Monday, October 28, 2013

The Inexperience Of Youth

I was going to title this "The guy's nuts! Grab'em!" ... but you know, I betcha this squirrel fellow was somewhat inexperienced, and thought to himself: "I can reach that feeder, np!"  ...where more experienced / wily / savvy older squirrels would be like "no way man, you might get your sack caught holding on by just your back legs to reach out to the feeder...  too risky... and then what, you'll be hanging there upside down, suspended by the boys, waiting for a hawk to come eat all of you except for your trapped sack? No thanks. You go for it, and show me how it's done, young feller."

Besides, "The guy's nuts! Grab'em" might be trade marked by my friend Matt in Reno...   =)

It is sort of ironic that in an effort to get to the nuts (seeds), he's caught by the nuts.

Other appropriate titles:
- What a total nut job!
- Slippery When Wet
- Instead of trying to do it all by yourself, next time, ask your wife to help
- Colbert would be impressed
- "I got 1/2  of the metal hanger free, and almost knocked it to the ground, when I suddenly felt this terrible pain in my taint..."
- "Hello, is this James Franco? I'm sorta stuck here James, what do I do now?"
- The next time someone says "you don't have the balls to do that", they're going to be right.
- "das kleine Eichhörnchen" ... who said 'squirrel' was neuter gender?!? (das, as opposed to der [m] or die [f])
- the boys back in the will never stop chiding me about storing my nuts for Winter now
- "It only happens when it rains"

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Goodwill of Guava

We are moved into our new home, further inland / farther from the beach, but closer to Dr Desert Flower's work, and no longer renting, but have bought a house instead (not sure how I'll handle the last 10 years of the mortgage if the place doesn't appreciate... as old as I am... but I digress).  We met the former owners who showed us how several things worked, why several 'unique' things were configured the way we bought them, and what the different fruit trees were in the yard.  They were the original owners from when the home was built (back before my son was born) and wanted to make sure they could answer any questions we had.  It was an amicable sale & meeting, with real estate agents in attendance for the final walk-through.

In the back corner of the yard is a Massive guava tree, at least 2 dozen years old.  Next to the garage is another smaller guava tree, an apple tree, and an apricot tree that is dormant this year (on a 3 year cycle, so the previous owner said).  The Massive guava tree is producing a bucket of fruit each day, some of it so ripe, it is falling off.  DDF and I do not have a fondness for guava, so she's been taking it to work and I've been Fedexing it to my corporate HQ office where my office administrator loves it.

When I went to the Fedex store today to ship package #2 of guava this week, I took a hummus-sized container or RIPE guava with me, waited in line to drop it off, and then offered the desk clerk the guava as she gave me the receipt.   She was delighted, and thanked me.  When I asked her if she had more Fedex padded envelopes (good for cushioning guava) she said "I get only one shipment in each month of them, and I have only a handful left".  "Can I get two, please?"  She looked at the guava, looked at the 4 remaining she had, and gave me 1/2 of them.

It seems that the goodwill of guava is quite popular, and it appeared to "make her day".  If you'd like some guava too, send me a Fedex account number, and a shipping address, and I'll send you some before the tree runs out.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Come Closer Together

It's been a while since I posted anything musical.  Thanks to my friend Ryan for the head's up on this NIN / Beatles mashup.
Very cool...
NOT TO BE LISTENED TO with children's ears within listening range... unless you want to try and tell them Trent is really saying "pet you over me" (as we often sang along with our son, in the car, when he was in a toddler seat  to "pet you like an animal!")

Now I am off to meet a chimney sweep...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I've Stopped Poisoning My Hummingbirds

As anyone who has visited JustJoeP in the past knows, I am a big fan of hummingbirds.  We had them in Phoenix.  We have even more species and individual humming birds who visit out yard here in Southern California.  I've doubled the number of feeders, and have enjoyed many a moment watching these tiny aerobatic creatures drinking just a few feet away from me.  Some would say I post so much stuff about hummingbirds sometimes that it is aggravating (but it's my blog, and I'll post what I want to).

