Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Moments ago, I received the following message in my e-mail inbox--

I know you want it, I know you want it from me.  I have created a fictional person on [Facebook] named Scrable Whoritic.  Her email is ********@yahoo.com and her password is wordwhore.  I have started a game with her, but sadly she does not exist, so it may be her turn forever! So sad, isn't it Jen?!?
-[Scrabble Pimp/Trick]

Oh, suuuure.  Clearly, I am the one who wants it.  After all, I did go through all of the trouble of setting up a dummy FB account and a Scrabble game and all.  I JUST CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IT.


No, really.  I am gonna go play my turn just as soon as I publish this blog post.  He is right.  I do want it and I do want it from him.  Scrabble is a naughty, naughty game, my droogs...   

Thursday, June 3, 2010

For the Birds!

The monetary value of a volunteer's time is now estimated at $20.85/hour,* as per The Independent Sector. Accordingly, I'm donating over $250 (12 hours) to Wild Bird Rehab (WBR) over the coming weekend.  Normally, during the breeding season I work six hours/week at WBR, but we are going to be short-staffed on Saturdays for the next month and a half, hence my additional time commitment.** 

Speaking of WBR, one of our thoughtful volunteers has begun posting videos of the youngins on his YouTube channel, which will give me the opportunity to introduce you to some of them, as follows--

Hatchling Sparrows

My guess is that this video was taken on Monday the 24th.  When I attended these guys on the 28th (the following Friday) they had already sprouted feathers!  All five of them were alert, feisty, and hopping around like miniature adults. I anticipate that by the time I see them again tomorrow, they'll probably be smoking cigars and chasing after tail (see how I punned there?).  No more lousy incubators for them!

What I particularly fancied about the above video is that it demonstrates how easily one of the babies can sleep while nestmates are all going mad for food.  I just about lost it with glee when the volunteer in this video finally tapped the unresponsive, sleepy hatchling out of exasperation and, without missing a beat, he promptly lifted his diminutive head out of a sound stupor and gamely gaped for food.  Such a charming little moppet-headed fellow.

Notice, too, how the "itty bitties" in this video look like something out of a Sesame Street skit with their over-sized, split-melon shaped heads and lemon-yellow lined, hot pink mouths.  This is particularly true of the European Starlings.  Those birds are freaking evolutionary power-houses.  Not only can you inconceivably visually overlook their gaping mouths, but they also produce deafening tweets comparable in decibel to a car alarm.  At the beginning of May we were admitting new nests of twelve or more of these baby starlings each day, so you can only imagine the cacophony in our nursery!  

Fledgling Bluebird

This little dude is no longer in the alcove (where we keep our youngest birds).  You can easily discern by his noble temperament, that he is growing up.  Although, to be sure, Bluebirds (BB) are inherently more dignified than a lot of the other native birds we rescue.  You do not hear the fledgling BB begging for food very often, although they will certainly accept it, when offered--provided that the meal is of a variety that they prefer.  Notice, at the start of this video, he immediately gaped for blood worms (the bright red food) that were offered to him, but when the volunteer dangled a beige-colored meal worm (MW), he stubbornly refused to open his beak.  Older BB love, love LOVE crickets.  It is not unusual to see a little post-it on the front of their cages saying, "Please feed me lots of crickets!"  We'll keep the MW in their cages for when they start to self-feed (since the MW are alive, they keep better than frozen crickets), but when offered a crickety snack they positively glow with appreciation.

Funny story about BB, last season I had made friends with one (which really isn't a good plan - since they are wild birds and shouldn't at all be domesticated).  Whenever I would walk into the nursery, he would joyfully sing his little heart out to me and I would do my best to whistle his call back at him.  It got to the point where we would spend the entire evening warmly chirping at each other, as I made my rounds to the other cages.  My fellow volunteers would good-naturedly chide me about it, "You stop singing at that BB!  He is going to think he has a friend in here!"  To which I would hotly reply, "But he DOES have a friend here!"  Unlike a lot of our other birds, it is rare to have multiple BB come in together, so they tend to be in private cages - which I think is unfairly lonely for them.

If you are curious to learn more about our birds, you can find them at this YouTube channel.  I'll be sure to keep posting blogs about them, as breeding season continues, and should anyone be interested in donating time (or money), you can get in contact with us through WBR's website.  Many thanks, in advance, to anyone agreeable to giving to our lovely birds!

