American Kestrel

The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is the smallest raptor in North America.

I am still waiting for my amateur radio operator’s license to be issued. My name is similar to one on an “alert list” so the automatic system pulled my application and put it in queue for review by a real person. The estimated time is weeks. To say that I am a little bummed by this outcome would be an understatement.

But I have plenty to do. I am working on my station and there is a lot to do to set up an HF station. I have equipment, but antennas are an issue. I built a simple 40m dipole and erected it in my backyard. The matching transformer arrived last week (I will learn to build them as well), so I need to attach it to the mast and then tune the antenna to resonate at the middle of the 40m band.

In the meantime, I just put up a random wire antenna, stapled to the top of the fence along my backyard. I ran the feed line into my workroom and attached it to my transceiver last night. Reception is better than with the previous instance and I can hear traffic on the 80m and 40m bands. The bands are not open much right now because we are at sunspot minimum and so there is not much energy to drive the ionosphere, which is where much of the long-distance propagation occurs.

Morse code and the digital modes are going to be the mechanic for making contacts until the Sun becomes more active. I decided to make a real effort to learn Morse code while I wait for my license. I also will work on my portable station so I can operate away from town and all the noise here. I have plenty of access to quiet areas with elevation so low-power operation is viable. Besides that, I will get away from the house, be outside, and can camp a little. Both The Girl and I will like that.

There is plenty of other work to do, too. I have a bunch of images to review and process. The little raptor above was one of my recent captures. He/she flew up near me and posed prettily while I ran the camera. The Carson River floodplain was where I saw my first Kestrel and I see them often. They are furtive, though, and do not often provide me much time to capture an image.

I am enjoying the better weather lately. The Girl and I are walking the Carson River daily and the trees are about to leaf out. I hear blackbirds calling, woodpeckers drumming, and the geese are still honking. The river is up a little as the snow begins to melt and it looks like there will be abundant water this year. I heard one of the ARES members talking about releases from Lake Lahontan in anticipation of snowmelt and they are spilling excess water into the desert down near Fallon.

The Girl just wandered in. She is looking for breakfast and an outing. I need to retrieve the Fuji’s batteries from the charger and prepare it for another wander. I want a bite, too, but do not feel like cooking this morning. Subway has some decent breakfast sandwiches, so I think I will wander over there and pick up something. Then we can drive out to river, enjoy some sunshine, and spend some time outdoors. Perhaps Mother Nature will bring me a treat.

Resurfacing

This beauty watched The Girl and I as we approached. I spent a few minutes making some captures and talking to the raptor. It was a magical experience and something I live for.
I realize it has been a long time since I wrote anything here. A lot of water passed under the bridge.

Several of my projects all needed work done. Some of it was on deadline and some of it just needed to be done so that other parts of the project could proceed. So I found myself working a lot and having little energy left over for some of the other things that are important to me. One of those things is this space, where I enjoy parking some words and some of the images that I make as I wander through this life.

A few weeks ago a friend and I were sharing our weekly breakfast. We meet at the Red Hut Diner, spend some time bullshitting and some time talking about more serious things, and just enjoying fellowship. We are quite different and that is OK. I think that having people in my life who think differently than I do is not just intellectually stimulating, but it helps me steer away from confirmation bias.

While we were breaking bread and chatting, he told me he was preparing to sit the Amateur Radio Operator Technician Class license examination. I was reminded of my own intention to be licensed. I went so far as to purchase a manual a few years ago. But life got in the way and I let the intention go unattended.

“I’ll sit it with you,” I said. He looked at me, a little startled.

So, after seeing that my manual was out of date, I ordered a fresh copy (they change the question pool every few years and update the manual). I started working through the manual and then decided that I could probably pass the General Class exam as well. So I ordered that manual.

Neither of these manuals are very technical. There is a little in there, but nothing too challenging for an engineer. I emailed the examination coordinator and he gave me the details. He mentioned that one can take all three examinations, although he didn’t recommend that one take all three.

In the middle of this, I caught the flu. I was really ill for several days. It was the fever that was the worst. I continued my studies as I could, but I was really out of it for several days. A good friend brought me some supplies and I survived.

