Myakka River State Park, etc.

January 23, 2016 23:08 – 23:08

Tonight will be my last night in Sarasota for this trip. Tomorrow, I plan to drive across the state to West Palm Beach, via the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

Today, I had planned to go to Corkscrew, but at the last minute decided on Myakka River State Park, instead. At first, I thought Myakka was going to be a bust. Many of the trails—including the Canopy Walk trail—were flooded. But, I persisted and finally managed to actually see some birds—and I got a nice 9K hike in as well.

The first two trails I tried were flooded. How flooded, you ask? This flooded.

I did see some people emerging carrying their shoes—but, I’m not one for putting my bare feet into places where I can’t see the bottom.

Three’s a charm though, and within five minutes on the trail, a couple had just startled a red shouldered hawk, but had managed to see where it landed, deeper in the woods. I managed to get a couple of side shots before it flew away.

My fourth trail was pretty uneventful. In fact, since I was going for distance, I didn’t lug a camera—just the cell phone camera. There were some trenches adjacent to the path (a horse trail, in fact, but no horses were in evidence today), and I did see a great egret and a great blue heron, but they were moving too quickly for my phone. Here’s where one was, only moments earlier.

The fifth trail was a “birdwalk”. It was a short-ish pier that jutted out into the Myakka River. It was extremely windy, and I even opted to take my jacket with me. I was glad for the jacket. Right off the bat, I saw some birds that I thought were small gulls. Through the telephoto camera lens, though, I saw that they were kites! Finally—some close kite pictures. Although, the damn things wouldn’t hold still. I did manage to get my best ever picture of a kite, though!

A few steps later, I spotted what I believe is a juvenile little blue heron. This one finally has the dark blue coloring, unlike the immature little blues I’ve seen earlier on this trip and in Huntley Meadows this past summer, which have white bodies.

A few steps further still, I spotted what I believe to be a juvenile snowy egret! This is a new bird for me, if that’s what it is. Upon closer inspection, however, it’s possible that it’s an immature little blue heron that simple hasn’t turned blue yet.

I also saw this odd duck, which I’ve not yet identified.

For dinner tonight, I decided it was finally time to try the much touted Barnacle Bill’s. I wasn’t expecting much, particularly when the hostess offered to seat this solo diner in the lounge area, suggesting that the presence of sports on big screen television would be an attractive option. I wonder if my “Oh, god, no!” was too loud and emphatic? Nope. I don’t think so.

After that start, I was expecting even less of the cuisine. The atmosphere wasn’t helped by a squealing kitchen door that needs lubrication, and a little boy (about 6, I think) whose parents were oblivious to his knocking his cup against the table—repeatedly—and not in sync to any music anyone in the dining room could hear.

But, my low expectations about the food were dead wrong. I ordered the somewhat-pricey seafood pasta, with marinara sauce, expecting the food to match the atmosphere. Instead, it was marvelous! The seafood was fresh—jumbo Gulf shrimp, bay scallops (the small kind—but they were fresh and not overcooked), mussels, calamari, and some kind of unidentified fish. The latter was good, but I have no clue what it was. In any case, Barnacle Bill’s gets a thumbs up. If/when I go back, however, it won’t be on a weekend evening.



Home to Sarasota via Savannah and Jax

January 22, 2016 21:51 – 21:51

I changed hotels. The Homewood Suites in Sarasota was old, smelled of mildew, and the hallway floors were mushy in spots–rotting, I’m guessing. And, the internet speed was very slow–less than 2Mbps. There was no desk–just a kitchen table with non-adjustable chairs that were very hard to slide, which made working on the computer very difficult. Also, there were these tiny bugs everywhere. Not bedbugs, but disturbing nonetheless.

The Springhill Suites appears to be new. Everything is clean and bright, there are no bugs (unless I brought some with me, but I haven’t seen any yet), and the internet speed is about 50Mbps. There is a desk with a modern ergonomic chair that actually works. Oh, and it’s $30 per night cheaper. Yes, this room doesn’t have a kitchenette, but if I really needed one, I could’ve stayed at the new Residence Inn next door.. . for about the same prices as this room. But, Springhill Suites typically is quieter than Residence Inn. Fingers crossed. There seems to be a lot of bouncy children in the adjacent rooms. L

Hilton needs to work on their quality & pricing. Marriott seems to have them beat. In fact, I can’t remember a satisfactory stay at a Hilton property.

