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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...

Sunday, April 30, 2006



Saturday afternoon - I took this picture at the end of a day-long Bufferlands Spring Migration birding bash. It was lovely spending the day birding with experts like Chris & Sean, the Bufferlands naturalists who led the tour at the waste water treatment plant and its vast acreage. I have done this spring tour 3 out of the last 4 years and each time I get to see this lovely Barn Owl - the 'BIRD in a BOX'. I wonder if it is the same bird each time? Might be.

Anyway, it was a grand day of birding. The group was supposed to be large but in the end things went wonky - the weather was cold on Friday but Saturday morning it was cold! That and a conflicting Audubon field trip knocked several people from the Bufferlands tour and in the end there were the two guides, one Bufferlands docent (who baked the BEST cookies ever) and only four participants - which included me. Normally there are around 15 birders on the tour. But happily a smaller group meant gas saved with one van instead two vans. I had the entire middle seat row of the van for myself - to think I bothered to shower!
We toured as much of the Bufferlands as we could as much of it was underwater - no surprise considering the incredible rains of the past few months. This go-round we walked far more than usual, and I, being lazy, am proud to say that I did all the walking and did not whine or fuss (until now anyway). The walking paid off in spades as it got us to spots were we saw wonderful birds.
To start off with, we saw a beautiful baby Great Horned Owl chick. It was all fluffy and semi-feathered. My pictures of it really sucked, because I used a 300 mm lens on my camera and I did not hold the camera very still. Here is the least fuzzy of the dreadful shots.
Rather fluffy & kitten-like Great Horned Owl chick
Nearby the baby owl we viewed a grove of cottonwoods that held nesting Great Blue Herons, Double Crested Cormorants and Great Egrets. We used spotting scopes for a nice view of the half grown heron chicks.
We went on to see shorebirds. One strange visitor amid the Western Sandpipers & Killdeer was a pale grey bird, which turned out to be an out of town visitor a Sanderling. I will never forget the bird because I took two shots of it in which the bird came out as pale blots of white against grey - I had inadvertently muddled up the camera's settings. I was deeply humilated that I should screw up such a simple shot. Ugh! [Get over it Claire, get on with your life]
To my mind, the most numerous birds of the day were Swainson's Hawks, and Wilson's Warblers. We only saw one Butter-butt (Yellow-rumped Warbler) and normally you're tripping over the things. The most interesting venue of the day was a host of Burrowing Owls behind a Walgreens, which I suppose ought to remind us that critters often don't want much for habitat, but they have to live somewhere! I wish there had been time to try taking a few pictures of those owls; they look so cute sitting by their little burrows.

My favourites birds for the day were a Black-chinned Hummingbird which did an arial dance for us, a singing Lazuli Bunting and two Blue Grosbeaks! At Freeport I saw a flit of blue and assumed it was a Scrub Jay passing so did not bother to look. Turned out it was this lovely fellow, the second Blue Grosbeak.

Blue Grosbeak

It is amazing how I manage to miss great birds because of carelessness. For example, I would have just assumed the Black-chinned Hummingbird was an Anna's. One other thing I want to improve is my abilty to ID birds by their song and calls. It is so much easier to be able to walk into a forest, hear bird song and to be able to say, 'Is that a Wilson's Warbler announcing itself?' That is the task I bought an iPod for - must get iPod loaded up with bird song and ready to go!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Most Boring Blog

It is official! My blog is the Pulitzer Prize Winner for MOST BORING CRAP.

Thank you. Thank you.

I wish I were taking some trips or something exotic so I could carry on about it but no dice. Just me and the house.

Came home tonight and started painting the dark trim on both doors. I am so freakn' excited about it. Boring? Yes! I did not, not win the Pulitzer Prize for nothing you know.

Monday, April 17, 2006

New In & Outs

Late this morning I waved bye-bye to the construction guys. Work all done and doors are complete. Hurrah! I have a new front and back doors. The front door is so very pretty I love it. The beveled & frosted panes lets in loads of light but are opaque; big improvement over the previous doors.

