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May 31, 2004

Duckling In Trouble

I just happened to catch the mama and ducklings feeding under the tree. The last few times I've seen them I've noticed that one of the ducklings is a bit of a runt. Well today, the runt duckling - whom I have christened "Homer" for no explicable reason - was staggering around while feeding. Occasionally Homer would plop down for no real reason, and then when the ducklings/mother headed back down to the pond, Homer was way, way behind.

I remembered reading something about ducklings that staggered around, and I just found it again: "Ducklings are also extremely fragile, easily chilled and can be injured due to overhandling. An improper diet can rapidly lead to hypoglycemia. A very young duckling that is staggering or appears "drunk" is hypoglycemic and will die unless it is provided with some source of sugar. "

I'm not sure why this one duckling seems to be sick, and the other seven look healthy and strong. But now I'm debating whether or not Homer needs an intervention. When the family was heading back to water Homer was a good 10-feet behind. If there are predators around, it's going to be picked off easily.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 01:10 PM | Comments (3)

May 30, 2004

In Memorium

Today I am remembering my maternal grandfather, Kenneth Ray "K.R." Rowley, Jr. K.R. was a veteran of World War II, having served as the co-pilot of a B-17 "Fighting Fortress" bomber in the European theater during 1944-5. He was killed in 1951 in a plane crash at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., while riding along on a training flight in the Air Force's new KC-97 Stratotanker refueling plane. He was 27 years old and had two young daughters.

The New York Times ran a piece today about the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. yesterday (which I will be seeing in person on Saturday). I thought this passage was especially meaningful:

By some estimates, the dedication was the largest reunion of World War II veterans since the war ended in 1945. It was also probably the last of its size. Most of the 16 million who served in the United States armed forces in World War II have died, and those still alive, about a quarter of the total, are in their 70's or 80's. About 1,100 veterans who served in World War II die every day...

More than one thousand of these veterans die every day. More than 440,000 U.S. soldiers died in World War II - 3,000 died in one day, June 6, 1944, otherwise known as "D-Day."

I was watching Meet the Press this morning, and former senator Bob Dole was a guest. He spoke about the WWII memorial dedication, and mentioned how 90% of the cost was covered by private donations. He was asked why it took so long for the memorial to be built, and he - speaking as a WWII veteran who was greviously injured (he spent 39 months in a hospital and has lasting partial paralysis) - said that "we didn't want one."

And that really struck me about the generation of men and women who served in WWII or otherwise lived through it. By and large, if you read their stories (click on the Memories tab), or watch films and documentaries about the conflict, there is this overwhelming sense that these people truly believe they were just doing what they felt needed to be done. They didn't see it as some grand gesture. It was what the times called for, and they responded.

Dole also mentioned that during WWII, everyone made sacrifices, which he placed in contrast to the Iraq conflict. In WWII, people at home made do without some of the luxuries of life in order to contribute to the "war effort." These days, unless you're in the military, or know someone serving in Iraq, you're not asked to make any sacrifices at all. The most I'm doing, really, is paying more for gasoline.

Meanwhile, young men and women are giving the last full measure of devotion. Which seems out of balance. Shouldn't we all be asked to sacrifice a little, rather than a handful being asked to sacrifice everything?

Anyway, that's a different issue for another time. When I was in college I took a public speaking course. My topic was my grandfather, and what he means to me. I saved a copy of it, and just reread it. It's funny to read how I talk about him - my image of him is so idealized. It's especially ironic because I found out a few years later that he had not been entirely faithful to my grandmother, and they had only recently reconciled after a separation (due to his infidelities) a few months before he died.

Rather than typing it out, I've taken photos of the pages (you might need to mouse over the photos and click the resizing box that will pop up in the lower right corner of the image):

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3

My grandfather is buried in the city cemetary in Spencer, Iowa, his hometown. I hope someone there put a flag on his grave today.

ETA: I looked up the webpage for North Lawn Memorial Park, where my grandfather is buried, and it says that "each Memorial Day is marked with a display of Veteran Flags, known as the "Avenue of Flags". Approximately 25-30 new flags are dedicated each year on Memorial Day. Each flag is named for a deceased veteran."

Posted by Highwaygirl on 12:51 PM | Comments (1)

May 29, 2004

Double Crested Cormorant

I am the crazy bird lady, woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.


I took photos of the double crested cormorant that is hanging around by the pond. Earlier this year there was a whole family of them - four juveniles and two adults - but for some reason all of them left ... except this one juvenile. I know it's young because it still had light-colored feathers on its chest. A full-grown double crested cormorant is all black.

