Monthly Archives: May 2008

Another house dream

So last night / this morning I had another dream about moving into another house. This time, however, the house was pretty normal — brand new, in fact. I was secretly pleased that it was brand new, although I profess to only like older homes. This time, also, we had not sold our current house, and were just checking the new house out by spending a couple of nights in the new house to see if we liked it.

We didn’t have any strong feelings about the house, one way or the other, so figured, why not… It was in Alexandria, Virginia — where we lived before Bethesda; and we discovered, after spending two nights at the house, it was built right next to the George Washington Masonic Memorial. I’d recently been thinking about that place because I thought the steps would be great practice for our trip to Ireland where we were planning on visiting Skellig Michael, an island that, if you walk up 600 steps, you’ll get to visit an ancient monastery.

We’d just decided on buying the house when I noticed that it was not only adjacent to the Memorial, but built in the middle of a cemetery. In fact, looking out one of the windows, I saw several very old tombstones. At first I thought that Clare would love it — being all into haunted places and all. Then I realized that I couldn’t live there because it was obvious that the builders had dug up graves to build the house.

Not sure where that dream came from, but it seems as if we’ve learned our lesson — don’t buy a house without touring the whole thing.


For the past several springs, we’ve had house sparrows nesting in our terracotta nest box that is attached to an outside wall of our screened porch. While I’m not a huge fan of house sparrows, any nesting activity is fun to follow. This year, however, the nest box was taken over by house wrens. For a while there was quite the turf war going on between a pair of house sparrows and the house wrens. The wrens built a nest, but the sparrows insisted on entering the next box with out permission, causing the wrens to make all sorts of noise and attack the intruder. It was apparent later that the female wren was on the nest, because when the sparrow tried to enter, it immediately flew away — and often the male wren would chase it even further away.

This morning I realized that the eggs must have hatched because both wrens were busy flying in and out of the next box carrying various tasty bugs. It was entertaining to watch them take turns bringing the food to their young. One would sit the back of a chair that is just below the nest box. It would burst into a trilling song, often with difficulty because its mouth was full of bug. Its mate would then fly away from the nest and the singing wren would fly to the nest. Soon the mate would return with a mouthful of insect and sing, to let its mate know it was there, with food. This went on during my two cups of morning coffee and I suspect it is still going on, because I keep hearing the trill of the wren. I wonder when they sleep!

Our neighbors have a bird house in a small tree, just over the fence from us. I remember watching them put it up and doubting they’d get any birds in it. I was mistaken. They have a pair of Carolina chickadees, and judging from the sounds coming from the bird house, the chickadees have a few offspring to feed. I noticed that one of the chickadees (perhaps both — they look alike to me) was flying up to my office window, where I have a feeder full of sunflower hearts. Just now I’ve seen a very disheveled chickadee come and go from the sunflower feeder several times. Definitely a new parent. I remember that look.

I’m pretty sure a pair of Carolina wrens are nesting somewhere nearby, because I’ve heard one singing its “Judy Judy Judy Judy Judy” song so loud it woke me up the other morning.

A pair of Northern cardinals built a nest in a thorn bush outside our kitchen window earlier this spring, but abandoned it soon after. I think they were concerned about all the people coming and going along the path between the house and the bush. Its a shame, because it was a pretty smart location otherwise.

Of course, there are the American robins whose nests I never see until well into the summer, but whose blue eggs I usually find either intact (probably dropped by a predator) or broken and empty (probably dropped by a one of the robins, protecting the nest from predators).

The other day my son and I saw a frantic tufted titmouse at the empty bird feeder outside the window on the other side of the office. I’d not filled it because it was making a mess on the ground below, but clearly one of the birds who’d been visiting that feeder expected it to be filled. He sat on the top of the feeder and squeaked, shaking his wings like a fledgling. He then jumped onto the screen and squeaked even louder. If I didn’t know that birds don’t see in front of them, I would have thought he was looking right at me, demanding dinner. So, I wonder if it was a parent who’d temporarily been driven insane by the rigors of parenthood. I remember that too!

Soon I expect to see fledglings of many of these birds flapping their wings and making their demands for food and attention clear to all within earshot.

Ahh, the joys of parenthood.

Stonehenge — Just a Graveyard? Say it ain’t so!

Front page. Washington Post: Researchers Say Stonehenge Was a Family Burial Ground

No ancient sacrifice?

No hooded figures chanting?

No witchcraft?

No magic?

No Duncan?

According to extensive research done by National Geographic, Stonehenge was just a cemetery for a ruling family. This news is a little shocking to me and I certainly do not agree with this statement by Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield:

“This is really exciting, because it shows that Stonehenge, from its beginning to its zenith, is being used as a place to physically put the remains of the dead.”

Sorry, Mike, but a cemetery is not exciting. Now, had National Geographic discovered that Merlin had actually lived and magicked the mammoth sarsen stones from Ireland to Salisbury Plain, that would have been exciting. Or discovering that the Druids had really used Stonehenge as a sacrificial temple would have been cool too.

