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Summer in February [Feb. 22nd, 2017|09:34 pm]
Today could have passed for early June. After work, I walked Beatrice. She nonchalantly pretended to examine some really fascinating set of grass blades at just the moment that a young dog nearby wanted to say hello.

I began my morning working on non-work paperwork. I talked today about jury duty, for which I have been summoned in March. I read about the train route from Edmonton to Jasper.

I like trains--commuter rail, city-to-city, and even little narrow-gauge lines. But I do not like them in the railroad-magazine-and-N-gauge-model-train-all-aboard-cool-engineer's-hat way. I like them in the when-you-look-out-the-window-things-pass-by way.

I also like planes and automobiles and John Candy characters.

Breakfast: Cinnamon toasted oats and skim milk
Lunch: broccoli, carrots and three slices of pepperoni
Dinner: tortellini, salad and a bit of chicken breast.
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warm-ish [Feb. 21st, 2017|10:25 pm]
1. The weather was 15 degrees F. warmer than is typical
2. The skies were bluer than the desert skies Saturday or Sunday
3. I worked on making incremental progress on non-work projects I cannot solve in one sitting.
4. We ate a sweet potato and apple soup for dinner, along with a multi-grain bread and turkey sandwiches
5. I ate three soft chicken tacos for lunch
6. I walked after work in Breckinridge Park.
7. I walked at lunch in Travis Farm Park.
8. I took 6,900 or so steps.
9. I thought about a radio call-in garden show from three decades ago.
10. I wondered why socks seem to disappear into the laundry basket so quickly.
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rainy desert Sunday [Feb. 20th, 2017|10:23 pm]
Sunday featured a wonderful buffet brunch of fresh fruit, charcuterie and fresh fruit at an old-fashioned country club dining room. Sunday night featured a strip steak dinner with a baked potato and salad with family.

In between I walked in Rillito River Park. A rainstorm came up as I walked in a section called Rio Vista Park. I 'hid out" under a picnic table overhang. As I stood and waited in the rain, a flock of White-Crowned Sparrows came out to forage.

Anna's Hummingbird

After that walk, my wife, her step-mother and I visited an art gallery we knew. Then my wife and I headed to the Finger Rock Trail, a trail through the Saguaro cacti in the Santa Catalina Mountain foothills.

along the Finger Rock Trail, Santa Catalina Mountains, Tucson, Arizona

At night we watched the sunset from a foothill height, as it shone a sliver of yellow and orange among deep cloud cover.

This morning we got up at dawn and made it to our 8 a.m. plane back to DFW. We bid a fond farewell to my wife's stepmother and her Shih Tzu dogs Pip and Posey. We made it to our flight in good order. During the flight I watched a documentary about the Grand Canyon, which I have only seen from the air while on airline flights. I also read the Margaret Oliphaunt novel upon which I am working.

After we landed, we drove home. Then I headed into the office, stopping at Panda Express first for String Bean Chicken, mixed vegetables and Broccoli Beef. I worked for a few hours. After work, I headed to my Weight Watchers meeting, where my weight was a bit up. Then I walked on the Chisholm Trail in Plano.

We finished the evening with turkey and roast beef on sandwich slims and salad.
My wife worked on a soup.
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desert Saturday [Feb. 19th, 2017|11:53 am]
I got up early Saturday. A Super Shuttle picked me up at 6:18 a.m. I read a novel during the long wait at the airport for my 9:15 a.m. flight. I read a different novel during the flight itself, Mrs. Oliphaunt's "Last of the Mortimers"

When I landed, I caught a cab to the northern part of Tucson. There I met up with my wife and her step-mother. We dined on chicken sandwiches. Then my wife and I headed from a relatively hillside place to Rillito River Park, a wash place where the river is almost always comprised of sand, except when a monsoon hits.

We walked for 90 minutes. We saw so many things--Anna's Hummingbird with its iridesscent face, a Red-Tailed Hawk with a rodent prey in its talons, lovely ground squirrels, and a Vermillion Flycatcher.

Vermillion Flycatcher:

When we finished there, we went to an art gallery with some wonderful photo-realistic portraits of inaginary people and some cool desert-themed outdoors paintings. It was not at all cliche or trite work. We liked the gallery owner, Tommy.

We headed to Tohono Chul, a desert botanic garden. We walked the paths by ourselves, as the chilly, breezy, drizzly weather kept most people away.
We liked the museum gallery, with cool local artist things. We liked the Lesser Goldfinch birds. I bought a pen at the gift store--I had forgotten one to record my bird sightings. The only one they had featured a plastic handle with orange and green plastic plant spikes giving way to let's-pretend plant "bloom" at the end. It wrote well.