I have named him Big Bird. Here he is!


A few nights ago I saw Big Bird hanging around the tree beside my apartment. And then to my surprise, he jumped up into the tree. Of course, bird + tree = normal, but this is a ... big bird. It's probably two feet tall. I'd never seen a big waterfowl like that get up into a tree. It would be like seeing a duck in a tree.

ASIDE: I threw down some bird seed this morning and five minutes later mama duck and the eight (yay!) babies trotted over. They only fed for about 45 seconds before the male ducks spooked them and they ran down to the water.

Double crested cormorants don't have fully waterproof feathers, so they often have to spread open their wings to let the feathers dry off so they can fly again. Like this:


I've seen them spread out like this both on land and in the water. It's pretty weird looking. And SOMETIMES, when they're not expecting it, they get attacked by the biggest pigeon known to man (courtesy of perspective):


Posted by Highwaygirl on 08:53 AM | Comments (1)

May 27, 2004

Laughing Cow

Okay, everybody! Write your own caption for this photo:


Posted by Highwaygirl on 04:39 PM | Comments (10)

Erin Go Quack

Just a li'l duck update. 'Cause I know you want one.

There's still eight little ducklings toddering about, as of yesterday evening. I came home for lunch yesterday and as I was leaving to go back to work, I went out back to look for the family. They were eating insects pretty close by, so I stood under a tree and watched. As soon as the mama spotted me she started leading the kids up the bank towards the tree where I throw down the seed.

The ducklings must understand that tree = food at this point, because they started running in front of her to get to the area. Baby ducks running and leaning forward? SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO cute.

Has anyone out there been to Ireland? I'm planning a trip there in September and would like to hear travel stories (good and bad).

Posted by Highwaygirl on 06:38 AM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2004

Eight Is Enough

Alrighty, we've still got eight little duckies running around out back. The mama brought them up to the backyard when I got home and they all got as close as about five feet from me. Mama likes bread, the babies, not so much. Yet. They prefer birdseed for now.

Tonight's family portrait (a little bit out of focus):


And THEN, AGAIN, I had to yell at thuggish children. This one was about 14, and I caught him running back and forth on the bank trying to scare the ducks. Which, of course, headed into the water and away from the big screaming idiot. So then this moron took a run at the juvenile little blue heron that was feeding.

And that's when I snapped.

I flew out my front door, hurdled over the bench outside and ran at the guy. I believe the phrase "YOU NEED TO CUT THAT SHIT OUT" escaped my mouth. He looked very surprised, and then very scared (yay!) and then he ran around to the other side of the pond, picked up his bicycle, and ran away.

What is wrong with these kids? I seriously want to smack them upside the head. With a brick. What kind of parents teach their children that it's alright - and FUN, for god's sakes! - to terrorize defenseless animals???

Where the hell is that hawk when I need it?

ETA: Out on the pond right now are the ducks, a great blue heron, a great egret, and a black skimmer. I wish I could get a photo of the black skimmer doing its thing, because it is cool.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 07:52 PM | Comments (6)

May 23, 2004

The Circle of Life

I was just on the phone with my mom a few minutes ago when I heard a bunch of blue jays outside making an awful racket. So I looked out the window and saw that they appeared to be dive bombing something on the bank of the pond. I went out into my patio to take a look, and saw a hawk crouched on the bank. When it saw me it took off ... and then I noticed it had one of the baby ducks in its claws.

Crap. I feel horrible for some reason.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 12:41 PM | Comments (4)

Geese Better Scurry

Mo' duck photos! The first two are from Friday.

Here's mama duck taking the youngsters for a swim at the edge of the pond:


Here are a few of the babies, huddled up waiting for instructions from the quarterback (their mother):


And here is the whole family having breakfast this morning. I somehow managed to get mama duck and all nine of her babies in the frame:


Posted by Highwaygirl on 08:59 AM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2004

It's Over

I'm sure SOME person will read that title with an additional letter on the end.

The user conference I have been preparing for over the past 10 days is finally finished. There will be some clients in the office tomorrow for follow up stuff, but that shouldn't be a big deal. I hope. Guh.

I was wrong about the eight baby ducks - there are NINE baby ducks. And apparently three more adult male ducks have joined the extended family. So in light of this, I bought a 10-pound bag of duck food at PetsMart. Can't let the new guests go hungry!

I've got more photos to put up later when I get home from work.

