July 11, 2016
I’ve finished knitting a third pair of socks:
Most complex yet. I used a pattern from The Enchanted Sole by Janel Laidman, and the yarn is “Stone Walk” from Western Sky Knits. Pretty darned fancy, all told. I’m also told I’m super-successful because I’ve actually done both socks on every pair I’ve knitted so far. Heh.
I don’t think I’m really a fan of knitting socks. Hand-knitted socks are super-comfy, but they seem to take me a really long time to do. And then you have to do it all over again. Tiny stitches, tiny needles, and stress about whether it’s all going to fit when you’re done. I really like knitting scarves — much more meditative, I think, and they always fit. So, I’m going to take a break from socks for now. Go back to knitting a few Jayne hats, with big chunky yarn.
June 29, 2016
You might recall, I got my very first smart phone last January. How are things going, six months on?
I’m trying to use it to go paperless, as much as I can. I’ve used mobile boarding passes for nearly every trip since I got it, and I’ve been using it for movie tickets, which is really convenient — no more forgetting paper tickets in the printer. I’m playing around with a couple of apps to see if I can make all my travel paperless — no more printed reservations, etc. That’ll be nice.
I’ve been using it for navigation quite a bit, though there’ve been a couple of cases where I would have been better off trusting my instincts. I’m still ambivalent about the GPS navigation thing, but I’m easing into it.
I haven’t used the camera all that much. One thing I am using it for: taking pictures of wine labels that I like. Theoretically, I can take the pictures to the store to figure out what wines to buy. It’s a nice thought, anyway.
And what about the instantaneous, ubiquitous communication? Still not happy with that part. It’s amazing how that little dinging notification garners an immediate response, like a pavlovian kick to the brain. Must check phone now. . . And this is why people text while driving, still, after all the warnings. Because we’re like rats pushing the button for little food pellets. The phone dings, must check. Except, of course, we don’t have to. I can turn the ringer off. I can just ignore it. I still prefer making plans ahead of time — messaging should be for changes in plans, not for making them at the last minute. I’m training all my friends not to expect instant responses from me. Hardly anything we deal with requires an instant response. The smart phone age seems to have made everything seem urgent, when it’s really not. I don’t keep my phone next to me 24/7 — it usually lives in my bag on the counter in the other room. I usually don’t get messages right away.
But it is quite nice having a phone available anywhere, just in case. And I have now been that person who looks something up in the middle of dinner at a restaurant to settle an argument. Then, I put the phone away.
I’m pretty sure I’m still not using the thing to its full potential. I’m also not really sure what its full potential even looks like. So, it’s a work in progress.
June 24, 2016
Somewhere in all my recent birding I realized my field guide was 30 years old. (Which, believe it or not, actually matters as biologists revise various species, combine previously separate species, etc.) So I got a new one.
This thing is, according to my research, the current definitive go-to birding guide. It’s huge. And so far I really like it, because it has pages of comparative pictures for every species grouping (so helpful! Which warbler is it? Here! On one page!) plus both top and bottom views of hawks in flight.
I got a new toy, yay!
May 16, 2016
Western Grebes at Barr Lake State Park. Aren’t they pretty?
So I was one of over 14,000 birders who submitted checklists for eBird’s Global Big Day. Pretty cool, huh?
The day did not go as I originally planned. I have three really great birding spots within an hour’s drive of me, and I did a triangle between them, plus a stop at the Boulder County Fairgrounds to visit the ospreys. Which seems a little like cheating, but hey, they’re there. You can see them too via this bird cam.
First off, Saturday was seriously mucking cold for this time of year. Temperature never got much above 50 F. The day started out at 38 F, with a misting rain, at the Pawnee National Grasslands. I left when my hands were shaking too much for me to look through the binoculars. And that was with gloves! But I saw some great birds like a lazuli bunting, brown thrashers, a western tanager, and some cool warblers and vireos. I want to go back to this spot. When it’s sunny and warm.
Then I hit Barr Lake State Park. It stopped raining by then, so yay! And saw some more great stuff like orioles, warblers, western grebes, a nuthatch, spotted sandpipers, and so on. Then Ty called me from the airport — he was stuck on a 6 hour layover and did I want to come have lunch with him? It just so happens that Barr Lake is about 20 minutes away from the airport, so of course I went to have lunch with him.
I almost hit a jackrabbit on the way there. Like, not a little cottontail bunny like we usually see, but a honking big mutant-legged giant jackrabbit. Whew.
After hanging out with Ty it was getting pretty late. I headed over to Walden Ponds in Boulder and was rewarded with a snowy egret. That was nice.