Then the project work was behind, so I was pushing to get work out again as I regained my strength.

Along the way I decided that I would try for the Extra Class license while I was at it. I learn best by immersion. So I ordered the final manual and began my studies while I took practice tests for the other two examinations.

We had a few nice days in this period of time. The sun came out and dried up some of the mud. The Girl and I walked some of our favorite spaces down by Carson River. The red-shouldered hawk in the frame came from one of those walks.

The weather turned cold and snowy again. Today it is spitting snow. The Girl and I will get out in a bit and get a little more walk in. Then I think we will go to the grocery store and retrovision the house. I need some food in the house.

In fact, I just heard her jump off the bed and shake… the ears flapping is always the give-away. My washer load is just about finished, so I can put my jacket into the dryer and start the other load. I should be finished with my laundry tonight as well.

Clouds Over Mt. Scott

 

On one of our hikes along the Riverview Park/Empire Ranch Trail, I paused to make a capture of Mt. Scott, to the north from Carson City. The camera I had with me was my iPhone XS Max and the scene begged for a black and white capture, so I used an application called MPro, which produces only black and white images.

It does a very good job with black and white and is my preferred camera application for monochrome captures. It offers a variety of filters that imitate the optical filters we used in the film days, and the yellow, orange, and red filters offer increased darkening of the sky. The application also stores the capture in a TIF file, which is lossless and about as close to a RAW capture as one can get.

The image has been laying about in my album for a week or two. A couple of mornings ago I was awake much too early and decided to play with some images. I am experimenting with another application called Pixaloop that is produced by the Enlight folks. It enables addition of motion to a still image to create something I have seen called a kinoptic or cinemagraphic image.

I do not know what made me think to make the clouds converge near the centerline of the image. But it seemed the right approach for this one.

Squirrel — And Six Years

The best little dog ever…

It does not appear that I wrote about the scene above. I looked in my archive, because I thought I wrote about the sad story of Squirrel, but found nothing. Perhaps that is because I talked to Older Son about what happened quite a lot and I am confusing conversation with writing. Therefore, if the story is familiar to you please feel free to pass this story.

Late last year, The Girl and I were walking our circuit(s) around the old state orphanage one evening. I noticed a marker, a pot with some dianthus in it, and a paper fluttering in the evening breeze. I am the curious sort (not nosey, I promise), so I stopped to read.

What I read caused my heart to sink. It was the heart-wrenching story of another park visitor whose little dog was attacked and killed by a pair of larger dogs at this spot. Two “pet bulls” charged Squirrel, grabbed him, and tore him between them before they were called off by their handlers. “They must have thought he was a toy,” was what they were reported to say before they hurried away.

So, this man stayed with his little dog as the life left him, shocked and dismayed. I do not know this man, although we interacted a few times over the last couple of years. He is one of the afternoon visitors to the little park, where several others bring their dogs each day. He had three dogs, as I recall, and they would follow and play as he walked the circuit as part of their daily routine.

Later he returned with the marker to celebrate his little dog and remember what happened at that spot. I came across the marker only a few days after Squirrel died. Since that time, I have been quite watchful for the two white “pet bulls” and their “heavy” handlers. I have not seen them.

I spoke to one of the DPS troopers (Capitol Police Unit) who patrol the area every day. He was aware of what happened and asked if I had seen the dogs and their handlers. So, the authorities are aware of a couple of aggressive dogs who attacked and killed another.

I reflect on this almost every time I walk past the memorial. Since November, it has been enhanced and made relatively permanent. The groundskeepers seem to leave it alone. Passersby added some stones and other things to the site. I will probably bring a rock from somewhere and leave it as a token of respect for this man’s loss. I can imagine his grief at the violent loss of his beloved little dog. It saddens me to think of it.

And I know grief. One cannot live six decades and not experience a variety of loss. My grandparents are all gone. My parents are gone. My sisters are gone. I am the last of my generation’s nuclear family. I have a brother-in-law and an uncle still alive, and of course, my children and grandchildren.

But the most difficult loss was Wife. She died six-years ago, today. That loss, and the grieving that followed, was crushing. Losing my parents and my sisters was hard, but those losses paled in comparison to the loss of Wife. I recall the sound that emanated from me the moment she died. My sons heard it. I still have difficulty believing that I made that sound.