The French doors in living room are marvelous! Way nicer than the old sliding doors with the HUMONGOUS and unsafe dog door. I always say it is (was) a cat flap but it was more like a gorilla flap. Daisy, a huge lab used to go through that flap so you can see it was totally always a robbery waiting to happen (even though a robbery through them never did happen.

Which reminds me I need to hide a key outside because when I get locked out. Can’t wait to see the shocked look on the kitty’s faces when they crawl back home tonight. They must have fled to Canada with all the noise and hubbub.

I think I will take a day off work to paint the new doors. For some reason there is a thing in the Lowes contract that the doors MUST be painted within 48 hours… which adorably enough is how long the contractor told me how long I should wait to paint the doors because the caulking must dry before painting; nice little Catch 22 there. There were two workmen & new door instillations went quicker than predicted; front door maybe an hour, the French door maybe an hour and a half.

Next Project! I am aching to paint the kitchen. The walls are so grimy and the cabinet doors are really in need of paint. The Fridge door has been opening on its own so new fridge is in order. The fridge I have was here when I moved in and the color – gold – is a hint at how old it was then – at least 20. Now it is at least 32. It will be amusing to see if the electric bill drops noticeably with one of the new energy efficient fridge. Also, the stove is 12 years old and was crap from day one, having next to no insulation – when the oven is on the kitchen heats up and the top of the stove is too hot to touch. Will try to find a deal on both stove and fridge.

This afternoon a trip to Lowes is in order. I preferred reuse of the old wooden door frames (waste not, want not) I have loads of wooden trim to return. The trim was in case old trim broke during the work. While I might price kitchen appliances – it never freakn’ ends does it? Am still standing undecided on the color of paint on the last bedroom or for the kitchen; for the kitchen I’m thinking white walls and cabinets with the cabinet doors painted some cheery color.

Got any suggestions? Leave a post for me in comments. Go on; you know you want to.

In other news - dreadful news - on this new Dell, program after program freezes, misfires, crashes. Could ten different programs be wrong? No; new computer is a lemon. That means shipping the worthless $%#&@ back to Dell and doing without a computer for a month or more - AGAIN. Will life ever return to normal?
Give me strength! Want to take a rusty red hot poker and gouge out the eyes of filthy bastards who stole my original Dell (uh... just kidding... if I gouged any eyes I would actually use a cold, sanitary stainless steel poker).

Sunday, April 16, 2006

One Chore Down - Seventy-five to Go

Tada! The damned near year long fireplace decoration project is complete. It started - as the unfortunate may recall - with me having painted the dark area with burgundy paint. It did NOT quite match the pale grey/green paint and looked gawdawful. That was maybe even more than a year ago I did that.

Finally I found some nice terra cotta sorta paint that has dark stuff in it, so the surface looks like brick and it also has gold, or pyrite sprinkled in it so it has a textured surface as shown below.

Oh well, at least you can see the paint is not just a solid color.

I took down the dignified painting and put back up my beloved and wildarse looking Tule Elk antlers. Yes - I like to decorate as if I am living sometime between the Jurassic and the 19th Century frontier. It is not everyone's taste but it is mine. Nearby, the dining room has high back rattan chairs with a round glass table - somehow the whole mishmosh looks alright together, perhaps because the rattan isn't too far off from looking rustic.

The little mat in front the fireplace is new. I put it there because... uh well... been burning a lot of wood this winter and one or two logs flew out the fireplace, making a couple of eensie black mars on the wood floor. Now with the mat down... I imagine the sparks will set the mat on fire and the house will burn down? Well, that isn't the plan exactly - I'm hoping the mat burns and not the floor.

Also on the list of 'finally completed household challenges' is that I changed around the doorknobs and locks in the garage so now the back garage door actually locks and has a key. It used to just have a crap slide bolt. Also I installed a cute door latch on the inside dining room door. It is brushed nickle and will match the knobs on the Front & back porch French doors that are to be installed tomorrow.

More pictures after the door installations are completed.

Haven't posted any of my photos since the robbery. It is nice to very nearly be back to normal - or as close to normal as I'm likely to ever get anyway.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Three Day Weekend

Hurrah! It is Saturday and so far, none of the promised storm, though the skies are clouding up a bit. This is my three day weekend and I have a load of tasks set for myself, including yet-another-trip to the hardware store for paint and more trashing of crap in current junkroom/future snazzy bedroom. I feel energized and ready to tackle the lot!

