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educating Robert

This week I keep my resolution to get my continuing education done. I completed the California requirements, but for turning in the eform, and now tackle the 2020 Texas coursework. The courses I completed so far all interested me.

Rain came yesterday. I drove in the park and took pictures of a bluebird during my lunch hour. I also took a picture of my car first thing in the morning, as I think it's easy to overlook the commonplace.

I contemplate working a bit this weekend, as well as enjoying the outdoors and working on some hobby projects. I bought a couple of  used bridge cameras (i.e., point-and-shoot cameras with high levels of optical zoom). My current system of buying at a deep discount on eBay cameras from a few years ago works pretty well, though every couple of years I have to refresh.

I sit at my computer listening to the singer Emilie Lund and contemplating the coming day.

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Cold then Warm

Today I ate 15 almonds. I walked in Shawnee Park and along the Chisholm Trail in the cold weather of the morning, and in Glendover and Green Park during the warmer afternoon.

I tracked two eBay packages predicted to arrive today on the internet, but failed to receive either of them. I put the 18th digital bookmark in the ebook I am reading, and seem to be averaging only 10 pages a bookmark.

My retired law partner's brother passed away this weekend. He ran Dallas' best independent bookstore for decades. He was always kind to me.

My wife cooked pork tonight with mashed potatoes. Beatrice likes her new dog-bed. My wife had the word "Bea" monogrammed upon it.

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Wintry Mix, Our Friend Beatrice and Other Noteworthy Notes

We let our staff off a bit early on Friday the 10th because a storm looked set to move in to Garland, where I maintain my office. A new pressing matter kept me from taking off early, but the change proved fortuitous. I experienced a fairly calm afternoon. On last night, the tenth, the storms moved in to our neighborhood, as part of a storm that drove the temperature down from unseasonably warm to just below freezing.

I woke up to snow flurries and a light dusting without any real accumulation. We lacked snow the previous few years, as snow comes in a hit-or-miss fashion (even before climate change turned out to be a major issue). I enjoyed seeing the snow. The snow brought out a great deal of birdlife at our feeder. Blue Jays, numerous Dark-Eyed Juncos, Northern Cardinals, Mourning Doves, House Sparrows, and House Finches constitute the main visitors. A gymnastic squirrel also climbs up to the feeder. I do not mind the squirrel sharing, but resist it being able to hog all the food. A few times I opened the back door, and calmly said "hi" to the squirrel. This caused it to flee, though I  used no threat or harsh word.

Both today and the previous Saturday I went to Bethany Lakes Park as well as our local Glendover Park. Last weekend I could take Beatrice for a walk on both Saturday and Sunday.  Today I felt the atmosphere too cold for her. I did walk in Allen Station Park, where I saw White-Throated Sparrows. Last Sunday I got my flu shot at the local Wal-Greens. I felt glad to get it handled.

Last weekend we opened Christmas gifts. My wife got me a Weathertek covering for my car flooring. I like this practical gift. It spares the
carpet from hiking dirt. I also got a steering wheel cover at O'Reilly's to help spare the steering wheel. During my childhood, my great aunt covered all her car surfaces to ensure they remain pristine. My solution remains far short of this approach. But the idea seems similar.

Wednesday January 8 we celebrated the most important day of the Gurdonark calendar: the Beaversary. On January 8, 2006, we adopted Beatrice at the SPCA of Texas in McKinney. When we got her, the SPCA vet and our vet estimated her age at 6. With hindsight, we suspect her age at that time to fall below 6, but even so, she attained a very old age indeed. Whether she be 20 or 18, she soldiers on, a bit more frail, but still an active and happy dog.  I do not know how much longer we get to spend time with our friend, but we remain glad we adopted her.

As is customary in January, days range from warm to very cold to dry to rainy. As is also customary, I see more birds when I walk in January.
I created a list of 20 resolutions for 2020. I rarely make resolutions. But I plan to give this a try. I learned of this idea from the "Happier" podcast.

I watched a continuing legal education seminar about not doing drugs. I feel fortunate to be one who abstains from drugs and alcohol. Next I intend to watch the required seminar about bias in the legal community. While bias remains an issue in our profession,the seminars often come out a bit repetitive. Perhaps that strikes me as fitting, as the same old problems that ought to be resolved remain as issues.

I'm still working on Thor Magnusson's non-fiction book about music, "Sonic Writing." I started it back in October, and my progress through it proves to be steady and slow. But I like the book very well. It uses epistemology and history to bring the history of musical instruments into current era. I used to read books so quickly. On the other hand, I used to do all my reading in books and magazines. I read a lot on-line now.
I set a modest goal for 2020--12 novels or works of non-fiction, 3 novellas, and a new one--to memorize three favorite poems.

