Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dark-eyed Juncos

In autumn, flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos travel from the woodlands and mountains of the western United States, Alaska and Canada to the eastern United States.  Roughly the same group of birds make up a flock and fly to the same area year after year.  The flock spends the night as a group, which helps keep them warm and usually in a conifer, which helps protect them from predators.

Dark eyed Juncos are ground feeders.  They eat mainly seeds.  During the breeding season, they also eat bugs.

These are sparrow sized birds with a white belly and darker colored -either slate, brown or black- on the head, back and wings.  Their bills are pink.

In spring, the males fly to the breeding area ahead of the females.  Males stake out sections of the forest and do a great deal of singing.  When the females arrive, various strutting and singing occurs.  There are still many details of dark eyed Junco courtship yet to be learned.

The female builds a nest, usually on the ground.  The nest consists of twigs, pine needles, bark, moss, dried grass and feathers.

She lays 3-6 eggs and incubates them with no assistance from the male.  After the chicks hatch, both mom and dad feed them- seeds and bugs.  (The legs of insects are removed by the parent prior to feeding it to the youngsters.) 

For the first few days, the parents eat the fecal sacs (the poop of the baby birds that comes encased in a mucus membrane).  Later, the adults take the sacs to a tree branch and wipe them off their bill onto the branch.  Often the same branch is used over and over for this purpose.

Some Dark eyed Junco Facts

-  the color of the eggs are gray or pale blue with speckles of reddish brown

-  incubation:  12-13 days

-  nestling:  9-13 days

-  fledgling:  3 weeks

-  broods per year:  1-2

Yellow-eyed Juncos live in in the southwestern US and South America.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I Want a Raise

OK so maybe my dog walking contract isn't coming up for arbitration.  Nonetheless, I want a raise.  Never mind how I'm reliable, and good at my job and all that.  I need a raise due to the hazards and unpleasant surprises I endure in the line of duty.

Some of you are thinking:  Come on.  You've got the best gig in the world.  You get paid to walk dogs!  Fresh air.  Exercise.  Dogs.  You don't have to deal with people.

Well, see, that's the problem.  I DO have to deal with people.  That's why I want a raise.

Example.  I arrive at Charlie's house.  (Charlie is a pseudonym for a large friendly dog who is about 9 years old.  I have known and walked Charlie for some eight years.)

There's a sticky note on the door.  It reads, "shhh the baby's sleeping :)"

As quietly as possible, I insert my key into the lock and push the door open.  I ease inside expecting Charlie to trot merrily up the hall toward me.  No Charlie.

Employing my very best stage whisper, "Charlie!  Charlie?"

Faint whining from somewhere.


More whining and the sound of a paw against a door.

There's a door to the right.  I open it.  Charlie emerges.  I quietly put his collar on.

Suddenly, a woman I've never seen before appears.  "Go away!"  She gestures violently.  It is not clear whether she is addressing me, Charlie, or the both of us.

She is looking directly at me now.  "Who are you?"  She looks a bit frightened. 

I feel a little sorry for her because I am no one to fear.  Mostly though, I am very ticked off that this encounter is happening at all.  "I am the dog walker.  Who are you?''  I reply.

Charlie moves toward the woman.  The woman ducks behind a door yelling, "get away!"

I mutter, "jeez, he's a Golden Retriever."  I am thinking something else but my good manners edit the remark.  I let Charlie outside and turn again to the woman.

"Who are you?"  she asks again.

I repeat that I am the dog walker and hand her one of my cards.  I point to the note on the door and ask if the baby is here.   The woman shakes her head.  She says, "I'm going to call Poopsie!"  (Poopsie is a pseudonym for Charlie's owner.)

"Please do."  In a tone slightly more hostile than intended, I add, "look.  I'm going to walk the dog now.  I have a key for the door."  I hold up the key so she can see it.  "This opens the inner door.  That's how I got in.  Please do not lock the outer door.  If you do,  I will have to break a window to get in, then YOU will have to explain the broken window to Poopsie."

I turn and join Charlie outside.  I do not close the door behind me.  Charlie and I take our walk.