Like the moment of Wife’s passing, that sound did not last long. It marked my passage from caregiver to widow. And then… the grief-work began.

I learned to enter into my grief, not to let it possess me, but to fully experience it, to work it because that is the only way to get through it. Grief cannot be put away or buried. It must be lived in order to be healed. I did that work and it was not easy. It was a way to honor Wife’s life and the relationship that we shared for all those years.

It took me nearly two years to work through my grief. The first year was absolute hell. The second had moments of clarity and moments of darkness. But, near the end of the second year, life began to be interesting again.

The holidays remain difficult because of Wife’s love of them. They always bring memories of her joy in that season. I know I am not alone in that perception of a mix of joy for the season and sadness at my loss. I am alright with that and accept it as part of the gift that came with spending most of my life with her. Then, today is difficult as well, marking the anniversary of her death. But it does not hurt like it did five- and six-years ago.

I will grieve a little today as I remember Wife’s life and our life together. It is a good thing to do, so long as I do not let that affect me negatively. But, I am healed of my grief. I did that work and it was a good work. It celebrated and honored Wife and our communal life as a family. I think these are honorable actions.

And, I am reminded of another old man who lost his little dog, whom he loved. Maybe those dogs are his only family. Maybe he spends all of his time with those dogs and has little human contact. It would not be the first time such a thing occurred. In any event, I understand and relate. I nod at the memorial in salute every time I pass it, thinking about my own relationship with The Girl and often of Wife’s life and that relationship.

And today I celebrate and remember Wife, who died six-years ago today. I will grieve a little, but only a little. Wife would chastise me for dwelling on the negative. She would be right.

Closing Out 2018

One of the tools I added to my kit this year is this beautiful Council Tool axe. It will serve me well and will be the last axe of this size that I need in my kit.

It is nearly the end of 2018. In fact, tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. The revelers will be out partying. Many of them only need an excuse to get out and party.

I will be home with The Girl. We are unlikely to party, although I might raise a glass towards central Missouri and toast Wife, who is missed. (In fact, any time I get a glass from the stock, I raise it to Wife, remembering her life, remembering that she was and is loved, remembering that she is missed, and celebrating her life.)

The Girl is improving. She still seems off, and her right side does not seem as strong or as coordinated as her left. Her right eye seems a little askew to me as well. That is, when she looks at me, in addition to the head tilt to the left her right eye seems to be looking a little to her right of me. I have also noticed that she can no longer catch tossed treats and has problems locating them on the floor, until she uses her doggie-sense to search them out.

But we are walking our normal routes again. We walked more than 3.5 miles this morning and will have walked another half-mile circuit by the time this posts. We also had a nice play this afternoon and a nap. We both like playtime and nap time and it makes life really, really good. I am so blessed to have this beautiful creature be part of my life and am deeply grateful for her companionship and unconditional love.

I continue to encourage her to do things. She is reluctant to jump to the bed now, but learned that she can jump up on the workout bench at the foot of the bed, then jump to the top. We play tug and chase and she is again teasing me with a toy. Her coordination seems to be improving when we play. I am hopeful that there is more recovery to come. At least I am encouraged and thankful that her attitude has not changed and that she is engaged and active.

Among a few other tools, I bought a very nice Council Tool Wood-Craft Pack Axe for my kit. I have an old red-handle Ace Hardware hand axe that I bought about 40-years ago. But it needs a new handle and is nowhere near the quality of this Council Tool axe. This one will go to my kids and maybe their kids after I am gone.

It will be part of my bushcraft kit and will go into the rig when I am out as part of my get-home or emergency kit. I have a small pack shovel that stays in the rig along with some emergency supplies as well.

I put a coat of boiled linseed oil on the handle this afternoon. It will be absorbed by tomorrow and I will add another coat to the handle then. After that I will decide if another coat is needed or not. The handle should be in excellent condition for this dry climate after that.

I also treated the sheath and handle guard with neatsfoot oil this afternoon. The guard seemed a little dry to me. I suspect both of those pieces will need another coat of neatsfoot oil tomorrow.