But first, a nap.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Oh shoot me now.

House once again filled with eau d' kitty. How? I've kept those varmints locked out UNLESS I am around to supervise the playground otherwise known as my livingroom. Of late there have been no stray cats or rogue raccooons within my home. So, where did the cat odor come from? My cats haven't sprayed ever - I stand by that.

Yes, I'm probably in denial.

Maybe one of my own cats (of course I suspect irritating Kola who has lion's share of all bad habits of kitty household). However, why would 12 year old cats suddenly start to spray? *grumbles*

Will devote weekend to de-odorizing the house so it does not smell like is inhabited by pathetic cat-woman - even if it is. <-- that is a joke. Honest. It is.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

New Method for Paint Removal

Haven't written much lately. Haven't lost interest in this blog, it is only that nothing much has happened other than it is raining so much that I had to make a doctor's appointment so I can have my vestigial gills removed. And there is that messy question of whether to keep the webbing between my fingers. I mean, they make it hard to write with a ballpoint pen, but they're so handy if I need to go into the back yard.

Last night I loaded a flash card into my printer's card reader but the software alternately opened and lost the card contents, over and over again, as if there was a faulty wiring connection. There was no faulty connection, only the dawning realization that this new computer is not the reliable equal of the one that was stolen from me. I did the only thing that works, spent fifteen minutes unloading and reloading the printer software.

I realized that the card reader was not the only thing misfiring. My normally beloved Photoshop program freeze/crashes - something it never did before. For that matter several other programs seem troublesome. Is it the computer? Is it the configuration the new computer uses? Why me?

While the software unloaded the printer program loaded/reloaded, I had a complete swearing, shouting, hissy fit in the privacy of my own home.

Under my screams of anger, paint peeled from my walls. I railed aloud, begging for the downfall and capture of the thieves whose ten minutes of mischief cost hours lost in vacation time handling post-theft emergencies and cost monies exceeding $3,650 in insurance, cash, the cost of installing new doors, installing a security system and the ongoing expense for the security system's monthly charges.
And how can I put a value on the loss of my sense of security in my own home? My lost trust of my fellow beings? That when I leave the house in the mornings there is a well of unhappiness at what I might find on returning in the evening. What personal items will have been fiddled with or rummaged through by some thoughtless feckwit?

I vented. I fumed. I yelled. My cats sailed out of the house, fleeing for their lives.

I swore on the tainted souls of the thieves. I begged for their capture and lock up in a penitentiary. I begged for their use as bitches by their extraordinary ugly, nasty tempered, temperamental and - this one is important - overly endowed 'room mates' in Folsom Prison. I shook my fist at the skies, in hope if any singers serenade the rat bastards at Folsom, may the singer be of the ilk of Tiny Tim and his ukulele on a bad day.

I'm usually a little more forgiving but this computer thing is making me a bit cranky.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Forgive me - I must share

Lions are hunting humans in southern Africa. In Tanzania, annual attacks are up from 40 a decade ago to 100 today; 70 percent are lethal. One lion purportedly ate 40 people. Reasons: 1) People are sleeping outdoors to guard their crops against bushpigs. 2) Lions following the bushpigs find the humans and discover they're tasty. 3) "Once they discover that they can eat people they get quite bold. They are even breaking into people's houses and pulling them out."

Experts' advice to locals: Build your outhouses closer to your homes.

Lesson to Americans and Australians: Stop whining about shark attacks.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Free Range Scam

I read this on Salon.com today.

Which leads us to the genre you call "supermarket pastoral." What is it exactly?