I call Poopsie to determine my next move.  Should it turn out that Poopsie is, say, bound in the basement with duct tape, I will take Charlie home with me. 

Poopsie says the woman is the maid.  The maid is afraid of Charlie so Charlie is locked in the spare bedroom while the maid is there.  The maid doesn't usually come on Wednesdays.  The maid called her a little while ago and it's all straightened out.

In closing, Poopsie says, "I forgot to tell you."

If I had a dollar for every time a customer said, "I forgot to tell you"...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pop Culture Frenzy, Round 22

Welcome once again to Pop Culture Frenzy.  Today's question is about Lena Dunham who writes and stars in "Girls", a show about some twenty something gals.  It airs on HBO.

It seems at a recent press meeting or writers' conference or something, that Ms Dunham attended, she was asked why she was naked so often on her show.  She said "being nude is a realistic expression of life" and the person who asked the question was just "not into her" and that was his problem.  Why the other characters on the show do not appear nude again and again was not fully explained due to the eruption of a "rage spiral" that evidently incapacitated some of the participants.  The discussion degenerated into name calling, nitpicking, and whining.

To win this round, explain all this to me.

The way he asked the question was
 just rude and totally offensive.

Hostmaster: how do you figure that? He asked, as a fellow writer, about her writing choices regarding nudity of her character as it applies to the story line, right?
Oh no.  He was sexist the way he said it.
  Obviously, he is a misogynist because
 he doesn't find Lena attractive.
No. No. No.
I have been stuck in a room while that show is on.
  To suggest that the story would not be genuine without nudity is nonsense.
  This Lena person is so into herself,
 she can't freaking help but whip off her clothes every chance she gets.
  When questioned on it, she refuses to acknowledge
 her own pathology.  Instead,
 she lashes out at a guy
 asking a simple question about her work.

You don't know what you're talking about.
  She is an artist.  She is soooo honest in how she portrays Hannah.
  That sexist writer guy is jealous and mean spirited
 to second guess her art.

Hostmaster:  oy. 
Is this Lena whatever the same bland doughy girl
 who gushed about her "first time" in the voting booth?
  She quite vulgarly implied that voting for Obama
was some sort of sexual experience.
  That she would go out of her way to get
 naked seems in character.

You are so lookist, Fluffy.  
Hostmaster:  "lookist"!  That's like being a bland-girl-phobe, right?!
You are such a hater. 
Hostmaster:  I hate to break it to you sweat pea, but this whole thing doesn't mean enough to me to expend effort hating it.
"Bland girl phobe" is a good thing.
  Look. This 'Girls' show is about a bunch
 of self absorbed people with a grossly exaggerated
 idea of their own importance and by extension
 a grossly exaggerated expectation that other people
 find them fascinating. 
That explains it.  This round is over.
Round 22
Fluffy/Molly  10
Bryan/Cyndi   10

Friday, January 3, 2014

Pop Culture Frenzy, Round 21

Welcome once again to Pop Culture Frenzy.  Our question involves a South Carolina woman's less than merry response when her boyfriend came home on Christmas Eve without beer.

What happened?

She locked him out of the house?

Hostmaster:  incorrect.
She dragged him sober under the mistletoe?
Hostmaster:  incorrect.
She realized that it was an intervention and joined AA.
Hostmaster:  incorrect.
She went out herself to buy beer then ran off with the clerk
never to be heard from again.
Hostmaster:  incorrect.
She and the clerk drove around like Bonnie and Clyde
 robbing liquor stores until the cops shot them to death in their car?
Hostmaster:  incorrect.
She hired a squirrel to beat him up?
Hostmaster:  that's actually close!  And close enough. 
Here's what happened.  He came home without beer.  She hit him over the head with a ceramic squirrel.  It broke.  She took a shard of squirrel and stabbed him with it.  When the police arrived, she told them he fell.  Unable to explain the blood on her hands, clothes and on the sharp chunk of ceramic in her fist, the police charged her with criminal domestic violence and tossed her in jail.
So ends another round of Pop Culture Frenzy.  Now.  Whose turn is it to buy the beer?
Round 21
Fluffy/Molly 10
Bryan/Cyndi   9