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Dubrovnik back to Budapest

View from Cavtat Harbor toward the Hills The owner of Villa Olav & Jo  say their goodbyes Today we left Dubrovnik, fly...

Monday, February 27, 2006

Return of the Magpies

Hurrah! Had a couple of Yellow-billed Magpies in my yard today, as well as a small group of Northern Flickers who love digging for ants and other bugs on the ground. I haven't seen Yellow-bills in a long time and had worried they might have all been killed off by West Nile Virus.

It's a rainy day but what the hell - I planned indoor stuff anyway.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

You Will Not Believe This

Oh, you are going to love this. I happened across a site that is the Bible - Book one, the old testiment (fire & brimstone stuff) and Book 2, the New Testiment (all Jesus, all the time).

Ok, so now you are panicking. Claire is interested in Bible study? You are no doubt looking skyward - either in expectation of winged pigs, or the four horseman of the Appocalypse.

Relax. This is not the full Bible, it is sort of "Bible-lite". And, as you may well have expected, it is fully illustrated. I mean, come on, would Claire read a book without illustrations? (if any of you answered 'yes' I am going to GET YOU FOR THAT!).

No, not actually illustrated... it has photos, but not taken of the original Bible as I am told there were no cameras back then. No. Not even film photos. *Claire nods her head knowingly*. No, this Bible is entirely done in LEGO bricks. You have GOT to take a look. But first let me tell you what had me riveted in complete amazement - the Old Testament which as I said, is the Rathful God of Fire and Brimstone stuff. Much of it is largely ignored now, even by the Orthodox because well, you just can't get away with murdering your child for being rude to you even if God says it is not only OK, but necessary. You know?

What I have been thinking about is how some people pay close attention to some admonishions of the Old Testament (homosexuality is murder-worthy) but ignore others; my favourite being if a man is unmarried and his brother dies, he is obligated to marry his brother's widow so his brother's family line can continue. If the man refuses to marry his sister-in-law it is going to go VERY bad for him. Oh and the laws about slavery. YIKES!

There are loads and loads of rules that make every modern human a sinner for the most part. Facinating reading. Meself, I found the Old Testiment 'the Law' most shocking.

Go yee forth and have a look at this now oh yee sinners. Think how much fun it will be to get a phone call from family/friends, and when they ask what you are doing, you can tell them you are reading your Bible. For many of you it will mean calling 911 to revive your Mom.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

An All Birds, All the Time Sort of Day

Had a pretty good day birding with Don today. We started out on Brewer Road, Placer County where the birds du jour were Long-billed Curlews and Wilson's Snipe. Neither are rare but they are always fun to find. I got some so-so pictures because the birds were a good distance way.

We found a huge flock of Wild Turkeys which I've never seen on Brewer before - maybe some twenty birds.

Next we headed to Consumnes Refuge, and on the way in spotted a small skunk - broad daylight mind you - digging on a bank. I only got a picture of its butt as it dove into the shubbery. ARGH! I ought to forgive myself as I was doing the driving.

We went on the marsh boardwalk, and saw the 'usual' suspects - Pintails, Marsh Wrens, Cinnamon Teals and such - saw a lovely male Blue-winged Teal. Loads of Sandhill Cranes.

No Tundra swans or Snow or White-fronted geese - other than Canadas - as they've all headed north already. We had a pari of Virginia Rails right next to the boardwalk and even though I was only a few feet away I could not get a decent picture to same my life because the reeds were in the way. Oh well. I guess when I get a nice one I'll really appreciate it. Got a nearly-almost -ok- Marsh Wren picture - those tiny buggers don't hold still for more than a few seconds at a time.

Let's see - other birdie highlights in the Consumnes area were a Great Horned Owl and a Barn Owl (I didn't see the Barn, damn it).

After Consumnes we headed for the Rancho Seco area to look for Lewis Woodpeckers. The last time we were there we found loads of the birds before we even got out of the car, but this time were were none. BUT, Don spotted some Hooded Mergansers which I don't see very often.

