Friday, January 18, 2019

I was wrong - how could that be?

Click to enlarge
Back on January 1, as part of my Happy New Year post, I mentioned an interesting bird that was hanging around our house. I was sure I had figured out that it was a Black-and-White Warbler. I crosschecked it in two bird books and on the Internet. I had compared it against similar birds - the Blackpool Warbler and the Black-throated Gray Warbler and was sure it wasn't either of those. At least I was right about that!

My wife put more pictures of the bird on her Facebook account and asked there about its identity and the answer came back that our mystery bird is a female Downy Woodpecker. I was thrown by the fact that it doesn't have a red spot on the rear of the head but that's because only the male Downy Woodpecker has the red spot.
I'm a little surprised that my bird books didn't include the Downy Woodpecker as similar birds to the Black-and-White Warbler but I guess there are limits to how many they can include. They probably figured no one would think a woodpecker was a warbler. I'll try not to make assumptions in the future but we all know how that will go. I'm just glad to know what to call our visitor. It's a little sad to not be able to announce that a bird that isn't normally in our area this time of year is still here. I'll have to wait for an Ivory-billed Woodpecker to show up!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Two comebacks

No, not sports comebacks. These are replies to someone who has said something critical of you.

1) What they say when they think you are staring at them:
"What are you looking at?"

    What your comeback should be
"Not much!"

2) What they say in response to your previous witty comeback
"Don't get smart with me."

    What your comeback should be
"Well, one of us needs to be smart about this."

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

25 years ago today

This is the anniversary of my marrying the most beautiful girl in the world. We'd known each other for years but only started dating the year before. I can remember having all the wrong ideas about what type of woman I would marry and what falling in love was all about. Then, the first time we went out on a date, I knew. Being with Cindy was completely different than being with anyone else. Everything seemed so effortless when I was with her. And she made me feel like I was always doing the right thing.

I was 42 years old and thought I would never find the right woman. I had given up and thought no woman would ever want to marry me. But God has a plan. We just need to acknowledge our need and that we aren't in control. In one way, I'm glad it took so long. In another way, though, I see how I was the problem - thinking I knew what I was doing and thinking I had it all figured out.

The last quarter century has flown by. I'm sure the next one will, too.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Happy New Year

Here we go - it's a new year. All the mistakes we made last year are forgotten (right?) and all the good things we did last year will continue (right?). I hope you will have a good and prosperous new year in 2019.

I'm starting off with a question - is this bird a Black-and-White Warbler? According to my identification books, it shouldn't be hanging around Cape Cod this time of year.I see it at the usual Internet sites here and here which seem to verify what I find in my book. But it does breed here in the summer so it's not unheard of.

There are similar birds but I pretty sure this isn't one of those. The Blackpool Warbler, from what I can see here and here, is not just black and white but contains some brown on its back and wings. But it does look like could be in this range at this time of year. The Black-throated Gray Warbler, seen here and here, is only found out west and, unsurprisingly, has a prominent black throat while the birds we are seeing here do not.

As usual, one of my New Year's Resolutions is to write more often in this blog. I always start out well in January and then drop off. But I did better in 2018 than I did in 2017 so maybe there is hope. Well, there is always hope!

[Update - to see the real identity of this bird, see my newer post here]

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Training trees to drop their leaves correctly

Our trees at the end of their training
After 12 years of training, these two maple trees have finally been trained to drop their leaves right around the trunk. It was a struggle. I should have kept pictures throughout the years so you could see when the trees just dropped their leaves straight down and how it has gotten better each year as I trained them to steer the leaves so that they drop right around the trunk. This makes the leaves much easier to pick up to put in a garden trailer for moving to our huge leaf pile in the back yard.

The hard part turned out to be training the trees NOT to drop their leaves on windy days. The wind makes everything more difficult. So, it's better to just train the trees to stop dropping leaves when the wind is blowing over 10 miles an hour. Below that, the trees seem to be able to still aim the leaves in the correct direction.

The other good thing about the leaves bunched up around the trunk is that when wind speed does get high (this is Cape Cod after all and the wind regularly reaches speeds of 20 - 30 miles per hour on a normal day and higher on a stormy day), the trunk seems to hold the leaves and keep them from dispersing.

