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May 31, 2009

Five Years On Mars

National Geographic is running a show on the Mars rovers called Five Years On Mars which is pretty cool, me thinks.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 31, 2009 at 9:17 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Tracking Timmy

Timmy has been spending less and less time at the house. I'm considering getting something like this to track him:

http://www.mr-lee-catcam.de/pe_cc_o2_en.htm

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 31, 2009 at 7:56 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Colorado Wildflowers

Rocky Mountain Iris (Iris missouriensis).

Bluebells (Mertensia brevistyla).

Locally, this is known as a "Mountain Lilac". It appears to be a variety of Ceanothus, but I'm not clear which one. Update: This is a variety of Syringa vulgaris.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 31, 2009 at 2:27 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Bluebird Trail

Bird House #1: (Above) The Mountain Chickadees (Poecile gambeli) don't look like they're doing very well. Today, there was only one live chick in there. Apparently the parents had hauled off the remainder of the egg shells and dead chicks. I think that there were originally six eggs. So, their survival rate is roughly what you'd see in a third-world country. Hopefully this chick makes it.

Bird House #2: (Above) This bird house is perched atop Jennifer's swing set. Yesterday, it contained two pink bird eggs. Today, it contains three pink bird eggs. Species unknown. Update: Based on photos on this website, I'm thinking that these eggs may belong to a pair of House Wrens(Troglodytes aedon).

Bird House #3: (Above) This bird house is mounted to the front garden fence. Yesterday, it contained three Bluebird eggs. Today, it contains four Bluebird eggs. This is either a Mountain Bluebird or a Western Bluebird. I believe that I saw the parents today and they appear to be Western Bluebirds.

Bird House #4: (Not shown) This bird house is mounted to the back garden fence. It is unoccupied.

Bird House #5: (Not shown) This bird house is mounted to a dead mature Ponderosa pine in the back. It contains seven tiny white bird eggs. No change from yesterday. Species unknown.

Bird House #6: (Above) This bird house is on a pole in Bud's front yard. At last count, she was sitting on six eggs, but she won't leave them now, so I'm not clear how many are under her or how many (if any) have hatched. This appears to be a nest of Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana).

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 31, 2009 at 2:13 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Yellow Pea

Photo of native wildflower Yellow Pea (Thermopsis divaricarpa) in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 31, 2009 at 3:43 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Red-winged Blackbird

Mature male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) in breeding plumage .

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 31, 2009 at 3:28 AM : Comments (1) | Permalink

May 30, 2009

Bluebird Trail

Jennifer and I went and made a run of "Bluebird Trail" this morning. We take a four wheeler and stand on top of the game racks so we can peer down into the nest. We have five bird houses. We put them up for bluebirds, but we get all kinds of birds.

Bird House #1: (Above) I put up a new bird house on a pole in the front yard last summer. This bird house contains a nest of Mountain Chickadees (Poecile gambeli). I think that there were originally six eggs. Yesterday, there were two live chicks, three eggs, and one chick that didn't show any overt signs of life. Today, it looks like the rest of the chicks are in the process of hatching out.

Bird House #2: (Above) This bird house is perched atop Jennifer's swing set. Yesterday, it contained one pink bird egg. Today, it contains two pink bird eggs. Species unknown.

Bird House #3: (Above) This bird house is mounted to the front garden fence. Yesterday, it contained two bluebird eggs. Today, it contains three bluebird eggs. This is either a mountain bluebird or a western bluebird. (I haven't seen the parents yet.)

Bird House #4: (Not shown) This bird house is mounted to the back garden fence. It is unoccupied.

Bird House #5: (Above) This bird house is mounted to a dead mature Ponderosa pine in the back. It contains seven tiny white bird eggs. No change from yesterday. Species unknown.

Bird House #6: (Not shown) This bird house is on a pole in Bud's front yard. At last count, she was sitting on six eggs, but she won't leave them now, so I'm not clear how many are under her or how many (if any) have hatched. This appears to be a nest of Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana).