So when I was in Target back in August, and I saw lots and lots of hummingbird food on clearance, I snatched it up.  I had been looking for a refillable hummingbird bottle to keep in the fridge, so that I would not have to waste a partial batch when refilling the feeders, and I was out of the dry crystals.  I bought a box of the concentrated bags, a large plastic container of premixed, and a moderately sized container of concentrate, thinking "this will last me about a month, at the rate we're burning through it currently".  Then I started to read about red dye toxicity, and some friends of DDF and I have a child who had been suffering from severe allergies until red dye was removed from their son's diet, and viola, he improved immensely.

Being the engineer husband of a human geneticist, I've learned to trust peer reviewed scientific literature.  NCBI is my portal into the world of scientific studies that are sometimes so complicated that it takes me 2 or 3 re-reads to understand what the paper is trying to say.  So before I dove into NCBI, I checked Cornell University's hummingbird page.  Cornell has a wealth of bird knowledge online, including graphic descriptions of many species, bird call wav files, and other ornithological reference material.  Cornell said (politically correctly) "Never add red food color to sugar water, and never use commercial mixes that have red dyes. Nectar in flowers is clear, and red food coloring may be harmful for hummingbirds."

hmmmm...  "Never".  Ok.  I began to suspect there's a reason to dig deeper.   So I began googling.

The hummingbird food manufacturers (like Perky Pet) have an all-out media blitz to say that there's 'no scientific proof that red dye hurts hummingbirds' ... and legally, they're correct.  No researcher has taken the time to do a longitudinal study on the 1-to-5 year lives of hummingbirds who consume a diet high in red dyed human-provided nectar, vs hummingbirds who drink only from flowers to get their carbohydrates.  First of all, it would be very difficult to do, and secondly, there's large corporate interests (Perky Pet / Woodstream, et al) who do not want bird enthusiasts simply making their own inexpensive sugar water (1/4 cup of sugar to one cup of water) when they could be buying it from a corporation.

An example of the "friendly reply" you get from Perky Pet's ROn O'Kane is here (link):
The editorial response to the PP reply is somewhat emotional...  logical and factual, yes, but also a little emotional, so I looked up more studies and factual websites, here (Wild Birds Unlimited), here (gentle world), here (National Geo), and here (snopes).  The more I looked, the more saddened I became... it was becoming increasingly obvious that I was not helping my little feathered friends by providing them with needlessly red dyed nectar, and I was probably poisoning them.  NCBI drove the final nails into red dye's coffin:

Yes, those were rats or flies, and yes, the they were fed enormous amounts (up to 10% of their total diet) of synthetic red dyes, and they suffered from all sorts of metabolic and reproductive issues... but the "natural red dyes" like carmine are also used by the little creatures who make it to ward off predators and make themselves distasteful to predators.  So why lace it into hummingbird nectar when the hummingbirds don't need it, are not attracted to the nectar (they're drinking from the red "blossom", not the bottle with red in it that the humans fill), and other creatures (rats and humans) tend to not do so well when they ingest large quantities of the stuff?

With a heavy heart, I threw out all my hummingbird food, and poured the liquid down the drain.   I will use the empty containers (well washed out) to store refrigerated batches for short amounts of time between refills of homemade nectar.  But I will no longer be buying corporately made hummingbird food.  Instead I will be making my own.  Per Cornell University:  1/4 of a cup of sugar to one cup of water. No red dye.

My apologies to all the Rufous, Anna's, Costa's, Black Chinned, Allen's, Broad Tailed, and Lucifer hummingbirds whose tiny families I may have adversely affected in the past.  In the new house where we are moving next week, there are a wide variety of flowering plants, and a 6-blossom hummingbird feeder in the yard, to which my six other four-blossom feeders will be added.  Only clear sugar water will be used, going forward.  No more amaranth or carmine, or their synthetic variants.