Monday, March 31, 2008

Lesson Learned

After posting about it twice already, I figure I should at least disclose the events of my Saturday evening Earth Hour. SodaBoy and I lit some candles and played Trivial Pursuit. We didn't end up turning the lights back on until almost 10 pm, because that's how long it took to finish the game, despite our acceleration techniques. When we play with just the two of us, we modify the rules: instead of the standard one question, we allow for two (except for the final question). Since neither of us are sports literate, we use wild card for that category. And we allow the player to choose their own category for the last question.

SodaBoy and I met in 1992. We've played a lot of board games over the years, especially during our undergraduate years. The old Trivial Pursuit edition had all those impossible 50s entertainment questions, and we couldn't exclude sports altogether with fans around--that just wouldn't be fair. So we would often play in teams to make it more balanced. In all those years of solo and team play, I never once beat SodaBoy at Trivial Pursuit, nor a team on which he played. In fact, there is only one person I have ever seen beat him, our college friend J, the exception to many a rule. Until Saturday night, that is. During Earth Hour, sweet victory was mine.

I think the moral of the story is that board games should always be played by candlelight. No, seriously... I'm not just saying that because I won.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Reminder: Earth Hour Tonight

Yesterday afternoon, a co-worker asked me if I had any big plans for the weekend. I told him, casually, I am going to turn my lights off for an hour. Imagine my thrill when he told me that he, too, was planning to observe Earth Hour, studying by candlelight. I wrote about Earth Hour last month, and but no one seemed interested at the time. I think I was a little bit ahead of the game, posting so far in advance. It just seemed so exciting to me.

Now that the timing is more appropriate, Earth Hour is finally getting some attention. The Google page is all black today, with a link to Earth Hour; it is one of the top stories on Yahoo news. The event has already come and gone in Sydney, where the movement originated last year, and by all accounts was a huge success. So please consider participating. It is simple, really. All you need to do is turn off your lights for one hour, starting tonight at 8 pm.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My New Head

I work for a small company, and the administrative assistant hand delivers our pay stubs every other Friday. Yesterday afternoon, as she made her rounds at 3 o'clock, she got to pass on a little bit of good news as well. The owners had decided to send us home early because of Good Friday. Of course, I was in the middle of something and didn't actually get out the door for another half hour, but it was welcome news nonetheless.

The first thing I did when I got the notice was call home. I wanted to suggest to SodaBoy that we go and get haircuts and coffee drinks, but he didn't answer the phone. When I got home, his car was in the driveway, and looking inside, I could see him in the back room, talking on the phone and looking out the window. I ran around back and tapped on the window. When he came around to the back door to let me in, there was no phone--it turns out he had been listening to my office voicemail greeting, which I made obnoxiously long to deter people from actually leaving a message.

The first thing I noticed upon seeing him was that he had gotten a haircut. Further questioning revealed that he had also enjoyed a coffee drink. I won't go as far as to suggest we are any great minds, but we sure think alike.

SodaBoy accompanied me back out for support, and I obtained the dreaded haircut. I am kind of a freak in that I don't like haircuts. I know many people feel pampered or something and actually enjoy the process, but to me it's an awful lot like going to the dentist, with someone I don't know getting all up in my business and chattering away the whole time. My friend T. gave me a haircut last summer, but it's been over two years since I was in a salon. As far as I'm concerned, the best thing about a haircut is how much quicker it is to wash and rinse short hair.

I hadn't really intended to blog about the haircut, but I was taking some pictures on the self timer to send to my mother and sister when Rhea jumped up, demanding attention just while I was posing, causing my hair to obscure my face as I looked down at her. It's not a great photo: Rhea's face is blurry because it was a long exposure, and she had been looking up at me until the shutter engaged. However, blogging has re-trained my eye, and now a portrait with hair blocking face translates to instant bloggability. So here it is: my new head.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Phenology Brief

When I lived in the midwest and worked for Woodland Agency, I would often send emails to my Mom with the subject line, "phenology brief." Luckily Mom is a bit of a geek, too, because the messages would be lists of plants I'd seen in various stages of development for the first time that season. Phenology is the the study of periodic biological phenomena, and how the timing of such events relate to climactic conditions. Mom would then write back and tell me what was blooming back home.

This is probably why I was so excited when I stumbled upon Project Budburst. In the tradition of great citizen science programs like FrogWatch USA and Christmas Bird Count, Project BudBurst relies upon the participation of the public. Observers from all around the country report back with data revealing the appearance of spring. Phenological events of interest include first flower, first leaf, full leaf, and seed dispersal.

I signed up at the Project Budburst website this weekend. Address is optional, but latitude and longitude are required fields, with links provided to help participants figure that out. There is a list of approximately 60 target plants that are common and easy to identify, although observations are accepted about other plants as well. I plan to submit phenological data on the red maple, paper birch, and lilac, all targeted plants, and garlic mustard as well.

These plants all grow in my yard, so I will be sure to notice events of interest, but you can submit data from anywhere you choose. Other common landscaping plants include forsythia and flowering dogwood, and even the lowly dandelion made the list. Native trees and wildflowers are also well represented.

Do you have kids? This would be a great activity to do as a family. There is a "for students" section on the website. Are you a teacher? There is a page for you, too.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Bio Bits

I've got a post about phenology simmering, but no time to do it justice. Instead I'll share with you some related observations from the last week:

  • Monday was unseasonably warm, and I dragged SodaBoy on a forced march to Stormwater Park after work. It was a bit of a mud wallow, but I did see my first red-winged blackbird of the season. Actually, I heard it long before I saw it, although that's probably not uncommon.

  • I went for a walk around downtown yesterday at lunch. I found a dead bat on the sidewalk, which gave me quite a pause in light of the white nose syndrome that is plaguing area bats. I squatted down and visually inspected the bat, but saw no evident fungus. However, I couldn't help but wonder what the bat was doing out this time of year, when it should still be hibernating.

  • Then, in the mid-afternoon, I glanced out the window to see not one, but two bald eagles riding the thermals. When I worked in Minnesota, I saw bald eagles every day, but I work in a northeastern rustbelt city now, right downtown. It was thrilling. At first I tried to explain it away, they must just be black-backed gulls, but a quick peek through the spotting scope proved otherwise. Eagles! Downtown!

  • Why do we have a spotting scope lying around the office? For the peregrine falcons, of course. Their nest box on the tall government building is also in the viewshed from my desk. The pair has returned to the area, and I am now seeing them again daily.
I may have scraped the windshield nearly every day this week, and we may have a winter storm warning in effect as I type this, but spring is in the air. It's coming. Just ask the red-winged blackbird and the peregrine falcon.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

You Gotta See the Baby

A friend from work had her baby a few weeks ago, and I went over for a visit after work tonight. Ostensibly I was there delivering gifts from the women who work for our company in another city, but mostly I was there to squeeze the baby. The little one is not yet three weeks old, tiny and perfect. She slept the entire time I was there, sweet putty in my hands. I am pretty sure women of my age should not be allowed to clutch babies for that long. Oh my!