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October 23, 2013

Crow, Picture, Historical Perspective...

420 IMG_6379.JPG

Yup, there he is... Bro' crow from the local murder... How on earth did I become a member of his family? Yet there he is,.. Just waiting for food that will no doubt come... Beyond words...

On a vaguely related note,,, Have you ever noticed the quality of pictures that we as a culture are creating/digesting? True, above is a tiny image of a crow... So what? Click on the link below to see our entire photo library. In just a couple of centuries, we have gone from hand-painted portraits to phone cameras... We mention 10, 20, and even 40 megapixel resolution like we're busy and ordering a pizza delivery... What would Ansel Adams say if he could have access to this kind of technology? What could he have created?

IMHO, the historical perspective is frightening...How do we visually communicate, and what do we communicate? In psychology (and sociology), there is a scary correlation between communication and thought level... As you read, so goes your thought process, and right now, we read at the 7th grade level.... Small wonder our Congress has an approval rating of 10%. And when it comes to photography, no wonder that Mapplethorpe is respected...

Wondering by the feeders...


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August 30, 2013

Perfect Polly

Every time I see the following commercial, I get both baffled and a little freaked...

Maybe it's just me, but is that just weird or what? I understand the need for companionship, and birds do make for good company... But birds with batteries?

This sort of reminds me of the Bill Gates' prediction that in the not too distant future (five to 10 years) home robotics will be big business. (I know a little about this having specialized in robotics in my computer engineering program in college and having built a CNC machine in my first job after graduation.) It's pretty simple really:

  • We have cheap and extremely accurate stepper motors for motion...
  • The newest processors are exceptionally powerful... A quality CVS calculator has more computing power than the Eagle -- the first lunar lander...
  • The costs of memory and storage are plummeting...
  • Every graduate engineering and/or computer science program has an artificial intellegence curriculum, and they're in the hunt for the Holy Grail of programming -- true AI itself... Many insiders believe computer self awareness is only 25 years away... When that occurs, Perfect Polly will not only be able to sing but will also be able to thoughtfully talk with you about your depression, and secretly long for real flight just like the other birds...
Who knows what will happen to Perfect Polly?

Still baffled and a little freaked by the feeder...

CapeCodAlan


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September 13, 2012

9/11/01 -- 9/11/12

(What follows is from CapeCodAlan and not eBirdseed.com.)

Hi,

It's difficult to get through 9/11, and in the past I've kept my thoughts to myself... No more... Look at the pictures below...

plane second tower_2012-09-13_234007.jpg

On 9/11/01 I had two very important people in my life who were potentially in harm's way... I distinctly remember that I would have given everything to trade places with them... And now there is Chris Stevens...

Chris Stevens_2012-09-13_145010.jpg

By all accounts, ambassador Stevens loved the Libyan people, and lost his life trying to help those people...

Two quotes come to mind... One is old and one is new...

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

- JFK...

America's commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear - there is no justification for this, none. Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith. And as long as there are those who would take innocent life in the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace.

- Hillary Clinton...

As for me... I don't have a problem with religion... I really don't. You can worship Ganesh, Allah, Jesus, Shiva, Jah, or Whoever... It's when you start to pervert a religion, deny basic human rights, and try to kill me and mine simply because I don't hold your beliefs that I have a problem...

By the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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June 17, 2012

Not so Stupid World, Crows, Fraternities, etc...

420 use this_IMG_4307.JPG

Hi,

Sorry I was so snippy in my last post -- it's just that bad days are... well... bad... Anyway, the world isn't completely stupid... (There... That's as contrite as I get...)

The pic right is of the top of the shooting tripod that I thought I had glued (epoxied) into a useless monolithic abomination. Note the red arrow at the bottom -- that's the gearing into which the epoxy crept and in doing so locked the entire sucker up tighter than Dick's hat band... Nothing sweat and a gift for obscenities couldn't fix. Now about those crows and frats...