The first night, I spent in a Comfort Suites in Port Wentworth, GA. The internet speed was okay, but the furniture really needs to be updated. The desk chair was so low I was practically sitting on the floor.

The second night, I spend in the Airport Residence Inn in Jacksonville. They were remodeling, and the noise was terrible. I should probably try them again after the remodeling is done.

Wednesday, I hiked in the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge. It’s one of the best hiking & birding NWFs I’ve ever visited. I shall return. One new bird I saw was the black crowned night heron… a strange and beautiful bird.

Not new to me, but beautiful is the “common” moorhen. They were plentiful in Harris Neck. Its bill looks like cheap plastic, or candy corn.

Yesterday, I visited the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve / Fort Caroline National Memorial. It’s also good for hiking, but not nearly as extensive as Harris Neck. Birding was also okay, but not great. I did see a couple of new birds, though: the roseate gross beak and the gray crane.

Today, I visited Celery Fields, a major stop on the Florida birdwatching route. At first, I thought it was a landfill, but that’s not the case. It was formerly a farm, and they used bulldozers to build an 85-foot “mountain” to help develop the area into a wetland. It appears to be working.

For dinner last night, I ordered delivery pizza from Jet Pizza. It was okay. No competition for Faccia Luna or the all-time winner, Alex’s pizza in Biddeford. For dinner tonight, I tried to remember where I went last time, and failed. The internet recommended El Toro Bravo, which was okay, but not as good as Mi Pueblo, which is in fact the place I was trying to remember.

Working backwards… for lunch yesterday, I stopped at the The Pig BBQ in Jax. It was good, except that the BBQ wasn’t hot enough, and the sauce was too sweet and thick.

Continuing the backwardsing, for dinner Wednesday night, I had a fried build-your-own platter at St. Mary’s Seafood and More. It wasn’t all that great. The scallops seemed stamped and perhaps weren’t even real scallops. The fish seemed anything but fresh. But, the shrimp was pretty good. The Stella on draught was perfect, though.

When I don’t report on a meal, it’s because either I had something from the grocery store or I had fast food. Today, for example, I was in a hungry hurry, and got some chicken thighs from KFC. KFC needs stronger forks. Sporks don’t cut it.


Home to Chelsea

January 5, 2016 16:55 – 16:55

I’m at the Chelsea Residence Inn in the Boston area. I think I’ve been here before. The neighbourhood has a lot of construction going on, which might make getting in and out a challenge, especially during rush hour. I wonder if there’s pizza delivery. I’ll find out.

The internet speed here is acceptable.

I’m here to see some friends and to attend Sanctuary Boston tomorrow night.

The ride up was mostly uneventful, once I escaped the gravitational pull of the DC-Balt area—total driving time about 7:55, with one stop for the restroom at the Garden State Parkway Montvale rest area. I bypassed NYC by taking the GSP and coming across the Tappan Zee.

The new E250 got 41.7 mpg coming up, despite the cold temperatures—below 25 most of the way.

Was Émile Durkheim Right?

October 10, 2015 10:26 – 10:26

Durkheim wrote a lot about alienation and anomie. At the time, he viewed those as byproducts of urbanization and [mostly] young men moving away from rural/agricultural family-centered life to more isolated individual-centered life in the cities. Durkheim saw increased suicide rates as one of the results.

The modern twist, of course, is that the sense of powerlessness and disconnectedness has produced the ever-popular murder/suicide combo pack, sponsored by Gun Shops Everywhere.

Surely, the easy and indiscriminant availability of guns is a big part of the problem. But, something is driving alienated individuals to acquire and use them. Social isolation is a growing disease, and mass murder is just one symptom, among many.