Om shanti.

*Which is more than I get paid at my day job!
**Peripherally, Julia Rose took her algebra final yesterday, so I have a bit more free time on my hands until her fall semester begins.  We've worked so diligently this past school year on her algebra lessons that I feel as though I'm on summer vacation, too.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Solar, Stand, Solstice

I've been running a social experiment on myself with relation to my personal tolerance threshold regarding physical discomfort.  I'm not precisely certain from where this urge was born.  Perhaps it was an effort to assuage my overly-developed liberal guilt regarding creature comforts or a need to prove my own toughness to myself or even to get a sense of my struggle concerning pride and greed over practicality and health.  Regardless, as the notoriously steamy and sticky St. Louis summer wears on, I am sure to learn more about my core workings -- one way or the other.

To explain, when I was searching for my latest car, following the totaling of my former vehicle in January of this year, I determined that I wanted to purchase something uber reliable and as new as possible in consideration of my budget.  I settled on an '08 Hyundai with 30,000 miles on it and a 100,000 mile, ten-year warranty.  Everything on my car is manual -- from the steering to the transmission to the very windows.  Experience has taught me that I will ultimately pay more over the life of the car for the replacement of these often fragile and expensive items (ie the motors in automatic windows) than to simply choose hardy manual options.  In so doing, I also purchased a vehicle without air conditioning.  *cue the ominous, foreboding music*

Now before you go off half-cocked and dismiss me as a raving, potentially dangerous, lunatic to voluntarily invest in a vehicle such as this when I live in a river city known for its unlivable, humid summer (sometimes spring, sometimes fall) climate, I must reassure you that it wasn't that I didn't want air conditioning, it just wasn't available on the base model that I bought.  Still, that is hardly a reasonable explanation for most St. Louisans.  When I've told people with a wry grin that my very nice looking, newish car indeed does not have air conditioning, they've looked at me with disbelief bordering on pity.  "Jen seemed like such a level-headed girl; clearly, we've woefully misjudged her."  My own mother finds me suspect.  I could hardly get her into my car for a test drive in February, for goodness sake, when she learned of its undesirable state.  It was as though she didn't want to get too attached (to me or the car).  I believe, on some level, she felt she had failed me as a parent upon learning of this shameful debacle.

Admittedly, since I've owned this car, much deep, penetrating thought has been devoted to the routes that offer the optimum protection from the sun and the least opportunity for extended stops at traffic lights (as these are the times that a lack of breeze most pointedly leads to high internal body temperatures).  Today, I was meditating on this issue while stopped at a red signal on tar-black pavement with the unforgiving, afternoon sun beating down upon me.  The interior of my car could not convincingly be described as sweltering, nevertheless, I began to wonder if I should be concerned about safety issues such as heat stroke or even fainting spells, given the anticipated rising St. Louis temperatures in coming months. 

Interestingly, I've noticed already that my body has grown rather accustomed to the lack of an external coolant.  In fact, when my sister was riding with me recently, she felt her own arm and then mine and marveled to herself that my skin was still cool to the touch given the extreme heat in my car.  Since that time, I've begun to wonder if I might develop some sort of super-human ability to cool myself.  If maybe we're all just a little soft from too many creature comforts like air conditioning.  If this experience will somehow tap into a deeper evolutionary imperative by my driving around in my own personal sauna. 

In my current situation, I often think seriously of photons.  These elementary particles of energy that have traveled immense distances from the sun's core to my vulnerable, yet adaptable skin.  That visible light is the primary manifestation of solar fusion on earth.  That this is our main source of energy, what leads to photosynthesis, what drives the majority of flora and fauna on our planet, and yet what could very well be the untimely death of me.

When I am stopped in traffic on the aforementioned shadeless blacktop, I begin to slip into another mode of consciousness.  My heartbeat seems to slow, my breath becomes shallow, and my mind expands.  At these times, I'm reminded of my yoga classes from summers past when our instructor would purposefully conduct class in the heat.  She felt that it brought us closer to being.  That it moved us into deeper contact with the seasons that we would otherwise not fully experience, given our modern lifestyles.  That it taught us where our limits truly extended.  It is in this pioneering spirit that I continue with my mad social experiment.
Unwilling to be in shade of any
kind, wild pinks, flowers of everlasting summer
covet even the
sky of the sixth month 
-F. Teika
Om shanti.