With A Rebel Yell, She Cried Yuppie Yuppie Yuppie

Due to the flooding occurring in Davenport Iowa, a motorcycle event was moved from the river up to the Missouri Valley Fairgrounds.  We ended up driving by that area on our way out of town and witnessed a huge number of bikers converging on the area.   I didn’t find this too ironic until we started getting close to the Black Hills and you probably guessed it… Sturgis.  So our trip (from the very start to our return trip) allowed me to observe the biker community.  I do not ride myself, but always intrigued by those who do.  When I was growing up there was really two camps – those that rode the Harley lifestyle and those who preferred the laid back luxury of the Honda Goldwings.  To be honest, I really didn’t see these two groups mixing much which probably led to my surprise at the number of “mixed” groups I was seeing on the road – The standard Harley crowd, mixed with the Honda crowd, interspersed with the Victory and Indian owners with a few crotch rocket riders.  (ironically the Dark Custom Harley commercial just came on the television)… one thing that stuck out, was the impression that none of these bikes were the low end machines.  As I was looking at the chrome and huge amount of accessories it occurred to me that motorcycle marketing must have transformed themselves.  Somehow they are winning over high bread makers who want to either live the weekend lifestyle or the biker lifestyle is transforming themselves into corporate management.  I’m not sure which way the change is happening, but what I do know from looking at the Harley website, some of these bikes are costing more than SUVs. 

I also had another observation that help drive this home while out in South Dakota.  We had stopped in Custer State Park to have a little picnic lunch when an individual rode up to the wayside on a nice looking Harley Davidson – chrome all over the place and decked out in all sorts of sidebags and lights.  The guy was dressed in a leather vest, leather chaps and a skull themed dew rag.  He steps off the bike and turns off his docked iPod, pulls out his GPS and flips open his iPhone.  I then looked on his passenger seat and noticed a laptop cased strapped into the rear bar.  No tattoos, no earrings – a quick wardrobe change and he could’ve been my CIO.  Hats off to the Harley marketing arm.


Taking "Green" to New Heights

I am sooo far behind on this month’s blogs!  I actually recently came back from a vacation out in the Black Hills of South Dakota which had its good points and bad points, but the difficult part was the Verizon Air Card would not work in a number of places we were at.  As a result, I had to capture a bunch of notes in hopes of making posts upon my return… well, I’m back and time to get down to work.

On our way out we headed through Davenport as we trekked up northwards to get around the massive flooding throughout Iowa.  So much flooding, in fact, that they shut down US80 – our planned main route out West.  As we drove through Davenport we started seeing an extremely odd scene.   Granted there has been a lot of rain pouring down up there, but I never expected to see weeds and grass growing out of house gutters.  At first, I figured it was just an abandoned house or something, but a block down I noticed it again, another couple of blocks and there it was again.  I can’t really figure out how this really happens.  Based on the type of shingle there may be some grit building up in the bottom of the gutter and in some situations I could see  a leaf buildup, but I’m entirely sure this is sufficient for plant growth…. and then a mass of seeds needs to be sprinkled on the area to produce the plants/weeds.  I am currently fighting with my new lawn to maintain last year’s seeding – apparently I need to lay down a covering of asphalt and leaves first based on the height of the gutter foliage. 

Then again, it could be another victim of Global Warming propaganda and the homeowners are actually planting grass on their rooftops in order to become GREENER.  Oh, and this just in.. Al Gore’s energy use went up 10% this year.


The Fluffy Twins (Part 9 of Many)

I was just sitting here watching the TapOut show on Vs and decided to go ahead and make another blog entry.  If nothing else, it will bring a little balance to my karma since I have managed to sit through two UFC shows, a WEC show before the TapOut show… okay okay, I’m a MMA junkie, but having spent a number of years on the mats and striking the bags, it tends to stick with you.  So what better way to compensate than to add an entry on my fluffy friend(s) the Downy Woodpecker.