As an interesting aside, the neatsfoot oil had solidified in the garage with the cold weather. I was a little surprised by that. But a short soak in a sink full of hot water liquified it and a good shake mixed everything back up.

It is time to put away the Christmas music for another year. I added a few new recordings to my collection and culled a few that no longer please me.

But now I need a quick shower and then to get The Girl out for our evening outing. She will then want to be fed (of course) and will then starting pestering for doggie crack until I give in and get her a treat. She no longer wants to wait until sometime between supper and bedtime for her treat; she wants it NOW! Heh…

It’s Cold and Gray

I so enjoy the fall colors. The air is turning brisk in the morning and the sun is dropping in the sky as we head toward the winter solstice. I love the fall season.

Only a few short weeks ago, I was walking in shirtsleeves along the Carson River in the midst of the fall season. Not long after this image was captured, the weather turned blustery and cool, a sure sign that winter was coming. And, not to disappoint, the windy days were followed by a distinct cooling and we moved into a late dry, cold fall. The temperatures fell into the ‘teens and the leaves quickly shed their remaining leaves, falling into their winter clothes.

It was not long before the first rains came. We do not have a lot of rain here on the east side of the Sierra Nevada. But, we have some. Soon, the rains were mixed with and then replaced by snow.

I do not mind the snow. Neither does The Girl. She is heavily muscled and the cold does not bother her so long as we are moving. I can layer up and the cold does not bother me (so long as we are moving).

Therefore, in the cold we move. I still love to walk along the Carson River. On some days the raptors are particularly active (gotta have food to generate heat) and they are beautiful in the colder light. They soar and call and sometimes I see them cup their wings on the hunt. I will always be amazed at those sights.

The Girl pulls me along, always searching the sage for something to chase. She also plays in the snow and sometimes will go into a zoomie, running like crazy with her legs splayed out and spinning about me. The snow often makes her playful and we play.

And then I will see an image like this one in my collection. There is a certain longing for the warmer days and the beautiful colors that have now gone as cold as the air. But it is alright — I know the season will turn yet again and bring warmer days and colors back to the land. I feel a certain rhythm to the change and it is something that resonates with the internal changes I experience with the seasons. It is good. Life is good.

I remain thankful.

The Hunt

This photograph was posted to my “Instagram account, but is worth a revisit.

I see this heron many times when walking the Carson River. He is always a welcome sight, the beauty and majesty of this bird are significant. But catching a photograph of him is difficult.

Earlier this year my Fujinon 100-400mm lens arrived. This lens is a beast, literally and figuratively. It is one of the heaviest lenses I own. It is also one of the best lenses I own.

I carry it often when walking along the river. It has the ability to bring me photographs I cannot capture without it. It is not a general purpose lens, but one very well suited for wildlife photography. I love to capture wildlife with the camera. Results like this one make the expense and effort worthwhile.

Fall Colors

The cottonwoods are donning their fall colors. I love walking along the Carson River, particularly in the fall.

The Girl and I always enjoy our walks. But when the fall comes, the weather cools and our walks get even better. She does not burn out as quickly and loves all the fall scents.

I love the way the light changes as the sun falls in the sky. The quality of the light is less harsh, even during the midday hours. As the leaves change, the light is filtered not by the green of summer foliage, but by the warmer colors of the change. The yellows and reds warm up the light and the change excites my eyes. I almost always carry a camera, but I am really motivated in the fall.

Yesterday morning did not disappoint me. As we walked one of our favorite trails along the Carson River, the late-morning sunlight filtered through the gorgeous yellows of the changing cottonwoods. I was happy that I carried the Fuji X-H1 with the Fuji 18-135mm lens with me. That camera is a game-changer for me. The lens is one that has been in my kit from early in my Fuji experience. It is one of the better walk-around lenses that I have used. It certainly did not disappoint me Sunday morning. I came home with at least a handful of keepers.

I think this one is one of them. It reminds me that the time moves on, the seasons change — those outdoors as well as those inside us. The last few weeks challenged me. A project I am working on is a significant technical challenge. The struggle is reverse engineering a hydrologic system to determine how what happened came to be. The time pressure to get through the analysis is a secondary challenge and can add significantly to the pressure.