I dislike rote memorization of things. But I figure that memorizing some favorite poems promises to stretch little-used mental muscles.
I want to settle on my choices. Right now I think about Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Recuerdo" and Edward Thomas' "Adlestrop".  But I plan to decide later.

The world situation remains very troubled, between manifestations that appear to be climate change effects and troubling international conflict.  I hope to see a war on climate change someday, with no bullets.

I remain undecided in the Democratic primary,though I see myself as edging toward a preliminary decision. I found the UK election as interesting and odd as the original Brexit referendum.  I found myself intrigued that Mr. Corbyn proved such an unsuccessful candidate. I originally thought him unlikely to unify a majority with the electorate, but the prior general election suggested my judgment ran the risk of being wrong. But this election raises the question in hindsight whether a softest-of-Brexits policy offered a better way to handle the issue in terms of electoral strategy and political power. In terms of "the right thing to do", I feel it likely that Brexit constitutes a mistaken course of action. I feel confident the UK promises to recover from the blow. But we hope to see what result ensues.

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Year-end Year-begin

On Saturday the 21st I drove my wife to Love Field, so that she could catch a flight to Kansas City. On the way home, I stopped by Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano. I am very fond of this park, which I visit a time or two a year. The hills are barely hills,but there are trees and open spaces.

The morning was cold and foggy. Dozens upon dozens of American Robins and Cedar Waxwings flew from tree to tree. I walked for a good while. Once I felt isolated in a nook of the park, but then other walkers came along and I felt in a crowd. I enjoyed seeing a Harris Sparrow.

Saturday afternoon I went Christmas shopping. There were crowds. As I went into one youth-oriented discount chain store called Five Below,
an adult woman clutched her daughter and emerged in tears. Another shopper commented on how she would be so scared if....I wondered if the toddler daughter nearly fell or nearly disappeared. I was glad things seemed better.

Sunday the 22nd I walked in Shawnee Park in Plano. A lovely Red-Shouldered Hawk landed atop a telephone pole.

On Monday the 23rd, I worked most of the day. Then I drove to Love Field. The B parking lot was completely full. I found a space in the A parking lot. A man in a KMo car picked me up. While we drove to my in-laws, he told me about going to Mass at Christmas. A family gathering was wrapping up as I arrived. I was glad to see my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and their kids, as well as my wife's step-mother. I am fortunate to have in-laws that I like.

Tuesday my wife and I went to visit our niece at her Christmas job at a department store at a mall in Kansas. The pace was not frenetic. Then my wife and I headed across the Missouri border to Burr Oak Woods Nature Preserve in Blue Springs. We walked on the Timbers Trail and the Discovery Trail. Although the weather was fairly warm, snow from weeks before popped up here and there on the ground. We saw a Red-Bellied Woodpecker, a Downy Woodpecker, Black-Capped Chickadees and other birds. On the way home, we drove by Lake Jacomo. A family fished from a pier--virtually the only people we saw at that large lake.

We spent Christmas Eve quietly at my wife's step-mother's home. We watched the Washburn Vespers choir play its 2018 and 2019 programs. My wife and her step-mother knew the ensemble because they had recently heard it perform at my niece's graduation. It played a good concert--my favorite interlude involved the jazz band.

On Christmas morning my wife's sister's family and our college graduate niece came over to eat coffee cake and watch the kids open Christmas presents. That was fun. The kids made out like bandits. We went to my wife's stepmother's sister's home for Christmas dinner. Although neither my wife nor I are these folks' blood relatives, we consider them relations just the same. Perhaps relationship is when you know a bit of someone's story. One of my wife's step-relations divorced since last year. I feel a bit as if his ex-wife's story ended for me several pages too soon, as I did not know her well enough to really know her ,but enjoyed seeing her and hearing of her story.  But who knows? Stories are funny things.

On the day after Christmas we caught the Noon plane home. The Noon plane home never has left at Noon in the history of Christmas. This time a rainstorm in San Diego delayed the flight to which we connected. But we made it home by 4 p.m., and all was well.  On Friday the 27th I worked a solid day, and was glad that I had come back to work.

Saturday the 28th the rains came. I found a two-hour space to walk on the Celebration Pass Trail. I listened to a podcast in which the designer Christian Seriano described parts of his childhood.

