Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

A fresh and provocative book review on my other blog Troutbirder II

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Jesus The Outlaw

Mrs. T and I wish to share this Christmas message relayed from our friends Don and Sandy.  We thought it most appropriate for the true spirit of Christmas, especially now, here in America,  as well as around the World....
This Christmas our family is celebrating Jesus - not just the baby born in a lowly manger- but the outlaw. The Jesus who stood up for and cared for the lowest in society - the outcasts - the women and children - the foreigners and ethnics looked down upon. Jesus, the dark skinned, Middle Eastern , the very Son of God sent to show us how to love, sent to save us from ourselves. Our prayer is that God helps us love the way Jesus loves.

Sent on by Barb and Ray                              
Merry Christmas

Friday, December 22, 2017

Our Last Real Christmas Tree

I don't have a picture of our last real Christmas tree but the photo above gives a hint. So I'll explain.
Upon recollection it seems for years we had gone  to a local Christmas tree farm and searched for the perfect tree often coming close but....  Then one year after much searching we found one, cut it down and brought it home. It was perfectly shaped, filled with thick full branches and only a little too tall.  Mrs. T. and the boys stood it up in the proper place while I laid down,  got the trunk into the tree stand, screwed the fasteners tight and hollered "ok let it go".  Whereupon, it fell over on top of me.  So naturally, thinking I had goofed on the "put it in the Christmas stand part," I repeated that operation more carefully without any mistakes.   And, of course, it happened again. Now, using my great analytical skills, my and sons and I took it outside  to shorten the culprit believing it was too tall.   Voila! It was in that process we discovered  that  "the perfect tree" trunk  divided into two trunks and, of course,  they were of unequal weight.   Later, I learned that  this was the rare "WISHBONE TREE EFFECT.
    Many of you may remember when that bone was saved from  a whole chicken, a  contest ensued by two people pulling it apart. The person with the biggest piece got to make a wish.
The rest of the story.  I lost my temper regardless of the season and chucked the tree off the deck. Fortunately, Mrs. T came up the idea that we should go to Rochester and buy a beautiful artificial Christmas tree ready to go and we had for years without it ever falling over.  







Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Winter Solstice Revealed

 



The Winter Solstice Revealed
 
The Winter Solstice (December 21) is literally and figuratively going to be the darkest day of the year, and it's all thanks to a rare cosmic incident that hasn't occurred in over 350 years.

 As if December hasn't been crazy enough, what with the erratic weather and Mercury and Washington D.C. going into retrogade, it is, according to astrologers, only going to get worse, with December 21 predicted to be the most horrendous day yet of 2017.

 

Neil Spencer, an astrologer and author, revealed that this year's Solstice is different from others in the past, because for the first time since 1664, the Sun will move into Capricorn, mere hours after Saturn makes the same exact shift; this will cause the sun and Saturn to actually line up, a phenomenon which is expected to have very uncomfortable consequences. Well, I have  had  unusual experiences related to the winter solstice as well.
It seems Mrs. T and our best friends, all teachers, took a long camping trip to Alaska in our new "POP UP CAMPER." Gary is checking it out below. We're on our way to Seward the next day.
 


The ladies had stopped in a supermarket in Anchorage to stock up on groceries. The checkouts there  informed that their will be a summer solstice "celebration" that night. This apparently is a big custom throughout Alaska and the world for that matter. It began with the Druids in very early England at a place call Stonehenge   (above)
Thus on the the Chugach mountain above Anchorage young people gather on the longest day of the year in wild revelry, according to our grocery shopping reporters. Mmmmm? Mary Jane and nude dancing? Naturally me and Gary wondered....:)




 
Later that evening, the campground had a lovely view and loons and wolves where  heard beyond the campfire. Since this is bear country, we were instructed by the ranger to leave the food and cosmetics in the SUV and not the camper. The summer solstice dinner consisted of shrimp and crackers for a first course, then Mrs. T comes up with tin-foil wrapped salmon grilled over the fire, corn, and cake for dessert. And champagne. Mmmm good.

It was at about this point that your two, somewhat staid, stick in the mud husbands, were informed that it was their duty to continue the festivities all night. It was an Alaskan custom, we were told. Plus, it would be light out all night long. Unfortunately, the two midwestern men, clinging to their conservative ways, rebelled and broke up the party by trudging off to bed, at the ungodly early hour of 2 a.m. in the morning.