There are two twins (one male and one female) that have been visiting my feeders from the first day I put them up.  Actually, I have had the privilege of watching them slowly mature and they feel like an adopted part of the family.  Here is a baby picture of the male:

Downy Woodpecker

Both of them are very laid back and have never been aggressive to other birds or care if there are other birds feeding at the same time.  They did struggle a little bit at first because they couldn’t figure out how to actually get at the seeds on the big feeder.  They would latch onto the side and keep pecking at the side.  The female was the first to understand how to use the openings and then eventually the male figured it out.  Here is the female as a baby really submerging herself in the feeding process:


What The Peck Is This (Part 8 of Many)

Okay, I think it is time to hit the bookstore and find a better field guide for birds.  I keep running across birds that do not show up in my guide at all, but in this particular case, I can’t even find it using a number of field guides on the web.  Oh, and by the way, I especially liked the online guide I found today that basically made me pick the name of the bird from a drop down list in order to see what it looks like… if I knew that… nevermind.   I do have a lot of successes using the Google image search, but struck out on this latest bird.  Unfortunately, I was rushing around trying to find the camera and make it back before this bird decided to fly off.  As a result, all you get is some fuzzy pictures, but you should be able to get a good feel for what it looked like.  It has NEVER shown up again and quite frankly glad I even got one picture of it.

So now you are probably asking yourself…  “When is he going to show me the bird?”.  Well, here you go.  I’ll start with a side shot that gives a good view of the side markings.

Unknown Pecker

It is clearly clinging to the side of the tree similar to a woodpecker, but I looked through all the typical woodpeckers and nothing came close to resembling this bird.  I thought the distinctive white bars on the wing and the solid brown/tan head would be a clear giveaway… but no luck.  Here is another side view which gives a very good view of the beak shape and a little crisper on the coloring.


King Pecker (Part 7 of Many)

It’s bird time again.  Today I bring you probably my favorite bird captured in my lens so far.  I According to my little guide, it is a Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  In case you are confused, he is the larger guy on the right.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

He is the largest bird that visits my feeders and although this picture appears to contradict this statement, when he is around, most other birds stay away.  I am guessing the chickadees didn’t see him because they are a little jittery anyway and he apparently scares most of the other species.  This is an assumption, but I have never seen him be aggressive to any other bird and generally stays in his own little world.  That massive weapon of beak he has definitely commands some respect.

In case you are unsure if it is a male or female, the following shot makes it pretty clear.


Still Seeing Red (Part 6 of Many)

Guess what?…. yep another bird post.  This one actually came out of a discussion with my brother Ron regarding the previous post (Part 4) on a red colored bird I had come upon previously.  Originally I had classified that bird as a Purple Finch, but upon further investigation we decided it was actually a Pine Grosbeak (at least we think).  While trying to determine that type of bird, I came upon some pictures I had taken that match much better to the description of the Purple Finch.

Purple Finch

In agreement with the guide description, this guy’s beak is a more tannish tone and he is sporting a pretty trendy crest.  To be honest, I really do not know much about this bird.  I snapped a few pictures when I had the chance, but I really have not been able to observe any of its interactions with other birds or feeding habits.


To Live Another Day (Part 4 of Many)

UPDATE: 5/17/08 – My brother did an investigation on this little guy and we now believe that this bird really doesn’t match up with the purple finch.  For one thing the beak is different – the purple finch has a brown/tan beak that tapers to a point, where the pictures below appear to show a bent beak at the end and clearly a darker tone – it also was a fairly stocky bird which didn’t fit well with finches.  I had originally dismissed the Pine Grosbeak due to my guide’s maps which showed it really was not an Illinois bird, but my brother found some web links which matched up pretty will with the bird images and his book indicated that at times the Grosbeak can come down south a little farther.  So until someone produces alternative reasoning, we are changing the original assessment to the Pine Grosbeak  – now back to your regularly scheduled programming

Today’s bird has a special memory for me.  A month or so back, I was taking my dog out and noticed he was pretty interested in something out in the yard.  I called him off and put him back in the house to go and investigate the cause.  As it turns out, there was a small bird just laying in the grass.  It appeared to be a young bird that had either fallen out of a nest or overestimated its mastery of flying.  In any case, it seemed distraught and clearly concerned about the predicament it was in… not to mention being hovered over by a curious human.  Fortunately, for this little guy (I guess), I’m a softie for animals in distress (no, I dislike PETA if you are wondering – any organization that puts concern for a donkey higher than a human life is no organization I want to be associated with).   I first decided to snap a few pictures since I had not seen this type of bird (especially this close).

Not sure, maybe Purple Finch

Now that I am looking at the pictures up closer, he looks a little pissed.  He didn’t have any problems with me snapping a few photographs and was pretty much content to just sit there – likely pretty scared.  Here is another shot from a little sharper angle in order to get a better feel for the beak angle and reddish crown.