Part of the solution might be the expansion of families and non-family social networks to become more proactive in seeking out and embracing loners. Can religion—and UUism in particular—offer any solutions? Stopping the easy flow of guns is part of the solution. Stemming the demand for them, however, might be something more achievable, given the misguided 2nd Amendment culture in the U.S.

Why misguided? Because the ones who are using weapons to commit mass-murder aren’t part of “well-regulated militias”. Ironically, if they were, that might provide at least a modicum of normative social guidance to prevent the sense of isolation that seems to be at the root of the violence problem in the U.S.

Binghamton to Woburn

August 21, 2015 20:42 – 20:42

I’m at the Residence Inn in Woburn, Mass. The ride here was mostly uneventful. There were a couple of to-be-expected-on-a-summer-Friday slowdowns. But, I was really happy not to be heading west or south. Traffic westbound on I-90 out of Boston was terrible, as was traffic southbound on I-95.

I’ve stayed here before—May 2-5, 2014. I was here for Heather’s ordination. This time, I’m here to join forces with Liz for the Sunday service at Arlington Street Church in Boston. I’ll be singing four songs, including Our Doors Are Open and Heart of It All, and two new songs—Until Tolerance Becomes Love and Holding Hands, the latter which I wrote specially for this service.

Last time here, the internet speed was 4 up and 4 down. This time, it’s:

I suspect that the upload speed is variable. Last time here, I had the option to upgrade to a higher speed. No such option this time, for some reason. In fact, I didn’t even get the usual sign-in screen. No clue why not. For future reference, this time, the wired internet connector doesn’t seem to be working.

In any event, I arrived at about 15:30 this afternoon, got unpacked, and then met Liz for dinner at the Coconut Café Thai restaurant in Newton Center. Fortunately, the southbound traffic on I-95 had cleared, so the trip to Newton wasn’t as long as I expected it to be. I had Pad Thai with Beef—the first Pad Thai I’ve ever had without shrimp. It was quite good. The Thai spring rolls, however, were pretty lackluster.

I dropped Liz home at ANTS, and then headed back here. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I’m going to go hiking somewhere. The cold front seems to have stalled, so I’ll probably head a bit to the west to find cooler and dryer air. Maybe I’ll even snap a few pictures. Tomorrow night, I’ll be meeting Liz & a bunch of my other Boston friends for dinner in JP.

Home to Binghamton, NY

August 20, 2015 23:07 – 23:07

I’m at the Courtyard in Vestal, NY, near Binghamton. This room is very small and dark, but otherwise okay. The internet speed is 3/3. Traffic coming up was horrible. Making it worse was torrential rain through most of Pennsylvania. Note to self—don’t come this route again. It doesn’t make up for the extra time it takes, particularly when traffic and road construction intervene.

Huntley Meadows on August 1st 2015

August 1, 2015 16:29 – 16:29

I don’t usually blog my local visits to Huntley Meadows. But, I’m going to try to change that, even if I end up posting more pictures and not a lot of text.

At about 7 this morning, I decided to get an early start at Huntley Meadows. So, naturally, one delay led to another, and I didn’t actually leave the house until after 9 am. This might’ve been fortuitous, however, because I did manage to get some nice pictures that happenstance might not have served up earlier.

Right after entering the boardwalk, I could hear the sweet song of a common yellowthroat. But, it was lost in the bright yellow-green foliage of a tree, so I didn’t see it. Shortly after that, however, I did spot a nice American goldfinch in a less foliated tree.

At the time, I didn’t realize that as I was leaving the boardwalk, I would stumble upon more goldfinches—and even closer. A cluster of four—one female and three male—were very close to the boardwalk.

Venturing further, my next bit of good fortune was this juvenile little blue heron (still white), which had just caught a fish.

When this bird grows a little older, its white will be replaced, and it should look like this mature little blue heron, which I photographed in Corkscrew Preserve in Florida, in 2014.

My next stop, I managed to capture a female ruby-throated hummingbird digging into some trumpet flowers, just past the observation tower. These are the clearest hummingbird pictures I’ve managed to date!

Here, she’s resting.