Sunday the 29th I walked in Bethany Lakes Park. A Wood Duck showed himself, becoming the 105th and final bird on my Collin County eBird list for 2019. I finished my gift wrapping. I drove to my brother's house, to leave his family their Christmas presents. Later he texted me a picture of his wife and son and son's girlfriend, gifts in hand.

I worked the 30th and 31st and felt good about what I accomplished. I took off January 1. I walked in Glendover Park and then took a very long walk on the Hoblitzelle Park Trail in Plano and along Hedgecoxe. I saw 27 species of bird, including two lovely Red-Shouldered Hawks, one at each park. In the afternoon, we saw the movie "Bombshell", about the Fox News sexual harassment scandal. The movie's mix of a light, ironic tone and truly chilling moments made a great mix. 

Today I took my car in to the Hyundai dealership for routine service. The Huffines dealership provided me with a Lyft ride to and from my office. I am not much for these non-standard transport companies, due to their efforts to skirt safety regulations such as background checks. Still, it worked pretty well, except that each Lyft driver thought my office address was the movie theater 5 minutes away.

I plan to make a 20 item list of resolutions for 2020.

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half-a-day this, half-a-day that.

I worked a solid day. I walked in 111 Ranch Road Park, where Titmice sang.

I read of the most recent Twitter outrage uproar.  The sun felt warm.

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Need to Shop

I still need to do my shopping for the Christmas season. Last night I could have shopped on-line, but I watched the live Christmas episode of "All in the Family."

The weather turned more pleasant, I got some cards in the mail, and I can get things done today and tomorrow. That will be good.
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Thanksgiving to mid-December

The Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving Day, we went to the Moviehouse and Eatery to see the Marielle Heller film "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" starring Tom Hanks. We each were a bit older than the usual age when Mr. Rogers first appeared on our public television, but we each had younger siblings who had been kids at the right time. We liked the movie, which took a fresh approach.

On Thursday, the weather turned quite cold. We drove to Fleming's Steakhouse in Plano to meet our nephew Andrew and his girlfriend Amber. My brother and his wife originally had meant to join us, but they ended up going to South Carolina to be with my sister-in-law's family. I had the turkey dinner, which proved quite tasty. We enjoyed the company.

In the afternoon, I walked in the parks and listened to the radio broadcast of local sports team losing a football game.

On Saturday November 28, I walked in Bethany Lakes Park. I got some good pictures of the Cypress trees in their Autumn color. On Saturday I also walked on the Watters Branch Trail, where House Finches and Northern Cardinals feasted on the seed pods in the little wetlands section. In the afternoon, I went to the McKinney Performing Arts Center in downtown McKinney (20 minutes north) for the annual Christmas Carol performance. This 75-minute version is always very good,and now is a holiday tradition for me.
I have seen professional versions I enjoyed less than this one. I am very fond of the novella. I think lately how a handful of novellas shape me. In 2019, I was pleased to add Elizabeth Gaskell's "Cousin Phillis" to that list.

On Sunday I walked on Cottonwood Creek Trail from Allen Station Park. I liked seeing a Red-Bellied Woodpecker on a low-lying bush filled with berries. When i walked in Glendover Park, I saw Slider Turtles enjoying a spot of sunshine. Our church had its Christmas choral service, with lots of carols and a grand choir performance of "Magnificat" by Mark Hayes. I liked that this piece was the right length, had a good sound, and did not stray into pop music--it was a very good service.

The first week of December proved a solid week of work. I made good progress, and kept things moving. Saturday morning December 7 I drove to Love Field and caught a plane to Birmingham, Alabama. Then I rented a car and drove to Cullman, Alabama. I planned to attend my nephew's wedding. Cullman proved to be a town of 16,000 in the Appalachian foothills. In the afternoon, I drove to Hurricane Creek Park, a park with trails into a densely wooded area with huge stone boulders and a lovely flowing creek. I saw little waterfalls and rivulets here and there.

I ate barbecue turkey at a place called Lawler's for lunch. I had somehow made it to Alabama without my sport coat, so I also went to a Belk store and bought a sport coat for roughly 100 dollars. The Belk store was filed with holiday shoppers. I liked the sport coat.

That night, I gathered with my sister's family, and her son's intended's family, for a dinner at The Brandin' Iron. The Brandin' Iron was just the kind of small-town-metal-building-chain-place that its name implies. The food and service were good and the atmosphere was extremely casual. I sat next to my sister's former father-in-law from a past marriage,and it all worked out okay. I enjoyed getting a chance to meet my nephew's wife (they had had a civil ceremony even before the formal wedding) and her mother.