I Bet He Gets Some Ribbing in Bird School (Part 3 of Many)

Continuing the tribute to the winged ones, today’s focus is on the titmouse.  Probably one of the stranger names for a bird since it doesn’t really resemble anything of the things that come to mind when I see that name.  I might have to track down the origin of that name out of sheer curiosity.  Based on the images in the field guide, I appear to have Tufted Titmouses (or is that Titmice?) which again is common to the region I live in.  This first picture is a tad fuzzy and dark, but I thought it was interesting because it looked a tad fat.  Due to the poor lighting I am unable to tell if it is browner than gray and thus might be a female.


Based on observation, the titmouse has to be the most skittish of all of the birds that use my feeders.  They are very timid and always land on a nearby branch first and survey the situation before eventually diving down into the larger birdfeeder (with songbird mix).


A Sense of Accomplishment

The most observing I have done for the last week is the amount of phlegm that one can cough up at any one moment.  It is staggering, but I will go out on a limb here and state that you probably couldn’t care less about the biproducts of my nasty virus. 

However, I was well enough to make it over to our local Panera Bread to pick up some sinus relieving soup.  I had finished ordering and was waiting for my pickup when I glanced over at the soda fountains.   There was a little girl trying to fill up her cup.  This looked like a tremendous hardship because she could barely see over the counter ledge, much less be able to reach up to the dispensers.  Before I had assessed the situation, one of the employees came by and asked her if she needed some assistance.  With confirmation, the employee helped her put the cup in the proper place, asked what flavor and pressed the button.  She then asked the girl to tell her when to stop.  At first I thought this was odd, but as it played out it it became more interesting.  After a little while, the child informed the employee to stop – I thought it was a little premature since there was clearly a good .5 inch left to the top (I don’t generally steal sips, but I make sure I get what I paid for), but the employee stop dispensing and helped the girl take it down from the counter.  The employee asked her if she wanted a lid and then helped her over to the lid area and pointed to the right size for the girl to take.  As the employee watched, the girl struggled for a bit but actually go the lid on herself and then grabbed a straw for herself.  Showing solid parenting, the little girl thanked the employee and walked back to what appeared to be her father with a wide grin on her face.  The she said “Look Daddy, I got my own drink!”  with a very proud expression on her face. 

My thoughts went directly back to the employee.  I would guess that in just about every other scenario I have witnessed (including my own experience) the approach was to take the cup from the child fill it up, put the lid on, stab the straw and hand it back to the kid.  In contrast, the person helped the girl to get “her own drink” and in turn not only did the girl acquire her drink, but also lefther with a sense of accomplishment.  That employee needs to be in our school system where she can use this special trait on more subjects.  Hats off to Panera and their apparent quality applicant review process.  (yes, I am assuming it has improved since my previous post on a Panera observation)


A Day of Irony

Today was a little odd in the sense there were at least two visuals which made me stop and hesitate for a moment to provide time to verify what I was really seeing.  The first of these happened on my way to work.  On the highway ramp next to where I work, there is a huge billboard sign with a picture of a cute little blonde girl on it.  There is a bold caption at the top that states “When smoker’s are nearby, I smoke too”  I actually do not understand the attraction to smoking myself and as long as an individual can read, there is little excuse for not accepting the outcomes that result from that addiction.  However, the visual that caught me offguard as I rounded the ramp, was a small red truck at the bottom with two men and a small blonde girl sitting between them.  As he was yielding for the oncoming traffic, the driver pulls out a pack of cigarettes and starts beating it on his palm to get his cig out.  I find it hard to believe that he didn’t take notice of the billboard as he passed by and if he did, apparently the message didn’t sink in. 

The other image occurred at the exact same intersection where I was almost hit a few posts ago.  As I came upon the location I looked to my right and noticed there was 2 seconds left on that corresponding walk light.  This brought a tad bit of satisfaction since that meant I would not have to wait to cross the street ahead.  I then noticed a police car nearing the intersection from the right – glancing at the walk light, took note the time was up, shifted over to the left to look at the traffic lights and it was turning yellow… but the police car was not slowing down (I am a little more cautious on this per the last incident there).  Sure enough the police car enters into the intersection and begins the turn left at the same time the light goes red.  I stopped in my tracks and stared the the cop as he accelerated past me – no flashing lights, no urgent call… just plain blew the light.    What really made it interesting to me is the fact there was an article in the paper two days ago about how the police department has been cracking down on people who run the red lights downtown.  This enforcement initiative was requiring two officers that they felt could be re-deployed to more important areas if the city installed cameras ….. say cheese 8^)