Next stop, I found a green heron, with bits of green you can actually see for a change:

Apparently, this one is also into yoga. I don’t know about yoga poses, but I’m calling this one downward facing bird.

A little further down, I caught some good shots of what I now think is an eastern phoebe.

And, finally, I finally managed to see and photograph a gray gnatcatcher!



Lansing to Waterloo

July 6, 2015 09:17 – 09:17

Yesterday was superb. More on why, later.

I’m at the Homewood Suites in Waterloo, Ontario. The internet speed here is awful—1Mbps Down, and .5Mbps up. I was still able to upload pictures, however. I even tried upgrading to their premium speed, and there was no improvement. This morning, the upload speed is even worse.

The drive from Lansing was uneventful, and the border crossing went quickly once I realized that Nexus folks could use the truck lane. They really need a sign.

Along the way, I stopped to take a few pictures in the Shakespearean Gardens in Stratford. It’d been at least 10 years since my last visit to Stratford—with was with Karen, Katie, and Kelly. Lots of K’s on that trip.

Amusing story. So, there was this beautiful bush with lots of tiny bell-shaped flowers in snowball-like clusters. They were mostly pink-ish and yellow.

I asked some other visitors if they knew what the flowers were, and a guy said “They’re florkeskas” and one of his companions immediate said something like “Don’t believe him. He’s just making that up.”

So, I said something like “Oh. It’s French, as in Qu’est-ce que c’est flor. So, they’re flor-qu’est-ce-que-s.” The female was amused. Nice to see that I can successfully flirt.

Another amusing thing was these folks taking a selfie—and from what they were saying, the selfie failed. Why they were doing a selfie when there were two other people in their party just standing there is beyond me.

The views of the garden and the Avon River, which runs next to it, were quite lovely.

I got to Waterloo at about 17h, and was to meet my friend Jessica at 18h. She had also been in Stratford earlier to see Oedipus Rex. I gathered that it was more Oedipus Wrecks than Rex.

We went to dinner at Solé, which is a short walk from her apartment. Her apartment is a loft apartment in a Seagram’s distillery. Dinner was excellent—prime rib with this wonderful espresso cheesecake for dessert.

But, as excellent as dinner was, it was nothing compared to the excellent company. After dinner, we went back to her loft where she finally coaxed her printer to render a copy of a new song I’d written. We then went to the roof where I debuted the song for her (which she had inspired in one of her amazing anecdotes). And we talked until midnight (with occasional musical interludes). It was the best six hours I’ve had in a very long time. In short, yesterday was superb. I believe I’m going to have to increase my frequency of visits to Canada.

Alas, at midnight, I turned into a pumpkin and headed home… well to Homewood Suites. It took me over an hour & a half to get to sleep.

And so, this morning, my plan is to hit the road for home. It’s “only” a little over 9 hours, if the border crossing cooperates. With some luck, this will put me on the waning side of the Baltimore & DC rush hours. They are working today… right?

Madison to Lansing

July 5, 2015 09:57 – 09:57

I’m at the Springhill Suites in Delta Township, a little west of Lansing, MI. The trip here was uneventful—a combination of GPSes got me around a terrible accident and long backup on I-94 in the Chicago area. Kudos to my Android, which saved the day, even though its spoken directions can be very confusing. It kept saying there was a long delay on 94, and that I was on the fastest route. I thought it was saying that it was the fastest route despite the delay. Instead, it was saying that it was avoiding 94 because of the delay. It was never clear until after I was past the backup.

I drove around some of my old haunts yesterday afternoon. Pictures later, maybe. The internet speed here is okay, but not wonderful.

Now… onward to Ontario.

Regina to Madison, via Fargo

July 3, 2015 19:38 – 19:38

I’ve been guilty of not blogging. I attribute that to too much driving. Last night at the Comfort Suites in Fargo, ND, the internet speed was:

I did audio Skype with Liz, and the speed was fine for that, but I wouldn’t have tried video. Tonight I’m at the Cambria Suites in Madison, Wisconsin. My suite is maybe a little larger in floor space than the cottage in Portland, although it doesn’t have kitchen, washer and dryer. Still, if I wanted to dance, I could. And, what’s there to dance about? Well, the internet speed report lies. It says:

The download speed is really about 90 Mbps, and the upload speed is pretty acceptable. Now, I really wish I’d stopped & taken some pictures to upload. I think I’ll head out shortly and see if there’s anything close by to photograph.