We ended the day with beer and sushi at Mikuni's in Fair Oaks. Nice, nice dinner and whew! I'm ready to call it a day.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Birding This Weekend

Birding buddy Don came out from the Bay area for our not-quite-every-year-any-more 'Great Crane Chase' during which we attempt to see some of everything that flies and has feathers here in my neck of the woods. The Great Crane chase started maybe ten years (that long?) ago when Don wanted to see 'lifer' Sandhill Cranes. Astoundingly it took me like two years to break down and ask someone before we found any. Duh.

Anyway, Don came via Amtrack. Picked him up in Davis and we headed back west to Fairfield. We looked for a Blue Jay there but the bird was a no show. Boo hoo! Not like I have never seen them or anything, but I miss them. Blue Jays are THE first bird on my life list - my mother pointed them out to me when I was a little nipper - one of my earliest memories. We were probably there for an hour and a half, and though the bird was there before we arrived, it took a powder and was a no show. Rats. Oh well.

After the Fairfield BJ, we headed over to Flannery Road which is open cattle country. We hoped for a chance to see Mountain Plovers. The only Mountain Plovers I have ever seen were back in 1981 - so I was due for a booster shot of Mountain Plovers.

We got them! Don spotted a flock of a couple hundred of them, wheeling and spinning around in the air like shorebirds do. We were quite a distance away from them but by driving to the other side of the fields we got a better look at the birds. There were some other birds there that we had run across at the Iwama Market in Fairfield.

I got some pics of CA Quail there, not the best pics because the birds and their background are the same colour. But what the hell, there they are. Click on it to see the pic to its best advantage.

Most of my photos today were so-so at best, but at the Blue Jay site there are nesting Red-shouldered Hawks and I got some nice accidental shots of one bird soaring right overhead. By accidental I mean it was overhead, I pointed the camera and by chance the focal distance was spot on so I got several nice pics of the hawk soaring. The focus could be loads better but aw hell, at least I got something to show for the day's birding!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Done Deal

After weeks of preparation, I hosted a public hearing for regulations today. I didn't think I was at all anxious about it but last night I had anxiety dream after anxiety dream, and just for the occasion in the past few days I grew a lovely & humongous pimple on my chin.

This morning, apart from myself and staff, no one, not a single public entity attended the hearing I sweated over for so long.

YIPPY SKIPPY! *Claire performs several virtual cartwheels*

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

And still the computer drama continues. Got home last night and couldn't wait to copy some High 8 vacation tapes. The new program does a great job of pulling the video onto the computer, then step two is editing. So, I edited a bit, noting the new program (Dazzle 10) doesn't edit very well, but so what - to be on the safe side did a save of my project. Edited some more and hit save and my computer crashed. No biggie. Got the computer back up and opened the program, hit save - crash! Tried again - CRASH!

So I was again at the spit blood and murder Poindexter mode. Then it dawned on me I still had Studio 150 (which I returned for my $ back) on my hard drive, having not gotten around to erasing it. Hang on... I opened Studio 150 - it and Dazzle use the same video directory... hey what if... I SCORED! Studio 150 couldn't transfer video without hours of coaxing & arse kissing but it can edit like Spielberg.

So now I am using a Frankenstein-combo-program - I capture video with Dazzle 10, then edit and print video with Studio 150. Why? Because it takes the 2 $#%$& programs to get the damned job done.

Unbelievably, because apparently I CRAVE punishment, I am toying with the idea of purchasing Studio 150 one more time to see if it was only the hardware malfunctioning in the set I bought that caused all the trouble. If I buy Studio 150 again and the new set can suck in video, then I can return the Dazzle 10 and have the joy of one program that actually works - it is a wild-arse dream, but what am I if not a dreamer?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Yeah! I have already started transforming home videos on VHS and High 8 tape, into really spiffy DVDs, with opening chapters so one can go to exactly to the bits you want to see. First up I copied my Riverside tapes. A friend at work got incredible photographs of a little vixen on the coast a week ago and that made me want to see my Riverside fox VHS tapes. The foxes looked pretty cool, like little races horses but I was like a quarter mile away when filming them so they were itsy bitsy little thingies in the view.

