The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Saturday, January 9, 2016
Nature ... Photo ... Weather ...

On the weather front, it’s an El Nino winter. Up here in eastern New Jersey, we’re definitely feeling it. Which is nice for us (not so nice in other places of the world, where needed rainfall is lacking or too much rain comes down), because the warm air coming up from the Pacific equatorial region (where El Nino mainly does its thing) has delayed the onset of cold and snow. The past two winters here were quite cold and snowy, and the temporary reprieve (only temporary, as we will soon get some true cold spells and a handful of snow storms) is definitely appreciated. By me, anyway; there are some “snow people” who have been upset about this, such as “Weather Willy” (who keeps a very good weather blog, despite his bias towards wintery weather).

Aside from a handful of upset winter-weather fans, the El Nino has also caused some consternation in the natural world. We had a relatively cool and normal November, so the 50 and 60 degree temps in mid-December confused a lot of trees and plants. Just a few blocks from my house are these fruit trees, which took the bait. These photos were taken last Saturday, the day after New Years Day. A few days later it was down in the teens and twenties, and the little taste of “way too early spring” was over.

We might still get a handful of temperate afternoons with temps in the lower 40s, but for the most part, the party is over. It’s time to get on with winter.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:58 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Nature ... Philosophy ... Photo ...

Here is some trailside philosophy that I came across yesterday (Memorial Day) during a hike along the Long Path in Harriman State Park (NY). If I had a marker or a paintbrush, I would have put an addendum below this thought. One word . . . “yet”. Actually, ZXZ’s thought is rather profound . . . i.e., the reality of ourselves is in our stories, in our journeys, in movement. We do not exist as something still, something static, as say a glass of water or a rock can. Without movement, without life, we are just carbon-based flesh with a few other chemicals thrown in. If we really “are”, then we’re here, not there . . . not yet. But like that caterpillar on the tree, we’re moving towards “there”, and in that movement, in that journey, we take on our identities and our reality.

The second pic shows some guys beating the heat yesterday at Lake Skannatati. We do stuff like jumping into lakes on hot afternoons. That’s why we’re here, that’s why we are.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:56 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Nature ... Photo ...

A mourning dove recently decided that the window air conditioner outside my mother’s former bedroom at my brother’s house would be a good place to nest her progeny for the season. My mother passed away about 5 years ago, but the soon-to-be mother bird perhaps sensed some metaphysical traces of Mom’s former presence, and decided that the spot had good feng shui and positive chi. Here we see the bird trying to catch up on some zzz’s in mid-afternoon. If all goes well, she will soon be very busy flying in worms or seeds or other tid-bits for the hungry chicks. I’ll try to post some further pix once that happens.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:09 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Nature ... Society ...

It’s interesting how we humans can see something in nature that strikes our fancy for some odd reason, and give it an imaginary quality that has nothing at all to do with whatever it is. I think they call this “anthropomorphizing” or something. I.e., trying to humanize something that just ain’t human.

One example is polar bears. A lot of people seem delighted with the thought of polar bears. They’ve starred in movies and Coke commercials. Maybe it’s their fluffy white fur. Once upon a time, people shot the darn things, skinned them, and used the lovely fur as a rug. But that was back in the Teddy Roosevelt days. Today  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:00 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Nature ... Science ...

Wintertime is never fun, at least not for me. If you are really into winter skiing or live way down south or don’t need to drive back and forth most every day (with a place to live big enough to prevent cabin fever), then you might enjoy a long season of arctic cold. Let it snow, let it snow! But when you have to wait outside early every morning for a bus or train, or push your car over miles of dangerous roadways every day, the winter season gets old real fast. Given that I am a fan of short, mild winters (like we got here in NJ last year), I constantly scan the radio and TV stations for forecasts and the papers and web-sites for articles on what to expect in January, February and March.

There are two times of year when the weather gets a lot of attention from me: during the mid and late-summer months, when thunderstorms and sometimes even hurricanes (as in 2011 and 2012) become atmospheric events here in Jersey. And in winter, when cold blasts and monster snowstorms threatens my own comfort and safety. Between the two, I still favor summer’s humid discomfort over winter’s dirty snow and bitter winds. At least there is a lot more daylight in summer, and if something unexpected were to happen where you had to stay outdoors for a long time, most summer weather wouldn’t kill you. Whereas a 10 degree night truly does put your life on the line, if you can’t successfully find a way to insulate yourself sufficiently from the cold. Most homeless people and street people learn ways to survive, but once in a while one of them doesn’t and the body is removed from the street in the morning.

So it’s become a point of interest for me to understand a bit more about winter weather and what are the signs of its longer-term trends. Yes, I’ve heard of the folk wisdom about the tails of squirrels and bird migration patterns. In fact,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:53 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, November 18, 2012
◊  Tilt
History ... Nature ... Photo ...