Below is a crow partaking in some pretty simple leftovers... Not a huge deal right? Well, yes an no... It has become ritual for the corvids to haunt us at certain times of the day, or whenever we have food. O.K., I admit that I'm partially to blame for that -- I don't like to stuff my face knowing that just yards away there's a hungry wild animal that I've happened to know for the last year or so...But now there seems to be some sort of involuntary joining process -- I am a member of the murder, and my dues are due on a bi-daily basis (at best) whether I like it or not.

420 IMG_4278.JPG

I'm not sure what the bennies are beside the crows' guarded trust and an ongoing songbird predator alarm system...

Years ago (back when I was an engineering student), I was asked to join a special fraternity, and after giving it considerable thought, I turned the offer down -- I knew too many who were just as deserving as I, but faced different circumstances. Besides, as the saying so famously goes, "I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member..." But this time, with these birds, it seems that I don't have a choice...

As always, but sometimes reluctantly, by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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June 17, 2011

Post Number 749... Why I Write About Birds...

Hey,

Well, the next post is #750, and I got to thinking, "Why do I keep writing these things?" Take a look at the screen shot below. (Sorry about the size...)

random shot_resized_2011-06-17_161429.jpg

That shot is of from our UStream live bird cam... Pretty serene isn't it? Now, let's see what was on the news today...

  • Well, people were actually having fist fights to get into court today to watch the Casey Anthony trial.
  • They're still talking about the Vancouver riots after the Stanley Cup Finals. The riots lasted four hours, did well over $1,000,000 in damage, and injured 100 people including one near-fatal stabbing.
  • Sixteen people were shot dead in Syria... (The Middle East in general is a horror show...)
  • In a hopelessly moronic and failed sting operation, the U.S. BATF sold guns to Mexican drug cartels and then lost track of those guns...
  • The entire European economy is a mess, and they're rioting in Greece...
  • Anthony Weiner...
So I write about birds, politics, and wine... Work on computers, and build boats and furniture... Look out number 750...

By the feeders

CapeCodAlan


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May 22, 2011

Table Glue Assembly Tips (Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here)

Well, the table below doesn't really look different from last time, but man alive, it is...

glued_resized_IMG_2746.JPG

The green beast above is now glued and screwed together. (The top however still waits for its unique attachment arrangement.) But as for the legs, skirt, and spreader, they're now and forever locked in the wedded bliss of TiteBond III glue. In fact, the shot below shows how we clamped the skirt assembly into the top of the legs...

spanish windlass_resized_IMG_2756.JPG
(That red strap has been stretched taut by first tying it loosely and then inserting a stick and winding it tight "tourniquet style". Great caution has to be used here in that it only takes a few turns to put the strap and stick under tremendous tension. Should you not freeze the stick with clamps, it will spin back at your fingers like an airplane propeller -- trust me, I know of what I speak.)

Anywho.. I thought I'd take just a few minutes and briefly offer my "over-priced two cents worth" on the glue-up process for such a piece of furniture... Observations...

  • First, understand the "Big Picture". The name of the game is to chemically/physically secure a collection of timbers in a fixed pattern -- usually at right angles. So much for the "Big Picture". It never works no matter how it looks when dry fit (without glue).
  • Dry fit and square anyway just so that when the sticky gremlins come out, you can at least honestly say, "But it was perfect when I dry fit!" This is important. Woodworkers have absolutely no respect for fools who don't dry fit and square, but infinite empathy for fools who do dry fit and square, and still end up with a warped, racked, twisted abomination. (If you ever want free drinks for the night, just walk into a working-class bar and exclaim, "I dry fit and squared, and the glue-up still looks like it was done by Picasso on LSD... Now my wife is going to kill me!" Works every time.)
  • For that matter, be sure to get your significant other involved. There's nothing like the fraction-of-a-second dry time of a glue to bring out those nasty little peeves in a relationship. ("You never plan for things you stupid little troll!!!") See above.
  • Glue may be a fluid, but it's not a gas. That is, glue is a liquid with substantial volume. Put yet another way, if you're gluing something like a tenon into a mortise and the dry fit is really tight, the glue will act like a hydraulic fluid and either stop the parts short, or even split the mortise. Repeat the following mantra... "Glue scores and a moderately-snug fit are good things... Om..."
  • Cross measure along the longest lines and in three dimensions using just a single rule. Make all symmetrical by shoving, re-clamping, pummeling, and cussing.
  • Expect a rip-snorting disaster or two in the frantic process... Always be cool.
  • Keep things organized. Work slows down to an unacceptable mild chaos when a broken toe is thrown into the mix.
  • Have the right tools including a flashlight and quality squares.
  • Finally, give yourself a break. You aren't building a shrine. (And even if you are and you truly foul things up, you can always throw yourself off a cliff...)

