Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Serenity Now!

This week and most of last week has been devoted to these massive super rare turtle reports for a proposed pipeline in southern Pennsyl-tucky. Don't worry, the pipeline is being scrapped for some reason unbeknownst to me, but they want everything asap. Last week, I was told they were due at the end of next week (end of first real week in August). I had enough time in my mind to do it all myself. I could do the lengthy annotated photolog (126 photos out of like 500+ photos to choose from) which includes a) figuring out what site each photo is from; b) cropping and sprucing up each photo; c) placing photo in photolog; and d)adding a note about each photo. It took me an hour just to crop and spruce up the photos last week. Then there's the 45 11"x17" maps that need to be put together with various dots, labels, lines, etc. It can take up to 20 minutes just to print out one of this maps...even if it's just a test run. Of course, there's the reports which include data that I'm not familiar with since it's not New Jersey. I have to find each zip code and township for each stretch of the pipeline. Thankfully I got two helpers on these reports plus my supervisor so things seem achievable again. I just need to manage the helpers and make sure they keep on track while trying to do my own portion of it. So here's a couple pics that I liked from my endless hours of viewing pics taken by others.

To top things off, on my drive home on tuesday, a piece of gravel hit my windshield. It made a nice silver dollar sized star chip. This morning I see that the star has expanded with two fingers coming out of it to like a foot across. Good times! I knew as soon as the golf sold, all hell would break loose on the Toyota. Lets hope this is it and that it can last until my inspection is up in spring of 2009.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A note to my future self

I just received word that my VW Golf has sold! In the coming weeks and years, I probably will have a moment or two of regret of selling my VW Golf. So here's my mental reminder of the 99 problems.

1. Remember that new tranny it got back at 99K. Remember how you thought it was just as messed up as the original one and would have a moment of hesitation at like 25 mph. That wasn't fun getting on the highway in a hurry.

2. There's no way to forget about that leaky trunk and all those times of mopping up the nasty water surrounding the spare tire and wringing out the towels that blocked the leak. Plus your dad knew about the leak in 1997 and never told you.

3. Then there's the busted power locks because the trunk leak likely busted the lock motor. No alarm and no power locks. It sure was fun telling everyone to lock their own doors and having everyone stare at you like you are crazy.

4. Manual windows were standard. It was always a game of stubbornness at the gas station when the attendant would try to get you to roll down the passenger side window since the gas cap was on that side. You learned to ignore them, roll down the driver side window, hold CC out that window, and wait.

5. Summer was always a game of chance. Since the hatch lock busted years ago, the only way to open the hatch was to press the button on the console. If it got too hot, then the trunk wouldn't open and you'd have to push down the back seats to get to the hatch. Made field work a lot of fun.
6. Since it was car #2, the garage spot was occupied by the Toy. That meant non-stop vacuuming of the pine needles that fell from the sickly large white pines that lined the parking lot. It was amazing that these needles could be found everywhere!

Thursday, July 24, 2008


There's a few things I'm sure about. One of which is that if I wash my car, it will rain the next day even in a drought. I haven't washed my car in like a month and decided it was time on Monday. Cue the thunderstorms and torrential downpours. But the rain brought needed water, especially to the swamp where I released Cashew. I decided to check on it and see if there really were any turtles left there. I figured since it was so dry that all the turtles had migrated to the big pond. Sure enough, no turtles were seen even though the rain helped make it a real swamp again. The sweet pepperbush was blooming and fragrant. It was so pleasant out that even the treefrogs were calling. Here's my first test video from my work camera of the treefrogs calling.

I checked out the big pond and spotted a big snapper lurking amongst the duckweed. There were several more close muskrats calls. But as soon as the camera was out, it jumped into the muck.

One of the nice things about the swamp in the summer is that there are barely any people there. It's just me, the occasional overhead plane, and the sounds of nature. It's real tough to get actual silence least silence from man-made stuff. So it's a nice respite after a long day of work in the office, which has become the norm rather than the rarity. Hopefully some fun field work will come up next week. Although it's looking like it's not going to happen.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just another week

I had only one small field outing this week. My boss accompanied me in the beginning to fill me in on the details of the situation and where to focus my efforts. As we stared at a small babbling stream, he remarked that it looked good for this particular type of rare dragonfly and proceeded to describe it to me and its behavior. Sure enough one flew in and then another. Two males and they started to spar. This is not my pic since I never got that close or have that good of a camera. My boss was so excited that he went back to his car and got his video recorder. I went about and did my work.

I did see a nice tiger swallowtail butterfly. It was so still that I thought it was dead until it flapped its wings.

Found this cool bright red mold or fungus. Thankfully I was all done before it got too hot. I am also thankful that I was completely in the shade. Between the heat wave and my allergies, I'm happy that this week was mostly inside. My throat was all scratchy and I was unusally tired for a bunch of days until I checked the pollen counts. When I saw that grasses were out, which is a trigger for me, it all made sense. Now I've upped my allergy meds and am feeling much better.