But, I think I have the system mostly figured out. A change in the schedule is taking some of the pressure off. I was blessed this weekend to have a few hours to just breathe. That breath was a most welcome relief and a reminder that the seasons change. Projects come and go, like the seasons. But there is more to life than just the work and the time outdoors this weekend was another reminder of that. I am blessed to live where I do and I am thankful.

The Great Egret

This beautiful bird, the Great Egret (Ardea alba), is one of the birds I see regularly on my walks along the Carson River. I was able to capture this wonderful photograph one day.

Early this year, while Older Son was visiting and helping me around the house, we took The Girl out for a long walk along the Carson River. We staged from Riverview Park, which is at the end of Fifth Street on the east side of Carson City. The weather was a beautiful winter day. There was plenty of water in the river, although nowhere near flood stage. That meant all the wetlands were, well, wet. The wetland wildlife were out and active on that beautiful winter day.

We came across this beautiful Great Egret, (Ardea alba) working the ponds in one of the wetland areas. I had only my Olympus OM-D M10 and a Wollensak cine lens with me. The lens was long enough, but I couldn’t get the capture I wanted. I was left with, well, only feathers.

The Girl waited patiently while Older Son and I made our captures. When she detected that we were done, she started toward the water, accelerating as she got closer. The egret watched her from his watery perch. (I knew she wouldn’t get into the water.) When she got close to the water’s edge, she bounced and uttered a single “Woof!” The Egret calmly flew off a few yards, settled back down, ruffled his feathers, and continued fishing.

Since that time The Girl and I have seen this bird, or another like it, several times on the river, fishing. If I’m in a blind, then the bird goes on without noticing me. They have very sharp eyes, however, and will spot me (or The Girl).

A couple of weeks ago I had the Fuji X-H1 and the Fuji 100-400mm super telephoto zoom with me. The Egret was perched on Mexican Dam. The Great Blue Heron flew away as I approached the dam. The Egret watched me for a bit, permitted me to make a few captures, and then flew a few yards away to a sandbar. There it continued watching me. I made a few more captures but didn’t really like any of them.

I like birds quite a lot. They fascinate me. I like being along the river, too. The new equipment provides me some capability I did not have. It has opened some of the world for me to capture, like this Egret and the Heron.

No Perfect Solution

Although there are signs this hole was recently occupied, nobody was home.

I walk a lot. One of my preferred hikes is along the Carson River at the Silver Saddle Ranch from the River Park staging area up to Mexican Dam and return. There are a number of paths on Silver Saddle Ranch, but during the summer months, my preferred path is along the river. There The Girl has access to water for cooling off and drink. I like the green of the willows and cottonwoods and the sound of the birds.

Lately, I have been listening to music while walking. I gave up on my Bose QuietComfort 20s because I just cannot deal with wires. Because I carry a camera (actually two) and a bag, I am constantly fouling the wires of my headset. Then I jerk the plugs from my ears and get generally pissed off with the whole thing and lose the moment.

So I bought a set of the Bose QuietComfort 30s, which are wireless. They have a necklace that lies over the shoulders and provides the housing for the electronics and battery. They have the Bose sound, which I’m OK with. The noise cancellation is adjustable and effective. I can turn it off so I can hear what is going on around me. (I still like to hear the outdoors even if I am listening to music.) They do not hang up as badly as the wired units, although there remains some interference with the camera and bag straps.

They are not a perfect solution. I have to carry my iPhone in a case on my belt or in the camera bag. I cannot slip my iPhone into my back pocket. I have the occasional skip or drop. But, they are better than the wired units. They are a sufficient improvement that I think I’ll keep them and sell the 20s.

I think this is the general case: There are solutions to my problem (wanting decent quality sound, no wires) but there is not a perfect solution. It leads me to think about the pursuit of perfection, which is something that has been bouncing around inside my head for a bit now. There is an essay there that I hope to write sometime.

The image is one of my captures from the Carson River walks that I do. I was struck by the texture and contrast of the materials and the fact that no one was home. This might have been a nesting place earlier this year, but now it is empty. I am seeing other signs that fall is coming and soon winter. The leaves will be changing in a couple of weeks, I think. The weather is already changing.

The cycle repeats…