My Stupidest Person In the Whole Wide World (Today) award for May 20, 2004 goes to Senator John Cornyn of Texas. Ass. People should collectively hand-wring his stupid neck.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 02:46 PM | Comments (3)

May 19, 2004

Wee Little Behbehs

So I was watching the news a little while ago and I heard quacking outside my living room windows. Which isn't odd, because I have a family of Florida mallard ducks (three males, one female) that come around and eat the bird food.

I stood up to see which ducks were out there and instead I see THE CUTEST THING IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD!!!



They are soooooooooooooooooooo very cute. This was the best photo I could get. When I went outside to throw some bread out for mama duck she quacked that the kids were to huddle together (awww) and then march calmly down to the pond ahead of her (awwwww).

So freakin' cute.

ETA: I just had to go yell at a group of kids for throwing things at the ducks. THROWING ROCKS at BABY DUCKS. Jesus. I told them if they tried that again they'd be getting a few rocks thrown right back at them.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 07:26 PM | Comments (5)

May 18, 2004

I Want You!

Put a tophat with blue and white stars on this guy, and he could be the new Uncle Sam:


Posted by Highwaygirl on 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2004

Starting Over

So, as I feared, the Kanacyn wrecked the cycle in Otis' tank. This means I'm back to nightly aquarium water testing for the next four weeks.

The worst part is that Otis' sore has not gotten any better. In fact I think it's a little bit bigger than it was when I first treated him. So tonight I started a second round of Kanacyn. I figure, the cycle is already wrecked, so if I'm going to treat Otis a second time it might as well be now.

But if the second round of meds don't heal things up, I think I'm going to stop. Kanacyn is a pretty hardcore fish antibiotic; if it isn't doing the job I don't think it's likely that anything else will. There are other antibiotics I could try, and if Otis wasn't geriatric (for a fish) I probably would try. But at his age I just don't think I'd be buying him that much extra time.

Water parameters for Monday, May 17:
Ammonia - 0.50 ppm
Nitrites - 0.00 ppm
Nitrates - 10ppm (no retesting until appearance of nitrites)

Posted by Highwaygirl on 07:01 PM | Comments (2)

May 14, 2004

Boom, There It Is!

Can't find your WMD? Go here for help.

And now I find myself wondering what other types of destructive weapons we might have?

Weapons of Potentially Minor Destruction (knives, slingshots)?

Weapons of Gross-Out Destruction (Ebola, flesh-eating viruses)?

Weapons of Mass Destruction That Should All Be Focused on Ann Coulter (everything else)?

Posted by Highwaygirl on 03:09 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2004

Eight Ways To Sunday

She reached out an arm and touched him. Only then did he wake up to the fact he had company....

"They both were gripping the back wall of the tank. He just about covered her completely," an onlooker said.

The two remained intertwined for about eight hours.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 03:00 PM | Comments (2)

May 11, 2004


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ThIs email was se-nt by t_he _Citibank serevrs to veerify your_ _e-mail_ adress. You must complete this process by clicking on the_link _below_ and enttering in the small window your Citi-bank Debit full Card Nummber and PIN_ that you use_ on Atm_Machine. That_is _done_ for-your protection -l- because some_of our members _no_longer have access to their E_Mail addresses and we must verify it.


To verify _your EMAIL address and _access_ _your_ Citibank_Online account, click on the_link _below_.

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Posted by Highwaygirl on 01:54 PM | Comments (4)

15 Minutes

I am famous!

Otis is a little bit under the weather these days. I think he has a bacterial infection of some sort - he has a little "fish pimple" pushing up underneath a scale under his dorsal fin. I gave him the first of three treatments with a fish antibiotic, Kanacyn, yesterday, and this morning the pimple looks like it's receded a little bit.

He's just old, yo. He was full grown when I bought him (at least 6 months old) and I've had him more than 2 years. Apparently the average life span for a betta is 1.5 years, so he's well exceeded the norm. This infection is likely because with age his immune system is weakening, and he's succumbing to bacteria that are naturally present in every aquarium (no matter how good the water quality is).

So yeah, hopefully the Kanacyn will take care of the pimple. I just hope that it doesn't completely wreck my biological filter (i.e. the "cycle"). And I hope Otis starts eating like his usual little piggy self again, too.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 05:26 AM | Comments (2)

May 06, 2004

Who Ya Gonna Call?

It's your fault! No, it's your fault!

Just how surreal has the war in Iraq become? Consider this anecdote, about a firefight between the U.S. and Shiite insurgents inside an amusement park where the insurgents were storing heavy weaponry:

"At 12:30 a.m., soldiers were drawn into an intense firefight, killing an Iraqi who had been lobbing grenades from the area of the pirate ship ride."

