Thursday, January 29

Finally, A Perfect Excuse!

Today is a happy day for truly yours, as he finds out that the reason for his humdum (sic) educational level in grammar and high schools is high sugar levels in the cafeteria food! In fact, we can now blame the far less than stellar scholastic achievement in America on Public School Enemy #1, brain cell-killing sugar.

After 10 years of research, the evidence is in, according to this CNN report:

"In the first six months of the sugar ban, disciplinary incidents went down 23 percent, counseling referrals decreased 30 percent, and in the first years of standardized test scores, reading scores improved 15 percent, she said. Browns Mill [Elementary School] was named a national blue ribbon school and a Georgia school of excellence in 2005."

So, please, take your criticism and place it where it is more deserved --- on the guy who went to private schools and had to eat broccoli for lunch.

Tuesday, January 27

Perfect Impression

I should have been more dazzled by his resplendent majesty. Perched in the tallest valley oak, the afternoon sun added to his regal splendor. But my excitement was muted by --- what? By not having the lens I needed to get the best picture.

Perfectionism is a robber and thief.

Friday, January 23

Photos From The Bus

A wonderful birding adventure punctuated the work week Tuesday as a dozen of us headed north, through Sacramento to visit two National Wildlife Refuges and Gray Lodge Reserve north of the Sutter Buttes. I wasn't happy with the noisy and bumpy bus ride and my short telephoto lens capability, but being with the folks and seeing God's creation made those minor distractions.

Quoting from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brochure: "Today, over 90% of California's wetlands are gone, along with the grizzly bear. The ability of the valley rivers to create new wetlands naturally is largely prevented by levees that have been constructed to confine flows for irrigation and flood control. However, the birds continue to fly their ancient routes along the Pacific Flyway, and crowd into the remaining wintering habitat. The Refuges provide a significant amount of the wintering habitat for waterfowl in the Sacramento Valley. . . In 1937, with the establishment of Sacramento NWR, managers and biologists worked to transform the Refuge's dry, alkaline lands into productive marshes. The Civilian Conservation Corps, using bulldozers and tractors, began creating marshes and ponds."

Each of the areas we visited had vehicle tour routes, so you really didn't have to get out of the bus to enjoy seeing the waterfowl and scenery. But taking so many pictures from inside the bus was a real pain. Thankfully, I was able to get a few good ones and able to get out and use my wide-angle lens for a number of them, including the last group of pictures at Gray Lodge. Yes, the photo of the great egret was taken from a moving bus, as were the sunset shots.

Amazing what you can do when you improvise. You can see it all chronicled here: Dave Skinner Photography

Thursday, January 15

Closing Guantanamo

For those of us who think harboring prisoners who want to destroy this country is in some way immoral (remember, even treason is punishable by incarceration or worse in America). Or for those who think that these captives are being mistreated (taking water-boarding out of the equation for the moment), please consider the horrors of the real, historical and ungodly prisons in America's past, namely Andersonville, Libby and Millen during the Civil War. Even northern prisons weren't exempt from inhumane and shameful treatment of prisoners.

The picture is of Philander Lewis, father of Mary Lewis Pleas Hill who lived in Lodi, CA at the turn of the last century. He enlisted in Michigan, was captured and died in Andersonville in May, 1864. That was a month before my g-great-grandfather was captured in Virginia and sent to Libby, Andersonville, and Millen prisons. Thankfully, the war ended early the next year or he would have probably died also.

Guantanamo by comparison is like being on vacation in paradise.

Saturday, January 10

Din-Din Under Moonlight

Tonight's another one of those "close encounter" episodes when the moon winds (or 'wends' - your choice) its way close to the mother ship. High tides and 4th of July 'ooohs' and 'aaahs' will be heard around the globe (at least on this side for a few hours). We have such a fascination with all things astronomical, but hardly question or be amazed at how the same dirt chemicals can be transformed into the taste of tomatoes, potatoes or navel oranges. And then, further down the road that same dirt keeps you and me alive and healthy by what we eat.

It's still too cold today to get outside, except for a few minutes of fixing the vacuum cleaner in a frigid garage or taking a few bird photos or looking at the moon with my favorite granddaughter. I've become the proverbial wuss and perfect candidate for all things seniorish. "Where's the nurse?!"