First thing Sunday morning I drove from my La Quinta Inn room to Clayton Covered Bridge Park in Cullman County. This covered bridge was built in 1904. A grist mill building was nearby. I saw lots of woodland birds in that small park, and got pictures of Titmice and of a Carolina Wren.

Later Sunday morning I drove up to Decatur, fifty minutes north, to eat breakfast with my sister. She directed me to the neighborhood park in that area (we were in a house from which she moved some time ago) while she made eggs and bacon. I enjoyed visiting with her. She and her husband live in northern Oklahoma now. Her husband had been enlisted to run wedding errands.

In the late morning, I drove over to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to watch birds from the large Wildlife Observation Building. I saw hundreds of Sandhill Cranes, as well as several other species. In the visitor center restroom, I changed into my sportcoat, a dress shirt and a tie. I drove into the Bankhead National Forest, which was lovely. I wished I had more time to hike some of its trails. On the radio, a public radio show featured a woman telling the story of going with her immigrant parents to Greece to un-bury her grandmother. 

I arrived at the Barn at Shady Grove in Double Springs just prior to the 3 p.m. time I had been asked to arrive. My nephew and his bridge were taking photos wit hthe photographers. I took pictures myself of the setting, the chandeliers, the way the announcements were displayed--the things I fancied that a professional photographer might not take. As I had suspected would happen, only one professional picture involved me (and I suspect that this may not have actually been taken), so I actually had time to hike. But I was glad to be there to keep my sister comfortable and to see my nephew and niece. I liked the way the new sportcoat worked out, too, and a non-professional photo of me standing with my Maid of Honor niece turned out well.

The wedding was lovely. I rarely eat cake,but I am glad I ate a bit of the groom cake, which was more chocolate than its intended German Chocolate, but nonetheless a great cake. The wedding venue was just grand. I had scoffed a bit about a Sunday evening at 5 p.m. wedding, until I realized how much less expensive that space must have been on a Sunday night. Then my respect for thrift overcame my dislike of having to catch a 6 a.m. Monday flight to return from a weekend wedding.

I drove back to Birmingham and stayed in a Holiday Inn by the airport. I returned my rental car that night, so that Monday I just headed to the gate. I made my slight without an incident, and was in my office by 9:45 a.m. I do not know if or when I will visit northern Alabama again, as none of my family lives there now.

The week of the second of December proved an eventful work week. I learned of things that may keep me busy the next few years. On Thursday, my wife flew to Kansas City to meet with family members on some matters. The first night, I made a crockpot meal of beef, potato, and carrots. It turned out all right, though the beef, unlike the usual, overcooked a bit in my slow-setting crockpot. My Friday meal turned out much better, as beef and sauerkraut and potato made a fine meal from the crockpot. The weekend weather turned Spring-like. I got some family matters billings paid, I walked in Brockdale Park, where I saw a flock of Turkey Vultures. On Sunday I walked on the Watters Branch Trail, and watched Eastern Phoebes and House Finches.

Saturday I had taken Beatrice on a walk in Glendover Park. But Sunday she proved uninterested in a second walk. She sometimes shows a hint of her very advanced age. Lately her medication causes little spots where her fur will thin and then regrow. She still has a good time, though. Instead of going outside, we played the game in which I throw her stuffed red lobster.

Saturday I created a new song using the IXI software programs Mammut, Noiser, Audacity and a simple flute. It came out pretty good. Its title is "Cave."  A similar effort Sunday afternoon with a Can-Jo sample, Mammut, Noiser and Audacity proved less workable and too darn noisy.
I also fell asleep Sunday evening, when i had hoped to read my current long-lasting read, Thor Magnusson's "Sonic Writing." I had read some on the plane to Alabama the prior weekend, and really find the book interesting, but for some reason am not making it a daily driver.

My wife returned on Monday, just in time to greet a massive cold front. Her visit to Kansas City involved heavy snow, so we were glad her flight was uneventful, except that she got a seat with inadequate sitting room.

We watched "Little Women" on Tuesday night, the one with Katherine Hepburn as Jo. I liked the interview on TMC with Greta Gerwig about the film. I look forward to seeing her take on "Little Women," recently released.

In the shivery-cold I visited Breckinridge Park. Birdlife proved abundant, as often happens in Winter.