See you by those just-not-quite-right feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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May 2, 2011

UBL DEAD and Farm Table

Hi,

If by some wild fluke you haven't heard yet... Osama Bin Laden is dead -- U.S. forces killed him. So forgive me if the rest of this post is a bit off, but I'm going to do my best to do something I haven't done in ten years -- get drunk on my keister... God... What a great night...

Onward...

The farm table moves along rather nicely... here you can see it unpainted and dry-assembled...

parts labeled and resized_IMG_2698.JPG

Thoughts...

  • The table itself is pretty simple. It consists of...
    • The two-board top
    • The "h-leg" assembly ("h")
    • The spreader ("s")
    • The skirt or apron ("a") which circumnavigates the table
    • The underside cleats, clamps, springs, etc.
  • The trick of course is going to be getting everything square, plumb, flat, and level. Methinks the cleats and breadboard will flatten stuff, and then it will just be a matter of cross-measuring and using squares to take care of the rest. (Hopefully, that won't be a huge deal.)
  • In the course of designing this table, I calculated the cost of the h-legs, spreader, and apron. I also figured in the time it would take for me to make those parts, and sadly, there's no way I could compete with having the components custom machine. So here's a hat tip to Osborne Wood Products. Deep sigh...
  • My plan of attack concerning assembly is to square and glue the h-legs, then move on to the apron etc. When all supporting members are copacetic, I'll get busy with the top. In the mean time, there's a whole lot of priming and painting going on.
And that's the farm table so far... Now where's my beer?

Hopefully toasty by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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October 21, 2010

Juan Williams

Hi,

Rarely do I stray from the topic of birds, but tonight, I am going to. Earlier today, National Public Radio (NPR) fired long time contributor Juan Williams...

Juan_2010-10-21_224505.jpg

Photo: Pete Wright

I'll keep this short and on-topic... eBirdseed.com has always shown me considerable leeway when it comes to subject matter. I've always had pretty much free reign when it comes to content and images. So long as I didn't claim that the President was in fact an Idaho potato or display adult pics, my bosses have let me go. And that's how it should be. I get paid to write, tell the truth, and hopefully bring in a breath of common sense. I've talked about death, God, and economic disaster with nary the word, "Boo!" from the folks above. Not so for Juan; he got the boot.

Does the Juan Williams story have any place on a bird seed blog? You'd better believe it does. It really doesn't matter whether you write about birds or The Beltway (and I write about both.) The moment the "Powers At Be" shut you off because they don't like the truthful, high-quality content of your work is the moment that we have real problems...

Who on earth would ever have guessed that a birdseed company's "editorial management staff" would inadvertently (and oh so insignificantly) stand as mentor for NPR? Wow... Just wow...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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March 21, 2010

Health Care... Our Last Coffee Table Chat

Hi all,

Well the Health Care bill passed the house 219 - 212... That's 3 votes past the magic 216...

There are some things that you should know that the talking heads don't mention because they're either too ignorant, too agenda-blind, too frightened, or too stupid to speak up...