 P.S. early the next day before heading off to the Kenai we talked to the local Ranger who informed us the ladies has jumped the gun by one day on the "solstice celebration".  Would you believe they wanted to do it again the next night.......:)
 
 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Bismarcks

So as I mentioned in my previous post, the focus of Troutbirder will continue to slowly shift away from nature, travel and adventure to the more gentle pursuits of Mrs. T. and my "Golden Years"  A promise though, I will not include frequent descriptions of our aches, pains, and myriad pills. It will include fond memories from the past and my tendency these days to wander aimlessly off the subject to related matters which often leaves  me forgetful of where I started. Todays a memory is of Bismarck's
This, of course, is Mrs. T standing behind a favorite shrub, next to our driveway. It's name is  Red Prince Weigela. No, not red haired Prince Harry of England, whose grandmother the Queen,  recently wholeheartedly, breaking all tradition, approved his engagement to bi-racial divorced, movie star, Catholic, and beautiful Meghan.  My favorite prince was Prince Otto Von Bismarck, who united the German States in the 1860s, made the Prussian King into an Emperor thru a few successful wars and created a peace till WWI long after he retired. Under his leadership Germany was the first country to establish modern social security for its people.
Fortunately, my peace loving Lutheran great grandfather decided to bring his draft eligible sons to America during those early wars of unification. Thus my early American German heritage rests on the practice of draft dodging. The old saw of  "play a marching tune and Germans will line up in parade ready to march off to war" was not universally  true...:
 
                                                                                                                                                                   My favorite prince, Otto von Bismarck


This all brings us to my grandfather. Karl (Charles) Wilhelm (William) Potthoff who came to America alone as a teenager in 1868. I, his grandson by his youngest son, was born the 1941 just before the beginning of The War.  We lived in an apartment on the East Side in St. Paul just a few blocks from my grandparents home. I remember my grandfather arriving at our apartment several times a week with a cane and a small bag in hand. Here he  is with me, my grandma and my parents a few years later in 1948.  
So what was in that little white bag my Grandpa carried and that I'm still addicted to?
 
Yes, it was Bismarck's named after my favorite German besides my immigrant Grandpa...:)

Monday, December 11, 2017

How It All Began

On February 14, 2008 I made my first post on a nature blog I titled Troutbirder after two of my favorite hobbies. The picture below of an osprey and a trout seemed perfect.....My son and his spouse were planning a trip to Africa to adopt a small  child in an orphanage. He left me with instructions to access several blogs explaining  the experiences of other people who had also gone to that far away continent  for adoptions. Then my son and  spouse set off on their momentous journey. Mrs T and I were left "babysitting" our first grandson pictured below....
Looking at the blogs I had a "I can do this moment." The rest is history as they say. The nature blog Troutbirder followed. My original goal was to provide a weekly update, to my far away son, of his father's outdoor activities. Later, when I also discovered this "hobby" was a great way to meet fun and interesting people, that goal broadened to include stories (mostly true) that might bring a smile to their faces. I hope I've succeeded.  Much later, I added a second blog, Troutbirder II to be a catchall for book and movie reviews,  some bad jokes, the occasional rant, and other odds and ends.
   Now as we all learn passing through the seasons of our lives it becomes time to adapt. I don't do a lot of things involving athletics, exploring nature, fishing hunting skiing, canoeing the Canadian wilderness and even walking my dog 5 miles while doing photography anymore.  Yikes that was an ugly long sentence. I'm sure you got the idea early on. And now I'm good sitting in my recliner watching my bird feeder, taking Miss Lily the GSD for short walks, always returning to my lifetime habit of reading and reading.....
So this is not an announcement of my finally giving up blogging or worse yet, switching to Facebook or god forbid Trumps Twitter platform.  It's just less adventures in nature  an towards a more gentle switch to reminiscences and other memoirs.  Folktales (a.k.a.) fishing and hunting stories and bad jokes will continue. I hope you stick with me and enjoy. :)

Below Troutbirder in his new adventure venue with Simba and lots of good books close by....:)
 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Away At War - A Civil War Story of the Family Left Behind

This Civil War novel based on actual letters between a soldier volunteer and his very young family is set not too far from where I live. I would describe it as quite a bit grittier than Little House on the Prairie.  For more details and my take on Away At War Click on Mark Twain above...
 