It looks like Jesus himself has taken a shot to the ribs by Mother Nature.

This is the Iglesia Pentecostal Church, the former Dutch Reformed Church in Belleville NJ, which took some damage from Hurricane Sandy in late October. Interestingly, the original church on this site was built in 1697 and its tower was used as an observation post in the American Revolutionary War. The church is located very near the west bank of the Passaic River; the Brits were holding the east side, so the patriot forces used the tower to keep an eye on them. Also, the church is not a stranger to bad weather. In 1804 a tornado almost destroyed the original church, and in 1854 the present church, which we see here, was constructed. Only to get hit by more raging winds 158 years later!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:00 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
Friday, March 30, 2012
Nature ... Society ...

Here’s a little shout-out to my friend Mary, who has been keeping me posted on the second season of the Decorah Eagles. For those few of you who don’t know about the Decorah eagles . . . last year a conservation group called the Raptor Resource Project set a web cam up in a tree on a nature preserve in Decorah, Iowa, where eagles usually made a nest. So you get a “birds eye view” of an eagle couple at work bringing new eagles into the world, from egg to fledgling. This web site turned out to be a hit, and a lot of people got hooked on watching the domestic aspects of an eagle couple’s lives. Year 2 looks to be just as popular.

I take a look at the site now and then, and . . . well, it’s like human family life. I.e., nothing much happens most of the time. For a summary and some images of those moments when interesting stuff does happen up in the tree in Decorah, there are various sites that keep track of that. One of them is a Facebook site, which I checked out the other day. I noticed that the discussion wall on this site is dominated, if not owned outright, by the female gender of the human species. So, the Decorah eagle show is something of a “chick flick” (you might think that I’m taking a bad pun and making it even worse by referring in the alternative to the hatchlings in the nest; but no, baby eagles are technically “pips”, not chicks).

One reason why an eagle nest might be popular with female human viewers is that eagles are a “pair bonded” species. I.e.,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:54 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Art & Entertainment ... Nature ... Personal Reflections ...

I was watching “Carrier” on TV last week, a 10 hour PBS series about life aboard a modern US Navy aircraft carrier (the USS Nimitz). Instead of providing an analysis of US military technology and naval strategy, the show was mostly an Odyssey tale devoted to the 5000 sailors, airmen and Marines serving on board the Nimitz. It focused on the human stories involved in a 6-month mission cruising around the Pacific and Indian Oceans, a mission which included a few weeks of combat action from the waters of Iraq. This all took place in 2005.

I didn’t see every minute, but what I did see was pretty good. Most of the crew is young, in their 20’s, so there’s a lot of relationship stuff and “new baby back home” stories. The Navy forbids dating or sex between crew members serving on the same ship, but it does happen; one guy got in bad trouble for it. So there’s a lot of soap opera / reality-TV going on in Carrier.

But being an old geek, the stuff that I liked most was about operations, e.g. steering the ship, tending to the nuclear reactors and launching the aircraft off the deck. I got really caught up in the part where they were trying to land some fighter jets at night when the seas were rough and the deck was pitching and rolling. They finally got all of the jets  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:42 pm       Read Comments (6) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Nature ... Photo ...

A couple of weeks ago, I put a little bird feeder on my window, just above the air conditioner. It took a while, but the feeder is now quite popular amidst the local avian population. The regular customers include a flock of mourning doves, numerous house sparrows, some white-throated sparrows, a pair of cardinals, a blue jay (that barely seems able to balance itself on the air conditioner ledge), and an occasional visit from a tufted titmouse. I believe that the juncos that winter in the local backyards also stopped by, but with spring finally arriving, they are now headed back to the woods. There are occasional raids by bands of starlings (although we don’t have any that live nearby). The noticeable absentees are a pair of northern mockingbirds, and the local robins. Give those robins credit: they are purists. They stick to their worms and bugs. They don’t want to mess with grains and carbs; they stick with high-protein.

So it’s an interesting little nature show going on outside my window. It gets pretty wild some days; these little birdies like to fight over food. It’s every bird for him or herself. Even though I keep the feeder stocked, they have a hoarding mentality. Peck, peck, push, push, get out of my way. I’ve even seem little birds fighting while flapping their wings in mid-air. And the mourning doves . . . . they may seem meek and mellow, but I saw one stare down a blue jay, and win! It’s a bit depressing sometimes; but then again, it all makes me feel a little bit better about the human race. We don’t behave all that much better than these birdbrains, but we are still better (if not by much).

When all the bird aggression gets me down, I look for the cardinal pair. The bright red male has a habit of giving food from its beak to its brownish mate. No “wham, bam, thank you mam” for these guys, despite their stylish crimson plumage and black masks. They’re committed to a long-term relationship. They’re obviously gonna keep momma fed while she tends to the nest and the youngins’. Ah, family values.

Here are two shots of some mourning doves chowing down.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:50 am       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
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