  • Our national debts and obligations are not $12 - $14 trillion. They're more like $100 trillion+. (See the U.S. debt clock and look at the bottom row of numbers in red.) Here's a screen shot from last night:
    debt clock_resized_2010-03-22_035727.jpg

    That little box at the top offers the explanation of what that red $107,000,000,000,000.00+ number in the bottom right means... That box says:

    Total U.S. Unfunded Liability Includes Social Security, Prescription Drugs (Medicare Part D), and Medicare. Source: Federal Reserve

    How accurate is that number? Who knows?, But here is an interview with the former Comptroller General of the United States, David Walker just a year ago. (Think of him as America's top accountant.)

    Uh oh...

  • We sold (and continue to sell) treasury bonds to over 30 countries... But bonds come due with interest... Read that, "We have been borrowing money from other counties to pay off the interest on the bonds that have been coming due. A great analogy would be like you taking out a second credit card to pay off the minimum payment on the first. Meet "Mr. Compounding Interest" - you don't just pay interest on the principle, but also on the principle plus the interest.
  • Uh oh...

  • If you think the federal government - an entity that can't even count votes - is going to be able to throw 30,000,000 more people into the health care system and still cut costs... You're a lot more optimistic than am I.
  • If only it was the American budget that was in peril... Look up PIIGS and then brace yourself. And then there's Japan and Great Britain... If we ain't careful, we could easily have a global financial collapse. Oh goody... Now is the time to experiment with 1/6 of the world's largest economy.
  • But the part that really drives me bug house is a simple question, "Whatever happened to personal and familial responsibility?"
  • Fine, so long as you're an able-bodied and able-minded adult who chooses to not buy health care and retirement care insurances, so be it. If said person gets into trouble, he's at the mercy of fate and the generosity of others.

Look, I'm just an engineer... But I do know numbers, and we as a federal republic are in deep trouble. What's worse, the sea change in social attitude is just piling on to the problem.

Anyhoo... As I said in my last post, these are strictly my opinions, and not those of eBirdseed.com.

One last thought... I think I'll make this my last "Coffee Table Chat"... If for no other reason, writing about birds seems to be more productive in this point in history.

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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March 19, 2010

Coffee Table Forum: Health Care

Hi all,

Thought I'd take a break from the birds and toss out my two cents on health care... (I keep promising the occasional non-bird post, and I keep breaking that promise... I might as well chip in on health care... Everyone is talking about it anyway...)

First, understand that this post comes from CapeCodAlan and not eBirdseed.com. These are my thoughts, and my thoughts alone.

Declaration of independence and constition_resized_Scan20016.JPG

The scan above is of two remarkable documents, and both are held in a single 50-page booklet that measures just 6.5" by 3.5". O.K., "remarkable" is anemic in description. "The Declaration of Independence" and "The Constitution of the United States" are breathtaking - perhaps the finest works by humankind.

Alright... So now here we are with this upcoming health care bill... All agree that it consists of 2,500+ pages of gobbledygook. Even the politicians admit that they haven't read the thing, much less make sense of it. (And there's a reason for that - in many or even most sections, they didn't even write the bill - lawyers for the lobbyists wrote it.) So what we're basically doing in this country is taking over 17% of our entire economy while flying upside down... Oh goody...

But beyond that insanity are the principles behind it - the idea that we as Americans have new "rights" to health care and education. My little booklet doesn't say that. It says that we have the rights to "Life", "Liberty", and the "Pursuit of Happiness". That is to say, I have the right to live and work freely, and pursue my dreams. In my case, I worked my tail off and earned three degrees. Others in my family have done far more. But at the heart of it all was the freedom to work, learn, and grow. Along with that growth comes earned health care, and it certainly didn't arrive via some government-mandated "right" for health care or education.

Here's the deal... I've spent untold years working, traveling, or going to school in cities, and have seen literally thousands of drunks and druggies lying incoherent or unconscious in our subways or on our sidewalks. And not once did I feel guilty when I walked by or stepped over them. They were free to make their bed and they got to sleep in it. That's sad, but it is what it is. Freedom is a double-edged sword - it cuts both ways...

