October 29, 2014

American Skepticism

Hi,

(What follows is strictly from CapeCodAlan, and does not necessarily reflect the values of eBirdseed.com.)

True, I haven't been posting as frequently as I have in the past... And it would simply be too easy to blame that absence on time/energy consumption from the work I'm doing on the house, or family challenges, or health problems, or other obligations, or any combination of those things... But as I said, that would be too easy. Thankfully, we certainly don't have bird problems. (All you need to do is follow these eBirdseed.com FAQS, and you can be a bird maven.)

So what's happening with me (and the rest of the country for that matter?) Why is it that so many of us are struggling? Well... poor public trust in Guv'ment doesn't help. And then there's ISIS, and the Secret Service, and the IRS, and Putin, and Ebola, and 'Fast and Furious', and unemployed/under-employed, and the national debt, and... Simply put, America is a bummer, at least by historical standards.

I think the pic below of a headless goose decoy kind of describes the national (and my) melancholy and subsequent lethargy:

420 headless goose .JPG

And this is not to bash the Left alone because frankly I think guys like Boehner on the Right are stuffed shirts too, but when the POTUS expresses outrage over the beheading of an American journalist and then within 15 minutes is out on a golf course, well... I'm just not inspired. It's tough to write with Damocles' Sword hanging over your head...

So where is the stuff of both conviction and follow through? The speech below is remarkable indeed in its sincerity and foresight...

I don't know... I'll try to be more timely with these posts, but I don't think the midterms are going to help... Skeptical writers don't tend to be prolific writers...

Stuck by the feeders...


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October 22, 2014

Yet Another Trellis Update...

Hi,

Remember that trellis we built 6 years ago?

So you not forget... Here is another update...

Now... Check out the pic below...

420 morning glory 10222014 94200 PM(1).jpg

After mulling over the previous build posts, I guess the moral of the story is simply this: when you design and build, design and build for the future... not just the present; and always imagine what light and shadows are going to do for/to your work. Be it a home or a trellis or a boat, what will be placed on it or in it or near it? Consider how tide and time will change your creation.

All said and done, I think the trellis came out just fine. It's perfectly functional. It's durable. It ages well. It's modular and the parts are replaceable. And... it looks good to all light and seasons...

By those scenic feeders...

CapeCodAlan

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October 12, 2014

New TV/Jumbotron Computer Display for the New Rec Room

Alrighty then... Where are we in this new Rec Room adventure???

Well, here's a hint...

420 actual display 10122014 40651 AM.jpg

Like any sizable project, this one had to be wrestled into submission in stages. The first stage was simply deciding on the TV, and once that was done, the next step was to hack the wall apart and run the appropriate wires/cables... (NOTE: Before you start mangling drywall, think ahead!!! What other devices/cables might you need in the future??? In our case, we could string the standard RG6... But what of your situation? ASK!)

420 drywall patches 10122014 35757 AM.png

The actual mounting of the TV was a joy in and of itself... The only words of wisdom I can offer are these:

  • You can never have enough levels -- you'll probably be dealing with lag bolts to secure the beast to the wall, so you cannot be too picky when it comes to leveling.
  • Let's just say that stout studs are a must. One cannot bolt into drywall, though many have tried and cried. You may have to open up the wall just to sister the studs or even block them in... If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's time to call in a pro...) Here's a shot of the back of the TV after mounting...

    420 back of tv 10122014 40211 AM.png

  • Now all that's left is to get the PC and the TV talking... (Detect a note of sarcasm in my tone? It's there for a reason... Getting the computer's operating system and the TV to play nice isn't chump change.) In my case I had to tell the operating system (Windows 8.1 RT) to use a second display via an HDMI connection, and then tell the TV to look at HDMI port 3....
  • 420 sol on new tv_IMG_8666.JPG

    (To put the size of the display in perspective, note the size of the doorknob pointed to by the red arrow...)

And that's about it... Stay tuned for our next noble push to make the connection wireless...

By the TV in the new Rec Room,

CapeCodAlan


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October 8, 2014

Book Review: 'The Bee, A Natural History'

Yeah, it's time for another book review. This time, we look at, 'The Bee'

420 cover 2014-10-08_091455.jpg

You know... There are times when I wonder why I even bother to write these reviews of Princeton University Press (PUP) books -- I've yet to find a clunker in the 15 books I've examined thus far. I was discussing this tendency of PUP excellence with my brother (an author and professor) and he did point out the rather obvious -- Princeton is a world-class operation -- obvious point well taken. So here we go using the normal review format...