 
 
 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Computer Gender

As a followup to my previous post on my first computer years of training in the field led me to agree with the following analysis.


An email from one of Mrs. T's legion of female correspondents....

A SPANISH Teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine.
'House' for instance, is feminine: 'la Casa.'
 'Pencil,' however, is
 masculine: 'el lapiz.' 
 A student asked, 'What gender is 'computer'?'
 Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two  
groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves  
whether computer' should be a masculine or a feminine noun. Each  
group was asked to give four reasons
 for its recommendation.
The men's group decided that 'computer' should definitely be of the  
 feminine gender ('la computadora'), because:
 1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;

2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;

3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later retrieval; and

4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

 The women's group, however, concluded that computers should be  Masculine ('el computador'), because:
 1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;

2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;

3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and            
4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited  a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.
The women won.
 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

My First Computer Remembered

The following story is true. Only the names have been changed to protect both the guilty and the oblivious. The math department, under my classroom neighbor Creps, was the first to have a computer (an Apple) in the classroom. I soon borrowed the manual wanting to keep up with the times. It seems you had to "program" it yourself. Whatever that meant. I managed to accomplish the feat and showed some of my economics students how to use the machine. I plowed ahead requesting the second classroom computer to arrive in our high school. I had reported that my senior economics students were making graphs to show the linkage between certain demographic data and levels of economic development. The situation cried out for a computer solution as a more efficient means of producing a correlation co-efficient. I thought I might finally get some use for the knowledge gained in my college "Statistical Analysis" class. I finally got the computer for classroom use and a leave to attend a two day "Computer In The Classroom" seminar in Rochester, Minnesota.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Carrying the spanking new Apple II to the class, as required, I arrived at the site of the meeting early in the morning. It was the Holiday Inn. I knew where the meeting room was as we often had our regional union meetings there. Parking was a problem in the front , so I settled in on a residential street behind the motel rather than carry the computer all the way around to the front entrance, I opted to check a back door. Fortunately, it was unlocked and I entered a large very dimly lighted room. It was then that I saw a red exit sign across a large space.Pausing to look carefully about, it was then that I realized I was in the swimming pool area. Walking slowly, in the dim light, I proceeded to skirt the pool by a wide margin. And stepped blindly into an unnoticed kiddie pool, plunging head first, computer in hand, into about two feet of water. On my knees I lifted the computer out of the water and stood up. I was soaked from the knees down but otherwise remarkably dry. I then entered the a vacant hallway to the restaurant and found myself a bathroom. With about fifteen minutes to go, before the class was scheduled, the hand blow dryer was put to use on my pants and the dripping machine. "Mr Troutbirder?" I heard when I finally entered the meeting room. "Present", I said quietly, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. I took the last empty chair available next to a fellow teacher, who appeared to be the motherly elementary school type. Setting the schools precious and no longer dripping computer on the table in front of me, I mumbled something about hoping it would work. "Mine too," the kindly lady said smiling. "This computer business is totally new to me," she added. To that, I tried to nod as sagely as possible and pointed to myself. Then for some strange reason my computer failed to "boot up." Upon raising my hand for help from the instructor, he was unable to determine the cause of the malfuntion. We were all puzzled! It turned out that the third grade teacher was willing to share her computer with me. She caught on quickly to the mechanics of computer operations and nurtured me thru the entire class. I thanked her profusely I returned to my high school later the next day computer in hand.  With as straight a face as I could manage  our high school principal Mr. Landover was informed that he had saddled me with a faulty piece of equipment. A new and improved model arrived shortly thereafter in my classroom and thus I was well on my way to becoming the "computer guru" of the History Department. I've also been avoiding kiddie pools ever since....

Monday, November 20, 2017

Reading and Glasses


Having a good time last night at a Mississippi riverside bar and grill with friends, I surely had my glasses with me as the photo shows in my pocket. So much for finishing the book I was reading today . I can't find them. Wonder if.....?  In any case a book review was in order so I'll have to substitute Plan B.  An insight into some of the pluses and minuses of my well into 70 aging process.
A profound list is on Troutbirder II which you may quickly reach by clicking Mark Twain above...:)
 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Beautiful Tundra Swans



It's that time of the year again, mid to late November when Mrs. T and I  head down to the "Big River". The Mississippi River that is where we witness one of those true wonders of nature.  There, the Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge provides a safe haven for millions of migratiing waterfowl each fall. We, however, always have a special target in mind. Migrating from their summer breeding grounds in the northern Arctic, tens of thousands of beautiful large white birds, wend there way south to stop, rest, and refuel on the Mississippi River near Brownsville, Minnesota. They pause here, usually for a few weeks, before turning southeast, heading for their wintering grounds on Chesapeake Bay. They are the beautiful Tundra Swans.











