Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Poison Ivy, Bug Bites, and Sore Joints...

...The signs of a GREAT weekend!  I've finally quit gimping on my right hip today.  Had a hitch in my gettalong for a couple days - I assume from crawling around on slopes digging up and replanting ground cover.

Spectacular weather - dry and mid-80s.  And the weekend started Friday evening when a neighbor showed up with a couple bottles of wine, cheese, and crackers.  Supplemented with fresh fruit it was a fine dinner on the back deck with bird books and binoculars at hand.  I pissed and moaned about the destruction caused by cankerworms earlier, but there has been a bright side.  Although our bird feeders emptied out as birds went into the woods after the worms, they were joined by birds not normally spotted here who arrived looking for the same worms.  With the defoliation, it's been easier to see them, too.  In quick succession we spotted both a red-headed woodpecker and a flock of cedar waxwings.

I've kept a life list since the mid-70s, and this was my first sighting of a red-headed woodpecker.

The cankerworms have gone into the ground now, relieving us of the constant rain of their poop.  Now we have to figure out what to do about next year.  Our trees can only stand so many rounds of complete defoliation, and agent orange has nothing on those miserable things.

Saturday was shooting, which Murphy's Law blogged a bit about, and I pure-dee SUCKED.  I pull right, and I'm betting it's because of lack of practice and because, with such an extended winter this year causing gardening to start so late, my hands have weakened, making the trigger feel heavier.  Having to squeeze harder to fire causes my hand to shift.  Need to aim and dry fire when I'm not reading in the evening, and get to the range more often.  I'm only kidding when I say "Well, at least maybe I scared 'em."  I need to be able to HIT 'em!

A quick run to Frederick that evening to finally get a passport photo taken, since the family is heading to Costa Rica for my nephew's wedding in December and I don't have a passport:

Then Sunday and Monday blissfully digging in the dirt.  Moving things from here to there, contemplating what else I need to do to repair winter damage, and sitting on the deck with a book or staring out into the woods, following bird songs and watching to see if there were any new visitors.  I think I saw a pair of Baltimore Orioles, but I'm not sure - I didn't get a good enough look at them.  There are a couple other birds with a lot of bright yellow/orange that it could have been.

I'm hoping to see them again so I can get a positive id, but if not the flash of color was a delightful addition to a terrific weekend.  And this fellow, an indigo bunting, is still singing in my trees:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hissy Fit

It's been a tough Spring.  To begin with, it was cold late into the season.  And we've had rain.  Lots of rain.  So the seasonal clean up got a late start.  Much sad for a person who loves flowers.  My iris beds will not bloom this year because they are still pissy about me digging them all up and splitting the roots because they were too crowded.  And a bunch of them flat out didn't make it - winter was hard enough that the deer ate them, which is very unusual.  The hydrangias were killed nearly to the ground - they had to be cut back to about 6 inches and there will probably be no bloom there this summer.  And my bee balm.  Well, I stared and stared and hoped and hoped at that area that has been full of bee balm for years but nary a sprout came up. Completely killed.  Sigh.

On top of the damage left by one of the most miserable winters in decades, we now have a plague that gives locust a run for the money in destructiveness.

Cankerworm.  Inchworm.  Looper.  My name for them can't be used in polite company.  Ravenous.  We have them by the millions.

And they are stripping everything they can get to: trees, bushes, flowers - they don't differentiate.

Trees that were leaf covered two weeks ago are stripped bare.  The increasing acreage of denuded trees is more and more visible on the mountain slopes as you drive from town.  It has sounded like rain 24/7 at my house for nearly two weeks now.  That would be their poop coming down in a constant patter.  They are ballooners - their webbing is everywhere and you can walk into a wall of ballooning caterpillars.  I come in from working and my hair is full of the grainy little stuff and I spend the rest of the evening picking the damned little worms off my neck and arms as they appear from wherever they hid to hitch a ride.

And somehow finding them destroying my peony flowers, buds and all, was the last straw Saturday and I found myself standing in my yard screaming "DIE DIE DIE DIE YOU MISERABLE THINGS!!!" and stomping around in a furious, frustrated frenzy.  Fortunately, the neighbors weren't home at the time to see it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sweet 16

And a lovely celebration it was, too.  For the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race, that is.

First rule of the race:  "Sculptures must be human-powered! No pulling, pushing, paddling, or other propulsive method is allowed except by Official Pit Crew and Pilots (sometimes called Kinetinauts). Stored energy is allowed for non-propulsive purposes only. It is legal to get assistance from the natural power of water, wind, sun, and gravity and friendly extraterrestrials."

And lest anyone think that because Baltimore is on the east coast and on the water it's flat - that would be a no.  I've biked the Tour du Port through the city a couple times and I can attest to some killer hills.   As in 90 year old pedestrians were moving faster than I was by the time I finally pedaled to the top. (I ran over a dead rat during the first Tour.  Thought I was going to fall off the bike laughing - it was SO Baltimore!)