"The Bee, A Natural History"

Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich with contributions from:
Kelly Allin
Norman Carreck
Dr. Andrea Quigley

Contents:

Introducing the Bee

  • Chapter 1: Evolution & Development
  • Chapter 2: Anatomy & Biology
  • Chapter 3: Society & Behavior
  • Chapter 4: Bees & Humans
  • Chapter 5: Beekeeping
  • Chapter 6: A Directory of Bees
  • Chapter 7: The Challenges Faced by Bees

Useful Resources (Bibliography, Index, Author Biographies, Acknowledgments)

As always, I look at five aspects of the work:

  • Book logistics: 224 pages; 1lb, 13 oz; 2" cloth spine on hardcover; semi-gloss paper; virtually every page has photos and/or prints and charts...
  • Immediate and long-term ease of use: Exceptional on both counts, though I would like to see some sort of "ID that Unknown Bee Chart"... Years ago, I created a chart in that vein (see seed chart)
  • for eBirdseed.com... Something similar could be created for bees using coloration, sizing, location parameters, seasons, etc. A version of this book in phone/tablet app form complete with photo recognition (analogous to WeBird and bird songs) and search functionality would be cool in the extreme.
  • Book organization: See chapters above...
  • Artwork: Exceptional as always...
  • Overall impression: I like the book... I must admit I was a bit surprised by the size of chapters 5 and 6 (28 pages and 43 pages respectively...) It's a thorough work, and is a 'must' for bee and insect wonks, as well as farmers, and serious backyard gardeners. In short, it's another winner from PUP.
By the buzzing feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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September 28, 2014

Towhee and Bird Etymology Confusion

Alrighty then... We saw this fellow the other day...

towhee1.jpg

Hmmm... Let's see what the various experts have to say...

******************************

From: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/towhee

1: a common finch (Pipilo erythrophthalmus of the family Emberizidae) of eastern North America with the male having reddish sides, white underparts, and black upperparts, head, and neck --called also chewink
2: any of the North American finches belonging to the same genus (Pipilo) as the towhee

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All listings below from aggregator: http://www.memidex.com/towhee

Britannica Encyclopedia:

towhee [bird] | Pipilo erythrophthalmus [species] | Pipilo [genus] any of several North American birds in the family Emberizidae, order Passeriformes, that are long-tailed skulkers in thickets, where they are rarely ... (22 of 124 words, 2 images)

Wikipedia:

Towhee any one of a number of species of birds in the genus Pipilo or Melozone within the family Emberizidae. Towhees typically have longer tails than other emberizids. Most species tend to avoid humans, so they are not well known, though the Eastern Towhee P... (44 of 329 words, 1 image)

Collins Dictionary: towhee any of various North American brownish-coloured sparrows of the genera "Pipilo" and "Chlorura" (13 of 192 words, pronunciations)

Columbia Encyclopedia:
towhee | ground robin | ground robins
common name for a North American bird of the family Fringillidae (finch family). Towhees are also called chewinks, for their call, and ground robins, ... (24 of 133 words, pronunciation)

Merriam-Webster: towhee | chewink [sense-specific] | Pipilo [genus, sense-specific]
a common finch (Pipilo erythrophthalmus of the family Emberizidae) of ... |
any of the North American finches belonging to the same genus as the ... (24 of 67 words, 2 definitions, pronunciation)

Oxford Dictionary:

towhee
a North American songbird of the bunting family, typically with brownish plumage but sometimes black and rufous.; Genus Pipilo (and Chlorurus), family ... (22 of 56 words, pronunciation)

American Heritage Dictionary:
towhee | chewink [synonym, sense-specific] | ground robin [synonym, sense-specific] |
Pipilo erythrophthalmus [species, sense-specific]
A North American bird that ranges from southern Canada to Mexico and has black, white, and rust-colored plumage in the male. | Any of several finches ... (25 of 55 words, 2 definitions)

New World Dictionary:
towhee [United States] | Pipilo erythrophthalmus [species]
any of several large, ground-feeding, North American sparrows (family Emberizidae); especially, the rufous-sided towhee with a chestnut patch on each ... (20 of 36 words)