Here, on a backwater  we see hundreds of swans and ducks. In the distance, beyond the screen of trees, a barge is moving down the main channel of the river. With Wisconsin in the distance, perhaps a mile away, we can see many more. Sometimes, huge "rafts" of these birds seem to turn the entire river white. When we step out of car, the sound of their vocalizations is almost deafening. Some are even close enough to us to get a picture. On occasion a few fly over us, but I'm not a skilled enough photographer to get a decent picture. Another wonder can occur; on some visits I've counted well over several hundred Bald Eagles. If the sun is out and thermals rise above the bluffs, we can see them "kettle." They form a spiral rising almost out of sight. Late migrating white pelicans also use this river highway. Awkward looking on the ground, they are magnificent soaring aloft as they head south to the Gulf.

With the construction of the lock and dam system on the river in the 1930's, many of the natural aspects of the river have changed. One of these is the wave action of the increased open spaces. Many islands have disappeared. Because of this many of the plants and tubers the swans fed on have also disappeared. Now man is undoing the damage and helping the birds by using dredge material from the main channel to rebuild these islands. Here you can see one of the many artificial islands providing a resting place and shelter from the wind and renewed food supplies. Way to go DNR and Army Corps of Engineers!

On November 15th the official estimate was ten thousand swan in the immediate vicinity. Some years we have seen upward of thirty thousand. The only thing I have ever seen to compare to it is the annual migration of sandhill cranes into the Platte River Valley in Nebraska.

 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Robert Redford Cake Got Me In Trouble





Directions  -

 
•Melt butter; mix with flour and press into baking pan.

•Pour pecans over and press down.

•Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

•Cool.

•Mix cream cheese with confectioners' sugar and peanut butter.

•Mix well.

•Pour over crust.

•Mix vanilla and chocolate pudding mixes with the milk and Cool Whip.

It might seem the raging issue of  sexual harassment should not be the instigator of a wry grin on my part but….  Let us be clear, it is a the fact that its widespread existence is disgusting and immoral and I condemn it whole heartedly.  Still there is that wry grin. Let me explain.

It all began after my move to a new middle school after 26 years of teaching seniors social studies in our local high school. I volunteered for the move as I was ready for a new teaching experience.  It was a great  blending of a few high school teachers with a majority of teachers  with elementary experience. I loved it. The kids and parents loved it. Age appropriate at its best.

It just so happened that my lunch break coincided with a group of the female teachers. I was outnumbered.  One of the highlights was the ladies regularly brought cookies and other treats on a rotating basis. My limited culinary skills required an occasional trip to the local bakery for donuts…. On the day in question I was reminded to sample the cake on the counter. “What is it,? I asked.  “Robert Redford Cake! It’s really good they chorused.  They were right for sure I determined as I wolfed it down. “By the way it has another name, “ one chirped.  “huh”?   “It’s called better than sex cake” several revealed.   Talk about a stare down .  While quickly through my mind came the thought that the lady who baked the cake was very nice and thoughtful, several knew my spouse, gossip can be endemic in a very small town …. So I answered by clearly expressing my 5th amendment rights    One shook her head in dismay, two giggled pointing at me while the rest laughed heartedly.   Clearly I was the victim of some kind of harassment.  Perhaps gender harassment at its best….?
No doubt here sexual harassment at its worst.....

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

CSI






















Case 213 Location - Somwhere between Harmony and Preston in Bluff Country. Trauma - Contusions on the back of Mr. Troutbirders right leg. The victim was later treated by authorized medical personnel. He was released from care with non life threatening injuries. Photograph by Mrs. Troutbirder.   
                                                                          

                                                                      A  police report will follow shortly...

Mr. Troutbirder reported going down a moderately steep hill at safe speed when he began to slow down to stop and photograph a Lepidoptera Avuncular Halitosis. He somehow managed to remain upright in spite of being struck from behind by an inattentive biker . Stopping safely he raced back to find the inattentive biker laying prone on the pathway. Somewhat incoherent the perpetrator was mostly worried about locating his cellphone. Fortunately,  I had mine in my pocket and called for  medical help  not far away.