We'll hopefully take Angel to the Serpentine Museum again tomorrow after church, and then maybe visit the Hill House Museum on School Street in Lodi. It's one of those restored turn-of-the-century Victorians with all of the old family's stuff still in it. The father (or some relative) was an artist and designed the east side of the upstairs with lots of windows for extra light while painting. Very authentic. Don't know if an 8-year old can appreciate any of it, except for the kids' bedrooms, but one thing about Angel - she hardly complains about anything. Unlike her crotchety old grandpa.

Wednesday, January 7

Yellow and Blue Blazes

There's just something about blue and yellow in juxtaposition. What a horribly sounding word --- juxtapose. It's almost as bad as tongue, or conjugal or svelt.

Thankfully, like harmonious colors, certain English/American words incomparably exude an exquisite beauty in their pronunciation. And remove the stilted sentence structure and you're left with something like this:

February 17, 1846
-by W.S. Landor

A still, serene, soft day; enough of sun
To wreathe the cottage smoke like pinetree snow,
Whiter than those white flowers the bride-maids wore;
Upon the silent boughs the lissom air
Rested; and, only when it went, they moved,
Nor more than under linnet springing off.
Such was the wedding morn: the joyous Year
Leapt over March and April up to May.

Regent of rising and of ebbing hearts,
Thyself borne on in cool serenity,
All heaven around and bending over thee,
All earth below and watchful of thy course!
Well hast thou chosen, after long demur
To aspirations from more realms than one.
Peace be with those thou leavest! peace with thee!

Is that enough to wish thee? not enough,
But very much: for Love himself feels pain,
While brighter plumage shoots, to shed last year's:
And one at home (how dear that one!) recalls
Thy name, and thou recallest one at home.
Yet turn not back thine eyes; the hour of tears
Is over; nor believe thou that Romance
Closes against pure Faith her rich domain.
Shall only blossoms flourish there?
Far sighted bride! look forward! clearer views
And higher hopes lie under calmer skies.

Fortune in vain call'd out to thee; in vain
Rays from high regions darted; Wit poured out
His sparkling treasures; Wisdom laid his crown
Of richer jewels at they reckless feet.
Well hast thou chosen. I repeat the words,
Adding as true ones, not untold before,
That incense must have fire for its ascent,
Else 'tis inert and can not reach the idol.
Youth is the sole equivalent of youth.
Enjoy it while it lasts; and last it will;
Love can prolong it in despite of Years.

Don't try to figure it out, just feel the gentle beauty of the words flow through the sandy regions of your mind and wash out the ugly gunk and grunge that may be there.

Friday, January 2

California Name Game

Another new law here in the Golden State permits prospective newlyweds a wider choice of last names during their marriage. Effective immediately, partners can:

~ Take either spouse's current last name.
~ Take either spouse's birth name.
~ Create a hyphenated combination of the last two last names.
~ Create a new name using a segment of both spouse's last names.

Sure, if your last name is Dunderhead, you'd definitely want to do some surgery. Ditto for Klediddlehopper. Hollywood stars have changed their lackluster names for years.

But this new law really lets you do some creative wordsmithing. If my daughter had married a Mr. Christian, she could be Elizabeth Christmas (using her former married name, Limas). If my brother's last name was Dimmel, and he married Miss Yonowitz, they could now be Mr. and Mrs. Dimwitz. Pretty cool, eh?

Thursday, January 1

USC Blowout

I took this locomotive's Trojan-colored picture yesterday. The merchandise still keeps trucking along, or should I say, 'tracking?' Brute force on rails communicates a sense of controlled power. There is little danger while it stays within its boundary. Let it get off of the rails and it transforms into a devil that will smash and kill indiscriminately.

Like a train barreling through the fog, the Trojans are whipping Penn State with great passing offense, keeping the Nittany Lions on the tracks. The score right now is 31-7 in the 3rd quarter. After the 'low scoring' prediction by the announcers, USC is running away with the game - so far. We'll see what happens when the final minutes roll around.

Go, Trojans! And Happy New Year to everyone!