So, even though this has been a wet year (it was one of the wettest years we've ever had) and there were a lot more leaves, these trained tree leaves are all gone now. Perhaps you'd like to know how I did this. I used the same methods to train the trees as I used to build this bridge - which I can let you have for a very good price!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas

I hope you are having a merry Christmas. My family and I are enjoying ours but it is not an easy time. My mother-in-law has dementia and my wife is both upset by the effect of that disease on her mother and is worn out by taking care of her. My mother-in-law lives with us in a separate part of the house. In fact, she is living in the original house she and her husband (who dies about 17 years ago) built almost 60 years ago. About 12 years ago, we added on to her house for our own house and we have a connecting door so it's easy for us to help her. When she was first diagnosed, it wasn't too bad. But in the last two years, we've seen a sharp decline in her ability to remember. Now, she sometimes doesn't recognize us and has trouble remembering where things are in her house. She has to be constantly reminded where the bathroom is and that she is living in her own home. She will often hallucinate that other people are in her house (although we think this may be from seeing something on the TV).

But beyond that, we have had a good Christmas. And, of course, the central reason for our celebrating Christmas remains - a child was born of a virgin in Bethlehem who was God with us. He is Christ the Lord and his joy and salvation remain. He helps us and loves us. We do have medical aides who come in to sit with my mother-in-law while my wife gets a break. She has health insurance so she can afford most things she needs.

The picture at the top is not only a picture of an abundance of holly berries on a tree in our backyard. It is also an example of renewal and hope. In the spring of this year, this holly tree lost a large portion of its leaves. They were turning yellow with large brown spots and then falling off in huge numbers. I was worried that the tree was dying. But later in the summer, an equal (or greater) number of new leaves appeared. The tree is doing better than ever and I've never seen more berries on this tree. You can click on the picture to show it full sized.

I was reading an article about a new treatment for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease that will soon be moving to human trials. This link to New Atlas has the article. The two best parts of this, to me, are:
  1. This is not a new drug but an ultrasound treatment so there aren't as many worries about side affects
  2. This treatment actually reverses the effects of the disease
So, while this is a terrible disease, there is still hope. May we all have hope in the future. If you know Jesus as your personal savior, you do have that hope.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

On Vacation

I'm taking a vacation that has a been a while coming. Having worked at this company for 30 years, I get a lot of leave but I haven't been able to take as much as I'd like. I've built up enough leave to lose some because we can only retain up to 200 hours of vacation leave (and another 200 hours of sick leave). After that, it just disappears.

For one thing, the projects I'm working on still need a lot of work. Even though the main project I work on is over 16 years old, and there are newer options for some of its features, it still needs to be updated from time to time. And I am the only person actively working on the code so if I take time off, no work gets done on this product. Whenever we need to release a newer version, we have to scramble to find an available testing engineer because they are all busy on newer or developing projects. We've done six releases of my product in the last two years. I'm not just the developing engineer but I'm the build engineer, too. And when especially hard problems come in to our Tech Support department, I pitch in to help on those, too. I used to have to run the project, too, but now we have someone to organize the meetings and coordinate between engineering, production and marketing.

For another thing, as I get older (I'm 67 years old) I find it harder and harder to get things done. If I take time off, it means it takes me a while to get back into the swing of things when I return. The younger engineers seem to be light on their feet. They look through multiple ways of solving a problem and seem to be able to find the best solution quickly. I plod along looking through the existing code for the problem or to find a way to include a new feature and then struggle with the solution. Part of the problem is that I don't want to make major changes to a product that has worked well for so long. Also, you don't want to change how something works when customers are used to it working that way. Change for change's sake is no way to improve a product.

I'm also part of a new, exciting project that will eventually entirely replace the old project I'm working on but there is a long way to go on it so the old project must be kept going. I like working on this old project. It's nice to be able to get a request from a customer and fit it into the the existing framework without slowing down the existing program or making it harder to use. It's like adding rooms and passages and stairways to an existing building without annoying existing users or making them stop using it while we work to improve it. We just pull back a curtain every few months and say, "Look what we've added," or, "Look what we fixed." A smooth transition to a better version of the existing product is a joy that keeps me going.