Once I got home, I decided to work on the mousecapade situation. I installed another pest-o-cator, which is an electronic pest deterrant, and vacuumed up their presents. I was on a roll and since I was already dirty from my field work, I decided to investigate the other basement communal hallway. Almost immediately I noticed mouse baits. They were all over and in each corner even before I got into the real hallway. They looked pretty new and I then remembered the termite pest control truck I saw last week. I was alarmed at the prospect of termites, but now I know it was for the mice. The most crazy thing about this is why they didn't put baits in my hallway. It is the same building and the mice can get anywhere. I doubt there is some sort of impenetrable cinder block barrier separating the two halves of the building. I am not looking forward to the result of this poison. It's a slow and painful death and the remains will surely begin to smell throughout the building. I caught 23 mice and that's probably just the tip of the iceberg. I just hope the pest-o-cator keeps them out of my area.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

167,452 miles

That's the miles I've logged on my beloved 1996 VW Golf over the almost 13 years I've had it. I've finally decided to sell my beloved Golf. I've always said that I'd drive it into the ground but I just feel that it's time to move on since I have another newer car...a perky 2005 Toyota RAV-4. I've had the RAV-4 for 2 years now and I kept thinking the Golf gotta give out at some point. Wrong! To give perspective, that mileage is over 6.5 times around the earth if you want to lay it all out. It's been in 27 different states and several long road trips. It's been off road numerous times, drove on woods roads (that's a road in the woods that isn't improved at all but rather just the vegetation has been removed), and battled blizzards and torrential downpours. It survived an earthquake. Granted it was like a 5 on the richter scale and the center of the earthquake was an hour away.

When you drive one car was such a long time, you sort of become one with it. You know exactly how much room it takes up and what it was do in the snow and mud and other hazardous conditions. I know when something is not right even when it's just a feeling. Like the mini crisis when the tranny was going. Thankfully it was still under warranty so VW got me a new one for free! So in reality, the tranny has only gone a youthful 68K miles or so. The only time it ever broke down on me, while on the road, was when the battery a gas station. It didn't start after I got gas. How thoughtful of it!

It was a bit sad peeling off all the stickers that are like 12+ years old. There's a lot of memories there. I just hope whoever the next owner is that they are good to it and don't curse its quirks that make up every almost vintage car. I'm letting my dad and bro handle the sale since they've done this a bunch of times and they won't have the emotion that I would handing off the keys to the new owners.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bear Haven

We all know that I like animals. There's a few animals that are especially dear to my heart. Bears are on that list. If there's a bear on a show, I'll probably be watching. I watched all those Growing up Grizzly shows and I was on team Aniston after watching her followup episode when she started getting a teary eyed....not in fear, but just emotional. I thought I was the only one that did that. So of course I watched this show about a retired school teacher in Alaska that has created a bear haven. He has a cabin, which he opens up in spring, and basically hangs out with bears. He feeds them and they all come in like pets. Some of the bears even can come inside! Because he feeds them, they have become like circus bears. Complete strangers can come in and mingle with the bears. My problem is the feeding of bears. He's taking perfectly fine wild bears who can hunt and survive and changing them into beggars. Besides, how can a diet of probably just dog food be good for bears over an extended period of time. What happens when Charlie dies? See, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt that he won't be attacked viciously. I believe that he can read the bears and makes smart decisions regarding their behavior. These bears will go hungry when Charlie is gone. Plus having such a density of bears together is not good. Fights break out and bears get hurt. Won't these bears be easy pickens for the local bear hunters? I understand where he is coming from, but I think he's being selfish. Charlie says it's a fairy land and in a sense it would be a fairy land for me. But in the long run, this is not the best interest for the bears. I would rather have him create a bear sanctuary for former circus or pet bears or orphaned cubs. He would still have close contact but would allow the wild bears to be.

Most of the time the closest I get to bears is seeing things like this. Bear prints. Too bad about the human heel print but I guess it gives a good size perspective. I saw these prints today after scrambling down a very steep embankment to a river. The funny thing is that I was in the middle of a little historic downtown and not in the middle of the wilderness. It really was one of the last things I was expecting.

Monday, July 7, 2008

6 apple cider donuts and a plastic wrapped pecan square

That's what this boxer ate on the sly on my most recent Vermont trip this extended holiday weekend...complete with the plastic wrap. He sauntered into somebody's room, as he usually does, and helped himself to all their food. Last year he visited me in the shower. The doors don't lock and all I heard was a snuffle and then when I got out of the shower, the bathroom door was wide open.
Here he is in a rare tuckered out moment. He usually is romping full speed around the yard with his companion dog the boston terrier, who spending most of the time nipping at his neck or starting fights. She also majorally kicks ass at cards. Check out her poker face!

Here's the black lab on her pond duty. If she had her way, she'd be at the pond all the time walking the perimeter searching for newts and frogs. Thankfully no frogs or newts were sacrified.

Here's some classic VT cows that were too scared to come up to the fence to grab some grass I was dangling for them. There were baby yaks on display at the local farmer's market. They were just wrapping up and it probably was a kids only zone to hang out with them inside the pen. But I think the look on this girl's face summons it up my feelings. She's in the zone with the baby yak and nothing was going to take that yak out of her lap. It's her and the baby yak against the world.

Here's the trio of yaks. The green harness one was getting tired and resting its head on its neighbor as it shut its eyes.The sunsets were great and the stars were amazing. Of course, pictures don't do any justice and have an ancient mini point and shoot doesn't help the cause. The milky way was in view and I even got to see a shooting star.

I could post a zillion more pics since I ended up taking like a 100 pics. It's not the pictures that count but the memories and those are not photographable.