My wife, her step-mother and I went to dinner at Parilla Suiza, where we all had enchiladas suiza (my wife had the enchiladas suiza with mole sauce, while her step-mother and I had verde sauce. The meal was good, but if I were doing it over, I'd have a bowl of the caldo de pollo instead of a cup and perhaps a single enchilada.

We had a bit of adventure just before we left for dinner. I stepped out into the very small courtyard to my wife's step-mother's Tucson place. a Bobcat, perhaps 2 meters from me, jumped up over the little four-foot adobe wall. I peered through the little gate, and there it was, curiosity getting the better of it, looking back at me. Then it headed off.

My wife's step-mother will institute some extra caution with her two Shih Tzus, but otherwise it's just interesting that the bobcat was there, the first one she has seen in her 15 years of Tucson visits.

Because I had little biscoff cookies on the plane, three chocolate covered flat little pretzels at lunch, and two Tate's chocolate chip cookies after dinner. Between those and the three enchiladas rather than two, I exceeded my daily Weight Watchers smart points by a good margin. But that is what the weekly "extra" points are for. When I get on the scale tomorrow night or so, we'll see if I gained weight. I just write it down and see what happens--a bit like a science project.
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seed on a pedestal [Feb. 17th, 2017|09:00 pm]
In the morning I walked in the shopping center next to my office building. I like the stillness of the not-yet-active buildings.

I made a reservation on a shuttle for tomorrow morning. I like when shuttles allow me to tip in advance.

In the afternoon, emails slowed a bit at work. But by day's end they were back on pace.

In the early evening I walked in Salmon Park and watched the Eastern Bluebirds.

At home tonight, I updated my smaller, travel laptop. I had had problems with updating from the graphical user interface, but a command line update worked like a charm. Ever since I switched my laptops to Q4OS, a Debian derivative, when I encounter issues, they tend to be solvable more or less easily with a little patience.

A huge troupe of House Sparrows is hanging out in our back yard bushes. They seem to share the space with our usual Winter Dark-Eyed Juncos. Some mornings, I put bird seed on the little concrete bench our neighbors got us in honor of our beloved dog Scout. I like spreading seeds on that small platform because it seems to me to avoid the problems like House Finches spreading infection to one another that bird feeders create. So far beyond the sparrows I have seen a Carolina Chickadee and a female Northern Cardinal feeding on the seeds. My favorite part of the seed bag is that it is resealable, which makes for less muss and fuss.

Social media has its downsides, but I like that I can flip a twitter message to a friend battling illness and make a moment of contact to make sure my friend is all right.

Breakfast: two packets of instant oatmeal
Lunch: a Potbelly's TKY sandwich on wheat, with a cup of chicken noodle soup and baked potato chips
Dinner: 2 chicken breasts, a chicken leg, a small fries and 1/4 of a biscuit at Church's Chicken.
I resisted the temptation to buy lots of bananas.
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Ebeneezer Allen [Feb. 17th, 2017|07:37 am]
I live in Allen, Texas. Allen shares the same history as a lot of Texas towns. It sprang up as a farm-to-market town when the railroad laid tracks here in 1872. In those days, towns tended to get named for railroad executives. The railroad executive that gave Allen its name was Ebeneezer Allen. Unlike many similar inspirations, he passed away nearly a decade before he lent his name to the town.

I read a bit about Ebeneezer Allen. He grew up in Maine and New Hampshire. He served as Texas' first Attorney General. He never lived in Allen, of course, since Allen postdated him by nearly a decade.

The records I reviewed indicate that he was a staunch secessionist, who joined the Confederate Army in Virginia. Reports agree that he died in Richmond, Virginia in 1863 but differ on the reason he died. One article states "he died in the service of the South", but a newspaper report of the time suggests "apoplexy", the old-fashioned word for a stroke.

Allen stayed small until the 1990s. Today it has 80,000 or so residents. There are no statues to Ebeneezer Allen, but we do revere the old railroad bridge that still stands. The first train robbery in Texas was in Allen. As close to nobody as close could be favors secession now.

I had forbears on either side in the Civil War, just as this part of Texas had folks who served on one side or the other. But none of my ancestors served with Ebeneezer Allen, to my knowledge. None of my Civil War relatives, to my knowledge, experienced apoplexy during the war years, either.

I want to learn more about Ebeneezer Allen, who was on the wrong side of history, but ended up inspiring the name of a small town.
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miracles and robins [Feb. 16th, 2017|10:20 pm]
After work I saw robins--dozens and dozens, alighting on a tree, perched in the waning afternoon blue-sky crispness.

A group of women played on the playground equipment in Heritage Park. An Eritrean-American woman on the radio spoke about hiking the Appalachian Trail.