Yesterday I finally created and picked up my Christmas Cards. I waited to long to make them. I suppose they will be New Year's cards for some recipients. I chose photos from Christmas Day 2018. That day must have been a bit dark, as the cards have a kind of somber Christmas vibe.
I saw American Goldfinches at Garland's Bradfield Park. I was glad my assistant was back after a day off Monday. He helps me get more things done.

Today I must call a company about a bill it claims is unpaid when I sent an email showing it was paid. I will get it straightened out.

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Audubon boxes

Tuesday I got a lot of work done. I want to get a lot done today, too. At lunch, I drove to Breckinridge Park. A light rain fell. I walked on a sidewalk through the woods near the creek.

After work, I drove to the meeting of the Prairie and Timbers Audubon Society,.   I turned off into a parking lot when traffic got snarled, and cars in front of me were doing so. Rather than ignobly cutting the corner, though, I was able to stop at a Chipotle restaurant for dinner.

Roughly 40 to 50 people attended the meeting. The classroom portion of the session, led by Gailon Brehm, covered forest birds. Two speakers spoke during the presentation part of the meeting. The first was an impressive 17-year-old woman who built Prothonotary Warbler boxes as her Girl Scout Gold Award project. She wisely bought the materials to build 12, sold nearly half of those in the Heard Natural Science Center gift shop, and put the remainder up for birds to use. As a result, some 3 years later, the boxes generated 20 new birds for a species that has suffered dramatic population decline. She was, to use a single word, great.

The second speaker told us about leading a group to Alaska. I liked this talk as well, as he had great pictures and it looked like fun. But I lack much desire to take a 2-week vacation of flying and driving all over a massive state. I am much more a "go to Anchorage and walk and tour nearby" type, even though that would mean missing some birds and missing some great national parks.  The 17-year-old asked the best question, as to whether birds are active during endless daylight. Apparently, with some diurnal variation, they are, which would make sighting them easier.

Tomorrow or today a rainy cold front moves in for Thanksgiving.

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On Thursday the 21st, I went after work to the Garland monthly legal clinic for the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. Somehow I made a wrong turn in the rainy, chilly weather, which is hard to do given the particular turns involved. But I arrived early, after determining to defer my dinner until after the session. We finished by 9:10, a bit under 3 hours.

Friday night we ate at Silver Thai. I ordered the spicy bahmee soup,a dependable menu item.

On Saturday, I took a long morning walk at Limestone Quarry Park in nearby Frisco. A sidewalk path called the Taychas Trail runs through this park. As I neared the section of trail near the bridge over Rolater Drive, I saw an Osprey flying nearby.  I hoped to take a picture, but my camera battery advised me it was dying. I watched the Osprey go from flying over Rowlett Creek to landing in a tall tree. The local American Crows began to harass it.  This seemed unfortunate, in a way, because Osprey are pescatarians, and thus no threat or competition to crows. But crows know their minds, and take no counsel from me.  The Osprey is the 104th discrete species I have seen in Collin County this year.

In the afternoon, we drove to the quaint downtown square in neighboring McKinney to go to the McKinney Performing Arts Center. Two of our friends were performing in a choir concert to benefit the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center. The choir, Resounding Harmony, an established group that does philanthropic concerts to benefit this or that cause, sang a number of popular songs of the showtune and pop-song-like-a-showtune variety. This made the afternoon quite pleasant, as all the songs were light, easily within the choir's capability, and in the main familiar from childhood. The "raptor ambassadors", birds resident at the center due to inability to be rehabilitated, put in their appearances--a Red-Tailed Hawk, a Mississippi Kite, a Screech Owl, an American Kestrel, and a Peregrine Falcon. My favorite song was a medley of songs from Dr. Doolittle combined with lots of other bird-themed sixties and children's songs.

After the two hour performance, we ate dinner at a nearby cafe. I had an excellent pan-roasted chicken with pureed potato.

Sunday I did my usual routine--a walk before Weight Watchers, a Weight Watchers meeting, a walk after WW, church, and then lunch. In the afternoon, I took Beatrice for a walk in Glendover Park, which she enjoyed. Then  I listened to the football game on the radio while I walked in Allen Station Park. I liked the WW guest leader, a woman who described coming from Holland to Wisconsin and then to Texas.

Monday I had a really productive day, a feat I hope to duplicate today.

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warmer times

The weather turned totally pleasant today. That is part of why I like living in north Texas. At lunch I walked in Bradfield Park. An American Kestrel perched on the scoreboard. My retired former law partner called me during my walk. I enjoyed speaking with him. Work proved busy, with lots of client and admin matters to handle.  I like that my new car uses gasoline less quickly than my prior car. 
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