Oh, my guess is that some monstrosity of a health care bill will pass by hook or by crook. And one party's defense for their actions will simply be "Well, the other side of the isle has used these same political gimmicks too!" I for one get tired of childish excuses from both sides of the isle.

Look... Don't get me wrong... Health care in America is broken in the extreme. I'm firmly convinced with every fiber in my being that it was our current health care system that killed my father. Yeah we need a fix for sure. I just don't think that that fix should take the form of 2,500+ pages composed by lobbyists and lawyers... Me? I'll just stick to my little 50 page booklet.

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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November 5, 2009

Fort Hood and Backyard Bird Count

Hi all,

Forgive me if I can't be too peppy when writing about birds right now... As you no doubt know, there was a mass shooting at Fort Hood yesterday... and by an officer no less. If the motive is anything like the one Hasan Akbar had, I hope the verdict is the same as Akbar's - death.

Onward...

I guess the least I can do is provide a decent bird pic...

400_catbird 2 7-25.JPG

That's a nice photograph of a catbird that was taken last summer... At the time, we had been working out in the yard and some of the birds (including the fellow above) decided that we were no great threat. So at one point, Mrs. CCA pretty much walked up to the creature and took the picture. (BTW... We usually try to stay away from the birds for a couple of reasons... First, they are wild animals and can be dangerous. And secondly, whenever wild things become too complacent around humans, the critters are at risk.)

Onward yet again...

Believe it or not, the 2010 Cornell "Great Backyard Bird Count" is not that far away! So mark your calendars for Feb. 12 -15, 2010 and tell all your friends, co-workers, relatives... It's free, fast, and fun. Last year, I entered early and "won" a nice bird poster. (BTW... In general, the Cornell Web site is a treasure trove of birding info including insight for backyard birders. Use the link above or the ones below to check it out.)

Before I sign off, just a heads up concerning the weather here. It's raining, and that means that our streaming Web cams are going to be blurry. One cam is indoors...

Free video streaming by Ustream

And the other is outdoors and protected under glass here. Somehow I'm going to have to figure out a better system.

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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September 12, 2009

Thinking of 9/11

Hi all,

First of all, here's a quick pic of what appears to be a downy scouting the birdhouse... Not bad...

downy in birdhouse_03_405.jpg

But most of all, I want to just reflect on 9/11... (Please keep in mind that what follows are strictly my opinions, and not those of eBirdseed.com.)

For reasons that will go unexplained, that day was pretty tough for me... Probably even tougher than for most folks. I think back on it now, and feel exactly as I felt then - full of quiet, controlled rage...

No more words right now...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson, Hummingbird Video, and Model Boat

Hi all,

Kind of all over the place today...

First up - Michael Jackson. My $.02? Well, my heart isn't exactly bleeding right now. I have a real problem with people who dangle babies 40' off the ground as a publicity stunt. (Needless to say, I didn't lose any sleep after Steve Irwin's passing either.) Still, Jackson's (and Jones') "Thriller" was a brilliant video. What a waste of phenomenal talent...

Now about those hummingbirds... Check out the video below...

There really isn't much to say. At least the rain has stopped and we were finally able to get a decent clip for you. (We have yet to find a way to set up the camera in such a way as to catch that flash of red in the throat, but we will.)

Finally, if you like backyard birding (as I assume you do because you're reading this), you really should consider model boatbuilding.

IMG_3332_resized for ebirdseed.jpg

There are several reasons why you might want to check out this funky hobby...

  • It offers great insight. Though it will probably take some time to get started, the slight work invested will be well worth it.
  • It's fast... (See the Instant Boats Forum where I created six tutorials on building models.)
  • It's cheap... We're talking using old cereal boxes.
  • With practice, you can actually build a decent model. Take a close look at the second from left. That's a 1:27 scale model of the Bolger "Car Topper". While I tend to make scruffy models, that boat ain't bad.
Better run,

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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