The ride from Fargo to here was uneventful—about 500 miles. The trip today averaged 45.2 MPG, and the overall trip (about 5,800 miles so far) is still about 41.3. Unless I hit slow traffic on the way to Michigan tomorrow, the overall MPG will most likely increase.

More, later, perhaps.

Portland to Calgary via Kamloops

June 30, 2015 21:11 – 21:11

I’m at the Residence Inn in Calgary, where I’ve paid $5 extra for a higher speed internet connection:

Last night, at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Kamloops, the speed was 3up/1down, and not really sufficient for Skyping. More, later.

It’s later. Uploading was fast enough. I stopped in Banff National Park to revisit Lake Louise. The glacier sure has shrunken since my last visit. The glacial remnants don’t even come halfway down the mountain now. When I first visited, the glacier extended all the way into the lake.

Worse (IMO), they’ve turned the lake into a canoe recreation area. This stuff was built/installed since my last visit.

But, Clark’s nutcrackers were still there, at least.

I also stopped and took some pictures of the Bow River.

And Mt. Rundle, which looks like a huge rock shelf that was lifted up and now sits at an angle.

After arriving in Calgary, a long-time Microsoft MVP friend’s family took me to dinner. I got to meet her husband, son, and daughter. I didn’t realize they were from France originally. Dinner at Earl’s was great, as was the conversation.

Tomorrow, I head towards Regina. I guess I should take a look and see what sights I should see along the way.

Burley to Portland

June 24, 2015 02:04 – 02:04

I’m at the Garden Cottage in Northeast Portland, Oregon. I’m here for the UUA’s annual General Assembly. And, as usual, here’s my internet speed report:

It’s by far the best speed of the trip. As of my arrival in Portland, I logged 3,295 miles, averaging 41.3 MPG. This means I used 79.78 gallons of clean diesel to get here… at an average price of $2.90/gallon, that means transportation cost was about $340, plus maybe $100 in tolls. Hotels have averaged $120/night, or about $720 for six nights, and food has been cheap… maybe $20/day at most on average, so $120. So, about $1,180, not including depreciation on my car. It might’ve been cheaper to fly—even first class—but, I wouldn’t have gotten to sing in the Boulder UU church, and I wouldn’t have gotten to take as many pictures.

Speaking of pictures… While today was mostly a driving day, I did get a few pictures at Memaloose State Park, in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic area.

The name Memaloose comes from the Chinook language, and means (gulp) dead, corpse, or death.

The island in the middle of the picture was called Memaloose Illahee by natives in this area–which translates roughly into graveyard or place of the dead. Lewis & Clark named it Sepulcher Island. I infer that it’s where they put their dead people.

Moab to Burley (Idaho)

June 23, 2015 01:39 – 01:39

I’m at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Burley, Idaho, where the internet speed (I didn’t upgrade to premium) is par for the course for this trip:

The trip from Moab to Burley was uneventful. I stopped at Canyon View Park in Utah along the way, but it was mostly a bust. I didn’t see a view of any canyons. I did take a few pictures.

Tonight’s sunset from the hotel window was less spectacular than last night’s in Arches National Park.

In contrast to last night’s:

Tomorrow, I head west to Portland and General Assembly.

Cheyenne to Denver

June 20, 2015 17:14 – 17:14

I’m at the Springhill Suites in Westminster, Colorado. The obligatory internet speed posting:

This place is littered with rabbits. When I went out to my car earlier—at about 17:00—there were two bunnies under my car. They weren’t nearly as frightened as they should’ve been. I guess they’ve gotten used to humans.