Right now I'm transfering my last trip to Yellowstone & Little Big Horn/ purdy, purdy movies.

while my friend Barbara likes best, the scenic beauty of the park.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Ok, so this morning I woke all excited, another day of transferring home movies... Program started up but would refuse to recognise the capture hardware! ARRRGGGHHH! I was sooo angry I wanted to spit nails at the program's makers. Took THREE HOURS, yes, count them 3 precious hours of my day off, on and off line with technical help. Finally I thought screw it. I'm returning the program. SNARL. Then I got a techie woman on line and inside of ten minutes, the program was humming along, kitten sweet.

Some days I HATE computers.

UPDATE: Went to bed that night - all was right with the computing world. Next morning, got up, turned on the program... guess what? Right. Program dead on the water - AGAIN. Had a Donald Duck style hissy-fit. Returned the $#%@ Studio 150 and got a slightly cheapter version, Dazzle 10.

The new one, cheaper than the first - works.

I think the Studio I bought was just a glitch.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Amazing Facts

Amazing facts about myself:

1. I can't throw stuff away, I am HOPELESS!

GAK! I keep moving stuff to the front room with intent to toss, but somehow the stuff is just piling up... and up... and up...

2. I can spend amazing amounts of time working on stuff that isn't worth the time.

And what all the above boils down to is that I am taking VHS tapes from the 1980s and putting them onto my computer and then into DVD disk. Why? If I didn't watch the VHS tapes since the day I shot them, why do I imagine they need to be on DVD? Well, so I can toss out the clumsy old VHS tapes. So... will I be able to ditch the old VHS tapes? Uh... I'm not sure. You would think I have tapes of Moses parting the Red Sea or something for my unwillingness to toss old VHS tapes.

The quality of some tapes is appalling, the quality of others is exceptional, depending on if I am copying originals (great shape) or previously copies stuff (crap). Right now as I'm making this post I am copying tape of myself and a county guy out trapping gophers. Oh well. There are some footage of me driving a tractor - now there's something worth a spot in the archives.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

I was in a parallel universe only a couple of days ago. I was walking in down town Sacramento and a man walked by, he did a double-take, staring at me with a big smile.

"I know you! I saw you a week or two ago and I thought, 'I think I know that woman!'"

I stared at him. My brain registered - oh, it's Ron! I went to Hawaii with Ron and Jeannie two months ago in December.

I said, "Hi Ron!", gave him a hug, all the while staring at him, thinking... wait a minute... this isn't Ron, is it? Where did all the grey hair come from? Those are Ron's eyes and face but he seems somehow different.

The man said, in an impressed voice, "You remembered my name. But give me a minute... your name is?"

So now I'm buggin'. Ron has lost his mind - doesn't know who he is. He can't remember that we went to Hawaii together in December. No - he must be teasing me. Yeah, that's it, Ron has a great sense of humour. He's pulling my leg, taking the mickey, winding me up.

"Wha....?" My mouth says, without my permission, "you don't remember me from December Ron? It's me, Claire."

It was spooky. For one wild minute I had actually thought of how in SciFi someone jumps hyper space & ten or twenty years have gone by and yet I remained the same. Really spooky feeling and I actually considered it for a few fleeting seconds, which means, yes. I am now certifiably MENTAL.

So he talked and finally the lights slowly went on in that space between my ears. I started off thinking he worked here in Sacto when I was with Registration, and then slowly, like ice crystals forming on a skillet in the equator, I remember - He is Ron, a different Ron - he worked in for California Food & Ag when I worked in Riverside (Claire takes a second to spit over left shoulder to fend off evil spirits of Riverside).

A different Ron, Ceres-Ron, who could pass for the Hawaii-Ron's uncle or older brother.

And I gave this long lost aquaintance a friendly kiss on the cheek! Gawd, he must have thought I was an oh-so-friendly lunatic!

