)
Video title: Ворона катается с горки Crowboarding
Posted by: Алексей Внуков