I read 30 pages of "The Patch". The birder expression for binoculars--"bins"--seems unduly prosaic.

I daydream about the desert.

Work is full of challenges, which I enjoy.

Breakfast: Kix cereal and skim milk. Lunch: three soft chicken tacos. Dinner: a chicken breast, a bit of whole-wheat rotini and a salad. Dessert: angel food cake with Miracle Whip and strawberries.

I'm watching an episode of the BBC series "Vera" and thinking about mysteries.
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self-pub and sci experiments [Feb. 15th, 2017|08:33 pm]
In the early morning I purchased and downloaded Mark Dennis' ebook "My Patch". This book deals with the idea of eschewing going far afield to watch birds in favor of one's local "patch" or area. This fits well with my 2017 approach.

I try to keep a better record of the local birds in the parks near my home and work. I log into eBird the results for almost every time I walk out-of-doors. So far this helps me see what I see each day and each month a bit better. It all feels like a great science experiment, and I am the variable and the constant.

I got "My Patch" at the Smashwords.com website. I never shopped there before. It's a self-publishing forum. I like the site because its ebooks are DRM-free. I have had great experiences with self-published books, and a less-than-ideal experience with a sci-fi self-published book or two. But I tend to like to rad small press, micropress and self-published works some decent percentage of the time. My only criticism of most micro-presses is that they tend to orient too heavily toward poetry, fiction and polemic. So often I think that they should focus on non-fiction things that lack sufficient mainstream coverage.

Last night I had a bad experience when an ebook publisher sold me an .epub edition of a book, only to let me know post-purchase that it was encumbered with Adobe Digital Editions DRM. If I wanted DRM, I would just get the book from Bn.com or Amazon. But I want things I can read on my computer ebook package. I think I should start a Creative Commons micropress publishing ebooks--like a print netlabel. I love netlabel music, and thus should encourage netprint.

After a breakfast of cinnamon-infused oats and skim milk, I walked on the Chisholm Trail in Plano. Work proved busy and full of life. At lunch I walked in Breckinridge Park. Then I ate pepperoni pizza, alfredo pizza, broccoli and carrots for lunch while reading about open source digital audio workstations.

After work I walked for a few moments in Shawnee Park in Plano. Then I headed home and watched robot spies on the program Nature. My wife made a great chicken dish, along with a salad with pears and sweet potatoes.

Now we are watching "Modern Family".
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Cod on Valentine's Day [Feb. 14th, 2017|10:53 pm]
I woke up early and designed a Valentine's Day Card. I ate chicken soup for lunch with tortilla chips, after having toasted oats with cinnamon and skim milk for breakfast. For dinner, my wife made an interesting cod dish. I liked the chilly, rainy weather, but not as well as I like gently warm weather. I bought home a live cyclamen and a good attitude.

I hate DRM in eBooks, and love .epub without DRM. I'd love to see more micro-presses based on non-fiction works.
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desire paths in the dark [Feb. 13th, 2017|10:52 pm]
In the morning, I finished Roy Bayfield's "Desire Paths: Real Walks to Nonreal Places". I had felt that it took me a long time to finish it. A little weblog review, though, shows me I began it on January 27th. So though I took 16 days to finish the book, it did not take 60. The book was a very good read--about walking and self-imposed mythological meanings and connecting with one's own past and illusions. I liked, too, that the small press which published it, Triarchy Press, offered an ebook in .epub without DRM. I dislike it when the same folks who cry out about Kindle and Nook taking over issue their books in DRM-ruined proprietary-only formats.

My wife inadvertently left her laptop behind when she headed out to work. I ran a little behind her in getting out the door, so I headed back, picked up the case, and met her at a Verizon store to get it to her.

At lunch, I walked in Travis Farm Park, where bluebird frolicked. I worked a solid day, with lots of things on my plate to do. After work, I stopped on the Chisholm Trail in Plano with the intent to take a 30 minute walk before dark. But I took a wrong turn--a difficult thing to do on this trail, but I thought I was turning around to the other side of the little creek, and instead I turned at an angle.

When I realized my mistake, I walked quickly back to my car. In the process, my steps comfortably crossed 10,000 for the day. After counting ducks, I thought I could treat the walk in the dark into an owl prowl. I came upon a raptor in the dark, who flew from a low level on a tree to a more distant tree. But I could not see it well enough to know if it was an owl or merely the resident Cooper's Hawk.

Today's meals: organic frosted flakes and skim milk
Subway turkey sandwich on wheat and baked chips
deli roast beef on sliders, rotini and salad

Favorite Duck I have not seen this Winter: Wood Duck
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