Random House Dictionary:
towhee | ground robin
any of several long-tailed North American finches of the genera "Pipilo" and "Chlorura". (13 of 20 words, pronunciation)

Wiktionary:

towhee | towhees [plural]
Any of several species of birds of the genera Pipilo and Melozone. (12 of 14 words)

Macmillan British Dictionary:
finch [countable] | finches [plural]
a small bird with a short thick beak. There are many types of finch. (14 of 39 words, pronunciation)

Cambridge Dictionary:
finch
any of various types of small singing bird with a short wide pointed beak (14 of 24 words, pronunciation)

Encarta Dictionary:
towhee | towhees [plural] | Pipilo and Chlorura [member of] a large long-tailed sparrow that usually feeds on the ground. Native to: North America. Genera Pipilo and Chlorura. (18 of 40 words, pronunciation)

Oxford Dictionary:
towhee
First use: mid 18th century
Origin: imitative of the call of Pipilo erythrophthalmus

American Heritage Dictionary:
towhee
Origin: Imitative of the song of some of these birds.

Collins Dictionary:
towhee
First use: 18th century
Origin: imitative of its note

New World Dictionary:

towhee [United States]
Origin: echoic of one of its calls

Merriam-Webster:
towhee
First use: about 1729
Origin: imitative

Encarta Dictionary:
towhee | towhees [plural]
First use: Mid-18th century
Origin: An imitation of the bird's call

******************************

All told, this is an interesting read... Is the bird a Finch or a Sparrow or a Ground-robin or a Marsh-robin? Note the unusual lack of name capitalization common to folks like Sibley... How accurate is the first-use date of 1729 cited by Merriam-Webster? Are they talking about the Rufus-sided critter, or Eastern?

Kind of reminds me of this famous skit (From: http://youtu.be/W7rv026gIJ8)

By the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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September 22, 2014

The Importance of Mock Ups

Hi,

Sorry for yet another delay -- finishing the garage has turned out to be more of a project than I expected. (And the birds have taken a backburner as well... Expect a post on our new Towhees in the near future...)

Over my years of construction, plumbing, engineering, furniture design, boat building, etc., I've come to appreciate the value of finding some way of mocking up some kind of scale model (the larger the scale, the better) of the finished project. Case in point... the photo below...

tv mock up 420 IMG_8425.JPG

That's a 1:1 cardboard model of our soon-to-be large-screen TV for the new rec room... It's surprising how a simple cardboard big screen puts things in perspective... Here are the considerations that typically occur regardless of the challenge:

  • Space: Does a walk through of the first floor of the "house to be" really work for you? Use stakes and yellow tape to find out... CAD goes just so far...
  • Seating: The cardboard imitation above raised all kinds of questions about exactly where people will sit. We intend to use that TV not just as a TV but as a computer monitor... What do we do with the computer desk? How will the light change in the room season by season?
  • Electrical/cable/etc..: Yup... All that stuff... Years ago I was a plumber's assistant and was helping to lay out the water for a new restaurant... While the blueprints were all well and good, it wasn't until we started laying down tape measures to mock up the place that the owners realized that the sink was in the wrong place... Thousands of dollars were saved in that discovery. Logistics in all forms matter.
  • Aesthetics: Yeah, I'm the last person on planet Earth to talk about this... Still... Subjects such as placement, light and shadow, and color do matter....
  • Place your rough mock up (be it bird feeder or or mansion) where you want it, and then make it physically happen. It's much easier to get it perfect beforehand than get it right after the fact.
I don't know... You can see by our trellis project, I practice what I preach... Mock ups are wonderful things...

By the well-designed feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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September 14, 2014

9_11_2014

100px-Black_Ribbon.svg.png

Hi,

Sorry to be so tardy (yet again!), but 9/11 is a tough time for me... I'd like to explain, but I don't think my bosses would be too keen on my explanation... But know this... I have many deep emotions this time of year, and fear isn't one of them. As each journalist is beheaded, each attack occurs on U.S. soil, as each U.S. Embassy is attacked... Those who perpetrate or perpetuate such vile acts might want to reflect on Yamamoto's famous quote... "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

Someday I can perhaps explain and keep my job...

By the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

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