But a cemetery? Pish.

Jeremy at WoodhengeI did find some of the information interesting though, like the linking of other ancient sites in the area such as Woodhenge and a place I’d not heard of, Durrington Walls.

So, thanks, National Geographic and Professor Parker Pearson, for taking the magic out of Stonehenge. Science — mutter mutter — who needs it anyway?

Jeremy at Stonehenge

A magical Stonehenge moment

Jack at Woodhenge

That guy from Spinal Tap agrees with me:

Finally! The mystery is solved

For the past several years I’ve been puzzled by a bird sound I hear in the spring. For a while I thought perhaps it was not a bird, but a delivery truck with squeaky wheels, but why was I only hearing it in the spring and early summer?

Yesterday I caught a glimpse of what I thought might be the bird, high in the tulip poplar that looms over my house. I knew it was a warbler, by its bill and the way it was moving. It was black and white with a bit of yellow.

I ran into the house and Googled warbler images and found the bird on a web site — Myrtle Warbler. Then I tried to locate a myrtle warbler on the Cornell Birding site, only to be redirected to yellow-rumped warbler. Hmm, seems like more names have been changed…

I checked out the sound of the yellow-rumped warbler and yes indeed, that was the sound I’d been hearing.

As much as I love my worn copy of Peterson’s, I have to love the internet for helping me quickly ID the bird.

Take that, Mrs Tidwell

Mrs Tidwell managed to humiliate me in several ways during my year in her 4th grade class at Highland School. She refused to write my name on my Thanksgiving Turkey name tag because she said I colored it in poorly. She wouldn’t let me sing Beautiful Dreamer for our class play (a minsteral show, complete with classmates in blackface of all things) because I couldn’t hit the high notes — Janice something or the other got to sing it instead. She let me play a violin duet of Shortnin’ Bread with my friend Rhonda instead. We weren’t very good.

Mrs Tidwell also liked to throw candy out to her class and watch us scramble on the floor. I refused to scramble. Perhaps that’s why she was unkind to me.

carmenShe loved opera and let her students know she would much rather be on stage singing Italian arias instead of teaching us our multiplication facts. The fact that she was shaped like an opera singer only made me wish she had chosen that career path even more, especially when she decided to have her class perform Carmen for the entire school.

We probably didn’t perform the entire opera, but I remember one scene. Of course I didn’t get to be a Carmen (she broke the class into 4 or 5 groups and we performed in different areas of our gymnasium, so there were 4 or 5 Carmens). Instead, I got to be a bullfighter, crawling on my knees and holding my hands out to my beloved Carmen along with several other crawling bullfighters. At least I wasn’t the bull.

Anyway, my daughter is filming that scene from Carmen right now with a few classmates from her Spanish class. I just peeked out the window. Guess who’s playing Carmen?

You guessed it — Clare. And she’s directing it too. So, Mrs Tidwell, where ever you are, someone with my genes gets to be Carmen.

We won’t be putting on any mistral shows though, that’s a promise.

Open Letter to Lancôme

Dear Lancôme;
Just because I now need a little extra help moisturizing my face doesn’t mean I want to smell like my grandmother. Your moisturizer for mature skin should have the same clean fresh smell as your other moisturizers and not smell like artificial roses.


A customer

Netflix’s New Set-top Box

As computer savvy as some people think I am, I have not been able to hook up a computer to our flat-screen television to watch streaming Netflix movies yet. Not that I’ve really tried — we have enough to watch on our TVs as it is, and I recently bought a decent sized computer monitor and can watch Netflix movies on it while relaxing on the sofa in my attic office. This works well for me, however it would be cool to be able to watch Netflix movies instantly on a much bigger screen together with the whole family.

Netflix Instant Viewing Settop box by RokuIt was rumored that Netflix was going to provide a way to easily and instantly watch their content, and now you can — if you buy a special set-top box from a company called Roku. The catch? The box costs $100. ($109 – $120 with shipping).

That’s a little too steep for me right now, especially since I’d heard the technology costs would be more like $10 in the form of a special DVD that placed software on extant game systems. I didn’t expect to have to buy a new black box just for the Netflix content. We already have enough black boxes connected to our televisions.

So, the excitement I first felt when I saw the link at the bottom of the Netflix page stating: New – Watch Instantly on your TV was replaced with slight annoyance and disappointment because I’d been expecting something less intrusive and less expensive. Netflix does give us a glimpse into the future, however, but it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be cheaper:

“We are working to get TV manufacturers, Blu-ray player manufacturers, and game console manufacturers to make their devices ready for instant streaming…

The … Netflix ready device … is likely to be the lowest cost Netflix ready device for the foreseeable future.”

I’ll stick with the PC viewing for now because it works and it doesn’t cost me any more money. But I might still covet it a little. For the foreseeable future…