Ceres-Ron filled me in on all the news of who from CDFA that we knew had heart attacks, who died, who unfortunately is still alive (old boss J.C. who was an arsehole if there ever was one). In short, all the nice guys died, and all the arse holes are still alive because the other side doesn't want them around either.

That was a quite scary little street meeting. Oh gawd. Since both Ron's are Asian, several unfortunate jokes come to mine, but I'll be a grown-up just now and STFU.

Being LOW can be a GOOD thing

Since last fall my thermostat has been sent at 55 degrees. FIFTY-FIVE DEGREES! Do you know how cold 55 degrees is? You may trust my grasp of biology on this, when I tell you that 55 degrees is the temperature at which:

  • Small arctic rodents go into hibernation
  • polar bears put on a sweater
  • ice cream will not even think of melting
  • Yetis put on a sweater
  • cats grow a layer of fur that rivals the coats of Snowshoe Hares, Mink, Sea Otters
  • ice cubes put on a sweater
Bottom line, I dropped my gas usage by 53% less heat in the past month I still had to shell out $76 for so-called heating and for gas for a nice omlette for Sunday brunch. Oh, you wonder, but do I occasionally bake in my gas oven? Heavens, give me a a moment to laugh heartily at the very idea - me baking!

But Hurrah! As it turns out I have not frozen my arse off this winter in vain! Nor in vane did I wear layer upon layers of clothing indoors. Watching my breath crystallize before my very eyes for idle entertainment was in fact a good thing. Today I signed to pay my gas bill on line and noticed there will be a 20% rebate to customers who reduce their gas use by 10% over the winter.

I will recieve back some of the HUMUNGOUS amount of money I spent so icicles could hang from my household light fixtures.

Look here – the PG&E site actually calculated my actual gas consumption reduction so far this winter. Here it is below for my viewing entertainment & gloat enhancement. I dropped my gas usage 53% and as a bonus, this year I pay the same $ as I did last year, but I get to freeze!

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Hurrah! Have current bigarse assignment at work over which I have sweat buckets of blood in the past week or two. Today I was in a lather over a portion of a ridiculously-complex bit o' legal fluff & finally decided I was reinventing the wheel and I was going to state things using Claire-bear logic. I just ran it past the lawyer and it FLEW! I am so very happy. In the past I would write up whatever, turn it in and then bend over for my required whoopin'. But now I turn things in, its looked at as if I possess a brain and its OK!

    That I'm so excited over such a small thing - in great scheme of universe anyway - it only goes to show how totally horse whipped I was before. It's nice to work for normal people instead of micromanaging megalomaniacs.

    And-in-other-news, the second chapter of my fanfic was posted today and I'm all tickled about it. This particular story is so cute it makes me squeal like a ninny when I read it. It has much to do with pets, and though the animal in the story isn't one I have ever had - it is actually a small non-existant magical creature - it is symbolic of all the pets I've ever loved. The critter dies at the very end and I weep buckets every time I read the last chapter.

    Between buckets of blood and buckets of tears I guess I ought up the quantity of fluids I drink, eh?

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Click, Click, Click...

    On Waldron Street, Lair of the Mighty Raven.


    Wha...? (rolls over, strains ears).


    Owl? Naw… to high pitched… but it is in a series…


    2:10 AM: CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK hiccough ....

    Lies awake listening. Still awake two hours later. Clicking repeats randomly over the hour.At end of string of clicks can discern slight hiccough noise. Now am certain it is a rogue Western Screech Owl that took choir lessons.


    Damn it. *rummages in spare room, finds mini-tape recorder but no tapes. Damn it. Goes to front window. Owl is a car, parked right outside from bedroom window. Car alarm (?) or whateverthefeck goes off randomly several times with accompanying click, click, click, click....

    4:00 AM: lies in bed contemplating car bombs, murder of car owner and nasty note for placing under wind-shield.

    Thought occurs… what if clicking of owl is what is setting off car alarm?

    Lies awake remainder of night contemplating car bombs and come to that, owl bombs.