I stopped at the Two Ponds NWR and Lake Arbor Park on the way down from Cheyenne. Two Ponds NWR features two short trails—Loop 1 and Loop 2. I walked both. The most interesting thing I saw was a sky battle between a redtail hawk and some redwing blackbirds. At one point, four redwings were diving at the hawk, which might’ve been holding a redwing blackbird in its talons. Upon reflection, I think it was an optical illusion.

And, here’s the shot that let me ID what kinds of birds were doing the chasing:

I couldn’t tell what kind of bird this one was. It was very small, though.

There were also views of distant snowy mountains from the NWR.

The most interesting sighting at the Lake Arbor Park was what might’ve been an albino mallard:

It was swimming with several mallard ducklings.

There were some great views at the lake, as well.

And, of course, more snowy mountain views.

I’m singing at the UU Church of Boulder tomorrow morning… which is why I’m here, en route to the UUA General Assembly in Portland, Oregon.

For dinner, I got delivery pizza from Pudge Brothers. It was okay—nothing to write home about.

West Des Moines to Cheyenne

June 19, 2015 20:40 – 20:40

I’m at the Springhill Suites in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Acceptable download, very slow upload:

The trip here was mostly uneventful until about 100 miles east of Cheyenne. As we were passing 4,000 feet elevation, the 18-wheeler right next to me blew out his driver’s side back tire. The explosion sounded like a gun, and the debris hit the side of my car. At first, I thought there was damage to my car, but when I checked it at the next exit, everything looked fine. Whew. Close call.

I stopped for a picnic lunch at Mormon State Park. I was hopeful that it would be pretty scenic, but it was disappointing. It was right next to the interstate—and very loud. Worse, it was heavily bugged. So, I ate quickly, took a few pictures, and left.

Toledo to West Des Moines

June 19, 2015 08:43 – 08:43

I spent last night at the Springhill Suites in West Des Moines, Iowa. The rooms could be a bit better isolated, but compared with my previous night’s Comfort Suites in Perrysburg, this place is pretty nice. Internets are about 4/4 (I didn’t upgrade to the fastest—4/4 was okay for my purposes).

From Ohio to where I am is slightly uphill, and there were LOTS of construction zones along I-80. I averaged 42 MPG in yesterday’s stretch, and now 42.8 for the trip so far. I expect it to go down today, as I head up through New Braska to Wyoming. Wyoming’s average elevation is above 8,000 feet. I’ll be at the Springhill Suites in Cheyenne, tonight.

On the way west, I stopped at Lower Rock Run Preserve, which is adjacent to the I&M Canal. I did a very short hike and ate a picnic lunch. There were lots of these flowers there:

Last night, sunset was scheduled for around 21:00, and there were lots of interesting clouds, so I figured it’d be a good sunset night. After picking up Asian food from HyVee (pretty good for supermarket hot food), I ate it in my room, then headed out for a sunset photoshoot at about 20:30.

I found a ball field with some pretty good views to the west. Just to the west of the ball field, is Ridge Pointe Park.

At peak, sunset was pretty spectacular.

It got more purplish as the sun fell.

There were also some rabbits noshing on the lush grass.

Today, I head to Mountain Time. It’s going to be a longish drive day, so I guess I’ll get myself started.

Home to Holy Toledo

June 17, 2015 21:21 – 21:21

I’m at the Comfort Suites on Helen Street in Perrysburg, Ohio. Note to self: don’t stay here again. The hallway doorways are depressingly narrow—making it difficult to push a luggage cart down the hall. Also, the luggage cart has pneumatic tires, adding to the difficulty. And, the lighting in the rooms is depressingly inadequate. The internet is also abysmally slow. Download speed is minimally acceptable, but upload speed is horrendous. I thought I’d stayed here before—apparently, not. I think I confused it with the one in Maumee. Next time, Maumee maybe.

The ride to Ohio was pretty smooth, once I escaped the gravitational pull of DC’s rush hour. I averaged 44.4 MPG from home—and 46.2 MPG from Frederick, MD.