"Walking through Whole Foods, I joke in the book, is a literary experience. You need to be a pretty good literary critic, in other words, to figure out what's really being said on these labels. They're written in what I call supermarket pastoral, which is a very persuasive form. I read a lot of labels and I'm still a sucker for it. Free-range chicken, for instance, can mean nothing more than a 20,000-bird shed with a tiny little lawn and a little door that's opened two weeks before the hens are slaughtered. These little yards are purely symbolic. Chickens don't use them because they're too careful. They've never been outside before; there's not enough room for all of them and they're a flock animal. So it's a conceit to appeal to the consumer. When you see "free-range," it's not happening, but if you see "pastured" chicken, which you sometimes will at a farmers market, that's real. And pastured eggs, by the way, are a superior product in every way. I know a farmer in California who grows them. They're $6 a dozen and I consider them worth it."

Michael Pollan

Well count me in as totally bummed. I purchase free-range eggs because I thought these eggs were laid by hens that were running about free; you know, eating butterflies, worms and such.

It's always buged me that most the free range egg cartons are labeled 'vegetarian diet'. How can a chicken run free and not eat bugs? I want the chickens I eat and that lay the eggs I eat on Sunday morning to know the joy of swallowing a a grasshopper. But no... the poor things are caged, i.e, emprisoned. I was fed a crap story what chickens do in their free time. I am so very pissed.

April Docent Meeting

On Wednesday night I attended the Docent's meeting at the State Indian Museum. I love that the 'new' Ranger Henry is tireless in his pursuit of cool things for us to do at the museum. Sacto has an fun artsy event called 'Second Saturday' on which the 2nd Saturday of each month the mid-town area stores & shops have open house with loads of fun, music, free eats and what-have-you. Henry wants to give our museum to give a shot to hosting Indian art on 2nd Saturdays! I am all for it. There are many considerations, such as liability for the hosted artworks and such, so I will wait with avid anticipation while Henry runs the idea past the State Park big cheeses. *fingers crossed*

One reason, aside from the obvious fun, I am excited about hosting the Second Saturday event is the opportunity to put in more hours at the museum. I tend not to go there unless there is some event such as Acorn Day or Honored Elders Day. I’ve been a docent since 1999 during which time I put in two years on the Historic Sites Board but I still haven’t managed to rack up my 200 hours pin! I prefer to assume the accountant has screwed up in tallying my hours – surely I’ve averaged at least 2.3 hours per month over the past five years? *grumbles in sullen manner*

Prior to the meeting I had a quiet dinner at a Japanese Restaurant I haven't been to in ages - it is near the former State training center. I had walnut shrimp with the Dashwood Sisters - that is, I read Sense & Sensibility over dinner. It is amazing that I've watched a b'jillion productions of the Jane Austin classic in movies and such, but until now, hadn't got round to reading it. Mommy Nancy thought we'd have fun reading it together & then having our own book club to dice up the juicier bits of S&S. Ok, 'juicy bits' aren't quite the words I'm looking for. I must say that the Dashwood siblings offer reading of great interest & fun.

My new replacement Canon camera has arrived! I have not even opened the box – fearing a break-in and assuming that like the last thieves the unopened box would be easily overlooked in a back room closet. Isn’t that pathetic? I will free the camera from its confines over the weekend and put it to work. I miss having photos to go along with my posts here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Year of the Rabbit Woman

Talk about your interesting coincidence. I went in to work this morning, first day back since getting my iPod and I had an email from our computer folk. They diplomatically pointed out that I had MP3 & wav files... ON THE WORK SERVER! Feel free to scream in horror here. Mind, it is no dread secret that I have music on the work computer - loads of people do. The music soothes... keeps some of us out of Napa State Hospital.

I had no idea that the stuff I put on my c:/ drive was getting sucked into the mother ship by that which is the office data back-up system. I was told I need to get all of my music files off the system before the music industry finds out that I have an unauthorized copy of Oklahoma on the computer and they come a knocking.

Now ordinarily removing my music off the computer would have been dead-dreadful news - but not dreadful today. I quickly downloaded every last note of the music on my office computer onto the iPod. Ta da! Problem solved. Now I can play the music from the iPod. I can even play the iPod music through my office computer's iTunes program and thereby use the computer's big & comfy ear phones. Hum... bet the next thing they do is demand the free iTunes programs get removed from the computers next.

Anyway, I thought it was spiffy that I should happen to have bought the iPod just in a nick of time so to speak.

Spontaneous Translation: Even less reason now to feel guilty about getting the iPod.