I just barely hit my 50 species goal. But this is not an exact science — there were a couple of species I just couldn’t ID. Like flycatchers: hey, that’s a flycatcher-shaped thing that’s kind of grayish with yellow underneath! *checks ID book* *discovers that all flycatchers are grayish with yellow underneath* *curses* I also probably spotted a couple of things that I could have counted, that I’m pretty sure on, but didn’t get a good enough look at to be sure. Like those black-capped chickadees.
I also managed to go the whole day without seeing a plain old pigeon, which is just weird.
I also got tired. Part of this was the cold, part of this was the unexpected side trip to the airport. I got to a point where I just didn’t want to look through the binoculars anymore. I probably could have chased down those pigeons and chickadees and a couple of others besides. But by the end of the day I was cold and tired and wanted to go home.
And I only did about 12 hours. eBird’s pro team was also in Colorado, birded the whole 24 hours, and got 232 species. Wow. I need to hang out with those guys just to learn from them.
I think next time (I’ll probably do this again), I may focus on just one or two spots instead of trying to cover a quarter of the state. I may try to get the scope out and really search one area rather than trying to cover a lot of ground. Take frequent breaks. Eat more and drink more water. Get better about IDing things.
Wait for a sunny day. Heh.
May 12, 2016
A couple of links for you:
My Lightspeed review of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny is now live. Short version: I think it’s worth a look, especially if you like medieval-fantasy action type movies.
George has posted an excerpt from the next Wild Cards book, High Stakes, which is due out later this year. I’m not in this one, but you can bet I’m reading it. I hear he also posted a chapter from the next Ice and Fire book, but I know you all are really interested in Wild Cards, right?
Also, I’m planning on a thing this weekend. eBird’s Global Big Day. You might have heard of a birding Big Year because of the movie that came out a few years ago — hardcore birders try to log as many different species as they can in a year. (I finally saw the movie last week — the book is way better, and I’m thinking of writing a review of both soon.) A Big Year is huge, but a Big Day? I think I can do that. This Saturday. For Science!
In a twist, eBird’s pro team is targeting Colorado, and I think they’re aiming for something like 200+ species. Me? 50. I think I can log 50. Mainly because I’m not going from midnight to midnight, and I’m really not that good a birder. But I have a plan, and I’m super excited to try.
It also occurs to me that this is the birding version of NaNoWriMo, which is kind of hilarious.
(If you think the Big Day sounds awesome and want to support bird research and conservation, you might think of donating.)
May 4, 2016
I tried to figure out what to post today, then I looked at the calendar.
It’s Star Wars Day!
I’m not entirely sure when this became a thing, but I’m really glad that it’s a thing!
Star Wars stuff in my life right now: comic books. I read #1 of Poe Dameron, which takes place right before The Force Awakens, and it’s okay. Sort of like Rogue Squadron lite. But the real surprise was the C-3PO comic, which I would not have picked up except it’s by James Robinson and Tony Harris. My beloved Starman Robinson and Harris! Well played, Marvel, well played! It’s the story of how C-3PO got that red arm and it’s kind of adorable. Not deep, just a one-off, one-issue adventure. Nice, you know? I’ve also been informed that I would probably really like the Chewbacca comic so that’s next on the list.
I got to thinking about the prequels again. (I know, I know, I’m supposed to stop that.) I’m wondering if Star Wars stories are inherently about underdogs triumphing over impossible odds. Like, if those stories and that tone are an inherent part of the Star Wars universe. But the prequels — that’s the story of the fall of the establishment. The characters aren’t underdogs, they’re authority figures. It’s the classic Greek-style tragedy of pride and hubris and a fatal flaw undermining the whole culture.
Is that kind of story inherently in opposition to the feel of the Star Wars universe? I’m not sure. But I’m not entirely sure the prequels are aware that they’re Greek tragedy, and so are kind of doomed. Ironically enough.
Back later, I have comics to read.
May 2, 2016
I got the new Eddie Bauer catalog and opened it up and there’s a picture of Ryan Reynolds planting a tree. I guess they’re launching a forestry charity and he’s their spokes-celebrity.
But I just kept staring at that picture. Ryan Reynolds, very seriously planting a tree.
It was unexpectedly, weirdly, kinda hot. Like, I can’t stop looking at it. Like, what is happening, is this like pinups for outdoorsy girls or something? Did they know that when they were doing the photo shoot? It’s just like totally normal Ryan Reynolds. Not even dressed sexy. He’s in a freaking parka. Planting a tree.