 The idiocy of tailgating while texting is obvious but I must say besides that when I first began biking some years ago now, when someone came up behind you to pass, they always beeped or said something akin to "on your right" or  "passing" etc. to warn you.  Not anymore. Its very rare. The lack of courtesy and common decency today is becoming appalling in many avenues of life. This was just a little one....:(
 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

Oops. Got the title wrong above...but there may be some similarities to what's
going on today.
 
On that score my wife Barb had a even simpler example in her explanation of the decline and fall….

She reminded me of her upbringing in a girls Catholic high school  Our Lady of Peace (a.k.a. Old Ladies Penitentiary).  In studying, Latin she and her classmates decided that “Latin is a dead language. As dead as it can be. First it killed the Romans. And now it’s killing me."
For my take on this subject click on Mark Twain for my review of Edward Gibbons The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Troutbirder Breaks The Law (Update from Fall 2010)

It all started innocently enough. As described in a previous post, a October bike ride along the Shooting Star Bike Trail had revealed some beautiful Asters & Stiff Goldenrod. I also noticed dozens of other prairie plants gone to seed. Although I had some Compass Plants growing (a type of native sunflower), I hoped to add a few other varieties to my small plot  of wildflowers.

A little foraging along the bike trail with an ice cream bucket and a few envelopes seemed like a good idea. It happened a few days later.
In the interest of complete disclosure, I did have several accomplices (Barb and Baron) We found
 some dried cup plants and several other seeds including rattlesnake master, milkweed and purple coneflowers. A few of each were gathered.
Some time later I was discussing prairie restoration with a local guru. It was then that I was informed that I had been in violation of state law. "But the bike trail is thirty miles long and there are zillions of these plants along the way. Plus I'm not digging anything up, and it wasn't in a State Park. " "Makes no difference. Removal of seeds from any state property, be it park, forest, trail or anything else is strictly illegal." I bowed my head looking properly chastened and humbly repentent. Unfortunately, the "lesson" continued unabated until I'd had enough. "Perhaps an anonymous suggestion to the anti-terrorism authorities that they give up their fruitless search for Osama Bin Laden and come after the Bike Trail seed robber would be in order. While your at it, mention the toilet papering tree defacers from the local high school during Homecoming week who made a mess in my yard twice last week."


Just to be on the safe side, me and the Mrs. will be heading on the lam to a hidden location in Ireland for the forseeable future. Wish us luck!
















And so some years later as shown in several recent posts my little wildflower plots now bloom beautifully spring, summer and fall.  The neighbors stop by to admire what they can see from the adjacent road . I offer them seeds in the fall and slowly but surely our neighborhood will increasingly exhibit natures bounty of prairie wildflowers. And nobody has to break the law...:)




 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Keelboat of Lewis and Clark

The last day of our solar eclipse & Lewis and Clark bus tour saw us heading up the Missouri River traversing across Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. We stopped at several museums and State Parks along the way with some very good ones in the Council Bluffs and Sioux City area.
At one we met some untethered and uncaged ferocious animals. Naturally, we didn't back off a bit. Mrs. T. took on one right away, headfirst.
Not to be out done, I managed to hold off a marauding Grizzly bear.

While visiting Lewis and Clark State Park, we took the opportunity to view the full-sized reproduction of Lewis and Clark's keelboat/barge, "Best Friend," which was constructed by Butch Bouvier of L&C Replicas. Imagine, if you can, the expedition winding its way up the Missouri River while sailing, pulling and poling the 55-foot boat.  Lewis and Clark State Park lies on the shores of Blue Lake, an "oxbow" formed by the meanderings of the picturesque Missouri River many years ago.
 
Here Butch Buovier, who researched, designed and built the first truly authentic replica of Lewis and Clarks keelboat/barge, enthralls his audience (including yours truly) with tales of his work and interactions with Ken Burns. Burns used his this boat in his documentary of the Corps of Discovery.
And finally for the dog lovers out there we met a  replica of Seaman, Clarks Newfoundland companion. To our great surprise, he was looking at a prairie dog in a little cage who suddenly squeaked causing Seaman to begin barking very loudly before he turned to look at us....:) 

What fun on the trail of Lewis and Clark.....