I stopped for lunch at the Ohio Welcome plaza in Mahoning. Their featured restaurant is Panera. Why do they let you specify what you want on your sandwich if they’re just going to ignore half of the instructions? I ordered roast beef on whole grain with Swiss cheese, lettuce, and mayo. I told them to hold the tomatoes, onions, and horseradish sauce. They ignored the mayo request, and included the latter three. I’ve only been to Panera a few times, and they have NEVER gotten my order right. Nice to see that their Ohio stores are just as inept as their Virginia stores. Consistency.

After lunch, I set a course for Viaduct Park, on the Cuyahoga River, near Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I’ll have to stop at the latter sometime. A Facebook friend had posted some pictures from Viaduct Park a while back, and I was curious. There’s a waterfall and rapids.

There’s also an Argh! Okay, so it’s really arch. But, it was easy to misread.

For dinner tonight, I got carryout from Tony Packo’s. It’s still delicious. Oh, and on the way to Kroger’s to buy some cerveza to go with Tony’s, I passed a combination Tim Horton’s/Chipotle. That’s a first (for me, anyway).

Tomorrow, I continue west, as far as West Des Moines, in Iowa. I “gain” an hour because I’m going into the Central time zone.

Action through My Bedroom Window!

June 7, 2015 09:08 – 09:08

A lot of wild action could be seen through my bedroom window this morning. I know—you’re shocked! “You live right next to a church, for crying out loud! There are young kids in the neighborhood!”

Let them get their own damn groundhogs.

When I looked out the window this morning–without my glasses–I noticed something large in my yard that didn’t belong. I thought maybe it was a fallen branch or a fox. So, I put my glasses on and saw a groundhog standing on its hind legs–prairie dog style. By, the time I got my camera to the window, he had disappeared into the brush. However, within a minute or two, this one and a baby had appeared on the scene.

This female was further out in the yard, close to where the large (the one that got away) male had been earlier.

I did manage to get her in several other poses, but not standing up all the way. Next time, I hope.

Stretched out, she was about half a metre long, from nose to tail.

The baby was nosing around my standby generator, about two metres from the master bath’s window.

I need to put a video monitor in my back yard so I can know when it’s time to head to my window with the camera!


My Meandering Mind

May 31, 2015 08:01 – 08:01

I finally became curious enough about the term “Morris Dancing” to look up its etymology. According to my dear friend and expert in all things, N. Ternet, it’s derived from the word Moorish. So, it might’ve referred to dancing done by the Moors, which is a European term applied to Muslims, but originally derived from Mauritania or Morocco, or maybe both. The Spanish word is “Moro”, which is pretty damn similar to Morocco, which itself is pretty damn close to Spain.

All of these odd thoughts began when I wondered whether Morris the Cat does Morris Dancing… by definition. Morris the Cat—used in cat food advertising in the latter part of the 20th century—is thought by many to have been the original Grumpy Cat. I don’t see the resemblance, but, I’m by no means a catologist.


I’m singing this morning at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Syracuse. I might sway a little, but I won’t be doing any Morris Dancing.

Lock 32 Park Near Rochester

May 30, 2015 08:56 – 08:56

I’m in Rochester, NY for a friend’s ordination at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester. I arrived at about 15h yesterday, and had decided to visit Lock 32 Park, hoping there’d be a canal footpath. There was. Next time I’m in northern NY and need a place to hike, I’ll have to remember the converted towpath. It was a bit hot yesterday afternoon, but I did manage to get my daily six miles in without too much sweat. Granted, two of those miles were in Wegman’s, and another two were at home, packing the car.

The canal is nice, but I didn’t see much in the way of wildlife or birds. Here’s a view of the canal from about half a mile south of Lock 32.

Here’s a sign with lock details. The lock raises or lowers boats about 25 feet for travel between different segments of the canal.

An observation deck provides a good view of the entire lock structure. Here’s a view looking to the west.

And, here’s the view to the east.

Today, I’m going to an ordination, then heading east to Syracuse. I plan to stop at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, and then continue on to Syracuse. I’ll be the guest musician tomorrow at the First UU Society of Syracuse. For historical reasons, different UU churches use different nouns. Nouns I’ve encountered include church, society, fellowship, and congregation.