The sculpture race route is about 14 miles long, and includes sand, mud, and water hazards.  Nonsense is not only encouraged but pretty much a requirement.  Spectators do have a few rules:

  1. Hands, equipped with white gloves should be waved vigorously over head whenever viewing Kinetic Sculptures or when on camera.
  2. Tall Spectators must take care to stand in back row when witnessing Glorious Events. On no account should Spectators throw their bodies in the path of oncoming Sculptures.
  3. Cardboard Grin must be worn at all times when personal misery or state of mind interferes with maintaining a normal happy smile.

This was one of the fun things my daughter and I would do together when she lived in Charm City, and we always headed for the water hazard over at Canton because you can climb down on the rocks and get a good, if hard, seat.  Also, leg powered land machines plus water is interesting.  When I arrived Saturday morning, the kayak Posse was already putting in.  They pick up garbage, tow wayward entries back, and have a softer seat than I do.

It is, after all, a race, with awards for things like Worst Honorable Mention and Best Bribes, so there are judges who watch for flagrant rule violations (as opposed to the "my foot is bracing the tire but my hands aren't touching anything" type of violations) and announce competitor's names so we can cheer and chant them on.

There's also always an ugly nun with the judges - I haven't figured that out yet.

The first one in was Swan.

Many of these entries have never been tested on the water before this moment, which is part of the fun.  Swan turned out to be as water-worthy as its avian counterpart.  Which was almost boring.  Note the "foot padels".

The next arrival quickly learned a lesson - you are on the water and there's a breeze. Anything in the construction of the craft that can catch that breeze will. And the cover on the covered wagon acted just like a sail.  They struggled for a bit on the way out, but made it back in pretty good time.  Note that some kid's rocking horse has been stolen to pull the wagon.

While many of the entries are amazingly complex, some are simpler - a bike in one form or another with styrofoam or plastic bottle floaters.

It IS, however, the Baltimore Inner Harbor - the water is, in a word, foul.  So people try to keep as much of themselves out of it as they can.  In fact, one of the rules involves not allowing more than a certain percentage of the body to get wet.  Yeah, dream on.  Winner of the Golden Flipper Award this year:

Ewwwwww!!!!!  Right over the handlebars when he hit the water.  Next year, Doodle, lean back, not forward.  I've seen entries simply disintegrate when they hit the water.  Which is kinda appropriate, given the water quality.

Fifi (the first pic) is an old friend who has raced for years.  This year, however, another old friend was missing:

Seems they were in Tahiti at a tiki bar and PLATYPUS (Personal All-Terran Yacht Proven Un-Safe) went missing.  The tiki bar and its occupants are searching the world (well, maybe just Baltimore) for him.

The construction of some of these things is amazing.  While the leg power for Pokey the PLATYPUS was transmitted through individual bicycle chassis, the energy the crew generated was combined in a Suzuki SUV transmission, with an automotive drivetrain, wheels, and tires to carry him and crew through the course. There's some serious work goes into these entries.

I mentioned tows and wind - Good Dog need remedial obedience training when its lovely fur-covered sides acted as a sail and it wandered up along the shoreline until a couple kayaks got lines on it and brought it back.  Here it heads for the water before it makes like ML's Belle and heads off.

That's not unusual - when I last saw the Norse longship a couple years ago the sheriff's boat was towing it out of the cove it had sailed off to.  Fixed sail, no control, wind.

It's really hard to come back out of the water, too.  The slope is steep, the water and muck tries to suck you back, and as often as they rake it out there's sticks and debris that the tires slide on.  Standard bicycle tires in particular tend to not grip well and it can be a battle to come out without a penalty-inducing tow.

There were a lot of other entries - 33 in all, although not all of them tried the water hazard.  My very favorite was Tick Tock the Croc, and it won in the category of Art as the People's Choice, Grand Mediocre, Marine Posse Favorite:

And, well, it's Baltimore, where good food and good beer abound. Rat Patrol had the right idea (even if Natty Boh, while iconic, is an awful beer):

I could have stayed in Canton,but I was feeling a bit more old fashioned, so I headed off to Fells Point just around the harbor, and after walking and poking around the shops for a while and enjoying a gorgeous day, Brewer's Art Ozzy occured. Several times.  And yes, yes, crab cakes with Old Bay did too.  It's Bawlmer, after all.

For bunches more pics, as well as entertaining info and race rules, check out

The pics are a mix of mine (the worst ones and ones not involving water) and people who are much better photographers than I and who have loaded their stuff to the website.  Also David Jennings over at  Because I was using a cell phone.  And the battery was dieing.

Friday, May 2, 2014


Yes, DUDE, it WAS two years ago you weaselly little punk.  And many of us have known all along that your lying boss and his lying sycophants threw away 4 lives just to win an election.  And that liberals have been good with it because in their world the end justifies the means.  But maybe, just maybe, THESE red lines might start to mean something.

h/t Weasel Zippers