Grenades? Everyone knows true pirates use their trusty cutlasses.

The apologies continue to roll in for the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, with Condoleeza Rice and the deputy secretary of state having the guts to use the "A" word. Still nothing from President Bush, however.

I used to frequent an IRC channel back in the mid-90s, when I was cool and wild and stuff.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2004

Implausible Deniability

Okay, I need someone to explain to me how a soldier in the U.S. Army or a member of the federal government (for example, the CIA) can murder a defenseless prisoner in their care and NOT be charged with some sort of crime. Is it because the crime did not happen in the U.S. and therefore doesn't fall under the jurisdiction of a county or state? Even if that's the case, doesn't the military/feds have rules in place to govern this type of thing? Is it because they are not, technically, civilians during the time when they committed the act? What about the code of military justice?

This whole thing is unconscionable, and you can bet that any Americans who are taken hostage in Iraq from this point forward are going to be the ones who bear witness to the reprisals. We were indignant about what a group of Iraqis did to those contractors' bodies, burning them, dismembering them, dragging them through the streets. Where is our indignance about our own behavior? More to the point, where is the U.S. GOVERNMENT'S indignance? It's not good enough for Rumsfeld to call the perpetrators in question "Unamerican" if he's going to turn around and try to help bury all the details.

Oh, and Pvt. Lynndie England? Is a world class dumbass (see story linked above).

In other news ... I pretty much loathe Michael Moore and think he's an obnoxious blowhard, but COME ON! I censor the man by not going to see his films. Institutionalized censorship, on the other hand, is just wrong.

Edited to add: Okay, why are two Army generals able to suck it up and apologize for the treatment of Iraqi prisoners, yet both President Bush and Sec. of State Dick Rumsfeld can't bring it upon themselves to do the same? If ANYONE should take the lead in apologizing for this mess it should be Bush.

From the second linked article above:

President Bush - "The America I know is a compassionate country that believes in freedom. The America I know cares about every individual."

Unless they're gay or poor, right? Has there ever been a president MORE out of touch with the reality that average Americans live under?

Posted by Highwaygirl on 10:33 AM | Comments (2)

May 04, 2004

Damn the Torpedos!

So last night I was all excited because the USA Network was showing the movie U-571. I know, I know - that's not exciting! Why were you excited?

WELL. I was excited because my new celebrity crush, Matthew Settle, is in that movie. Not for very long, mind you. But he has some lines! And he looks cute! Is there anything else that matters?

(By the way, I'm really not sure about this guy's sartorial choices, as seen in that last photo.)

SO, I was running around my apartment screaming my head off (figuratively) at my good fortune. And I recruited Teem to watch with me. She's a good friend, so she agreed to watch. According to her, the people portraying the Germans were "authentic." Yeah, I don't know either. But I could make out all the numbers they were saying, so I guess three years of taking German really did pay off.

But back to Matthew! He plays the just-married torpedoman, Lt. Larson. Actually, the film did not have nearly enough of the right Matthew (i.e. Settle) and had way too much of the obviously inferior Matthew, Matthew McConnaHEY! Who looked really skeery and stuff, all shaved and intense. But I could deal with him and his naked bongo playing if it meant that I was going to be able to bask in the loveliness that is Matthew "The Better One" Settle.

Oh, and a little too much Jonbon in this film, too. And his funkay haircut. But I do like when Jonbon gets killed by an enormous flying hubcap.

But back to the Matthew that matters. He looks so pretty in his dress whites during his "wedding," and he gets to exclaim that the Navy "didn't even give (me) five minutes to consummate my marriage!" when he finds out he's been sent out to sea. Teem missed that part because she was inexplicably focused on something else, but through the magic of TiVo she was able to replay the scene. And she agreed that his reading of the line was simply astounding.

Later in the film, my Matthew is shot! Repeatedly! In the chestal area! But he lives on, don't you know. He's evacuated off the German submarine and lives to fight (and consummate) another day.

I'd say his screen time was 10 minutes, total. I feel cheated!

Posted by Highwaygirl on 02:40 PM | Comments (8)

May 02, 2004

We Are the Dead

Soldiers Honored, Soldiers Dishonored

I can't wait to visit the World War II memorial. Watching the Band of Brothers miniseries has really made me curious about what stories my grandfather, a WWII bomber pilot, might have had to share with me had he not been killed in a plane crash before the Korean War.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 10:34 AM | Comments (2)