Home, Sweet Home

So Pablo inquired “anything new to say?”

Well, I always have something new to say, it’s just that for the past couple of weeks I haven’t had a way to say it.   I just returned from a visit to California, and while away from home, I was “internet challenged”, so to speak.  No mobile computer, no e-mail, no blogs, no nothing!  How ironic – here I was traveling into an area where there is probably as much combined computing power as any other location in the world – and I might just as well have been in the dark ages.  So how did it come to all this?

My first “portable” computer was a Compaq III Portable, a pricey, heavy, luggable computer with a gas-plasma 800X600 amber screen that was considered superb in its’ time.  It allowed my to have access to my software development tools while on site at a clients location.  Being able to make minor programming tweaks and re-compiling .exe’s on site was a tremendous advantage for consultants at that time, and that computer served me well through the duration of my consulting endeavors.

Fast forward to 1996, when Retta and I decided to purchase a Roughwater trawler named Lorelei (photos here) and make her our home.  We were unusual among boat owners, we soon discovered.  We actually used our vessel for what it was intended for – we cruised it among the various islands of Channel Islands National Park religiously. In fact, if the nights we spent at anchor at the Channel Islands were strung together, it would be a span of nearly two years.  We wanted dial-up internet access on board the vessel while at the marina, and I also wanted to run navigational charting software that I could tie into our GPS and radar systems for use while cruising.  We needed a small footprint, so we chose a Toshiba Satellite Pro system that served our needs very well.

When we eventually sold our vessel and began to lead a more conventional lifestyle (if you call retiring to a remote, sparsely populated rural area in the Ozarks conventional), the Toshiba laptop was pretty much relegated to the closet.  While it served us well on board Lorelei, it is, never the less, an old computer running Windows 98SE (barely), running at 133 Mhz and sporting a whopping 1GB hard disk drive.  It would hardly qualify me as a technical road-warrior, so I guess until I can justify the expense of a new laptop, I will probably be banished to the dark ages whenever I hit the road.

Now here is some fun stuff.  If you have not yet been steered over to Yahoo for their collection of Widgets, and you are running at least Windows XP or Windows 2000, you will absolutely love this massive collection of very cool (and free) gadgets called Yahoo! Widgets.  Be careful, as you can burn up a lot of time looking through all of the neat gadgets that are available. 

The Widgets are intuitive and easy to use, as I discovered recently.  I installed a To-Do List widget just before leaving for California.  When I left, I had a few things on the list for my attention when I returned.  By the time I had gotten home, Retta had figured how to use the widget, and the screen was just full of things for me to do!  So I had better be going …uh…now…

P.S. to Cindy – please jump in with comments any time.  Remember, no comments = no fun.

The New Chicks Have Arrived

You may recall from a previous post (available here) that we lost all but one of our chickens to predation.  Unfortunately, this is an unavoidable consequence of allowing the chickens free run of the grounds during the day.  It is unacceptable for us to have only one chicken (she gets lonely), so we ordered a batch of chicks from the Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon, Missouri.

We can hear and smell you in there!

Bright and early Wednesday morning we received a call from our local postmaster to come to the post office and pick up the chicks.  It seems the peeping of the chicks annoys them down at the post office, so they like us to pick up the chicks right away.

Cute little critters, aren't they?

Since the sole surviving hen is a buff-lace Polish chicken, we ordered a dozen more of this breed to keep her company (and to have a color-coordinated flock).  Retta also wanted to try her hand at raising a different breed this time around, so she also ordered a dozen German Spitzhauben chicks as well.  The Spitzhauben chick pictured below is quite attractive, wouldn’t you say?  We just hope that they remain as cute after they mature.

German Spitzhauben chick 

In Remembrance of “Squawk”

Sometimes Retta will toss stale bread and other tidbits out on the lawn for the crows to enjoy.  There is one crow who will often come near the kitchen window and pester Retta with it’s cawing until she tosses something out for it.  This got me to thinking about a crow I met some decades ago, in the badlands of Death Valley

Badlands of Death Valley

Death Valley was one of my frequent haunts decades ago, and I would try to visit the area twice per year.  One of my favorite hikes extends from the valley floor, up through the steep, narrow walled Golden Canyon, and on to Zabriskie Point (at the very upper right in the photo above).  At the very left top of the photo is a landmark called Manley’s Beacon.  Here is a closer view of Manley’s Beacon:

Manley's Beacon, Death Valley

The area around Manley’s Beacon is a rugged, but very beautiful area, so I made it a habit to pack a lunch and spend a few hours poking around the area for photo ops, or looking for fossils, or just enjoying the scenery.

Picnic lunch spot

One day, as I was eating my lunch, I heard the distinctive “caw, caw, caw” of a crow echoing throughout the area.  The cawing continued for quite a while, and seemed to originate from a draw some distance away.  Suddenly, on a whim, and knowing that I was out of earshot of any other people, I began my best imitation of a crow.  Soon, the crow began to mimic my cawing patterns.  I kept this up, and much to my surprise, the crow flew over to where I was sitting.

First meeting with Squawk

Well, I certainly didn’t want to get a reputation for being inhospitable, and since I was eating lunch, I offered the crow a morsel or two (okay, so I shared half my lunch with him, so what?).  The crow spent a good deal of time with me on that rocky outcropping, but refused to come any closer than a few yards away.  He looked nervous about being even that close to me, but I suppose his fondness for people food trumped his fear.

She exhibited wariness at first

On my next trip to Death Valley, several months later, I hiked up to the same area and soon settled in to eat my lunch.  I began a chant of “caw, caw, caw”, and before long, my chants were being echoed by some crow in the distance.  This time, as the crow approached the outcrop, he showed no sign of hesitation, and proceeded to land almost on my boot.  We had lunch together, and then he left.  I believe it was on this second encounter with him, that I began to call him “Squawk”.  It just seemed to fit.

The crow gets more brave with time

This routine went on for a few years.  Whenever I would visit Death Valley, it now became a necessity to hike up to Manley’s Beacon, just to see if Squawk would show up for lunch!  It almost became an obsession.  About five years after my first encounter with Squawk, I again returned to the area, and being a creature of habit, again went to visit my “friend” the crow.

A later visit to the badlands

Before too long, as had become the routine, Squawk responded to my calls, and joined me for lunch and a little socializing.

Squawk, is that you?

But this time, Squawk had a surprise for me.  Squawk was not a he, but a she.  At least, that is what I now presume.  For Squawk had brought along a guest for lunch, and he certainly appeared to be more the virile sort than Squawk.

Squawk's mate?

As it turned out, due to life’s twists and turns, that was the last time I ever had the opportunity to visit with Squawk and her mate.  I do wonder, from time to time, what ever became of them.