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 30, 2009 at 10:48 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 29, 2009

More San Diego Flowers

I asked about a zillion people, but no one knew. I finally figured out on my own that this flower (above and below) is some type of Allium (onion plant). They come in several colors, including purple, and white. They're a very common ornamental flower used in landscaping in San Diego. The only place I can recall ever seeing them before was in Mexico City. Update: Diane in San Diego informs me that the flower above (and below) is an Agapanthus - the "Lily of the Nile". I'm inclined to agree with her.

No clue what this pink flower is (above). Update: SL says informs me that it's a Hydrangea, and I'm inclined to agree with her.

This is a Jacaranda [haka-randa] tree (above). It's the only one I've ever seen in the United States. The trees are covered in these brilliant purple flowers. Of course, no one in San Diego has even noticed them. I had to point them out to people at work. Somehow they'd driven by them for years but never noticed them.

Orange Lily.

San Diego is somewhat unique in that they probably have more flowering plants than any other place I've ever been. Every bush, tree, and plant seems to bloom in the Spring. Even the median of the interstate is mile after mile of Oleander.

I think this is part of the reason that no one that I ask knows anthing about flowers. I think that they're so overwhelmed by the millions of acres of Bougainvillea, Ice Plants, Birds of Paradise, Allium, Oleander, Jakarandas, Coral Trees, etc., that eventually they just tune it out.


Posted by Rob Kiser on May 29, 2009 at 9:02 PM : Comments (2) | Permalink

Birdhouse Roundup

Jen and I went around and shot some photos of the bird houses on one of the four wheelers today.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 29, 2009 at 8:06 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 23, 2009

Great Horned Owlets

Two Great Horned owlets (Bubo virginianus). This is the best photo of baby owls I've taken this year. They're so big that the mother stays in an adjacent tree. My guess is that they'll fledge pretty soon.

Categories: Photos, Birds, Owls

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 23, 2009 at 5:26 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta). The meadowlark has a long, pointed bill used for catching grasshoppers, caterpillars, and beetles.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 23, 2009 at 4:17 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 18, 2009

Sony Vaio Alps Touchpad

My Sony Vaio Alps Touchpad is driving me insane. At some point, I'm going to have to install a different driver and see if it helps. I'm currently using the following driver:
5.3.512.4 (dated 5/17/2005). There is some thought that I should try these drivers instead. Apparently, some Alps touchpad software allows you to set "Tap off when typing", which would be great. But I'm not clear how to get into the "Alps touchpad control panel".

Apparently, the 5.3.510.9a has a "tap off while typing" option, which would be nice. Here's the 5.3.510.9a driver for the Sony Vaio PCG-V505AP from Sony's UK website.
:

Update: Last time I downloaded this file (1/24/2010) I found it here.

I've also copied it to my server: http://www.peeniewallie.com/drivers/MTD_Alps_535109a.exe

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 18, 2009 at 8:48 AM : Comments (1) | Permalink

May 17, 2009

Spectacled Owl

We saw this Spectacled owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata) at a birds of prey exhibit at The Fort in Morrison today. They are native to Central America.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 17, 2009 at 11:07 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Great Horned Owlet

Here's a photo of the Great Horned Owlet that I shot today. This one looks a little better than the last one, but not by a great margin. You can see one of the owlet's eyes, and his (or her) beak. I'm surprised by how quickly the bird is maturing.

Categories: Photos, Birds, Owls

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 17, 2009 at 11:00 PM : Comments (1) | Permalink

May 15, 2009

Lens Returned to Canon for Repair

I finally got around to shipping my lens back to Canon to be repaired today. The lens in question is a Canon EF-S17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens that I've had for 4 1/2 years. It's held up pretty well considering that I've hauled it from the Black Rock Desert of Nevada to the rain forests of Peru. From Pismo to Paris and all points in between.

It finally died when Wendy and I took the kids to Moab. I shot with it in the deserts around Moab for several days. I never use a rainbag or anything like that. I just take it and shoot and I figure....if it breaks, it breaks.

So it broke and I sent it back today to be repaired. Should have it back in about two weeks I figure.

http://www.peeniewallie.com/2009/02/canon-camera-hi.html

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 15, 2009 at 10:45 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Catching Up

Sunflower in Austin.

Fox squirrel in my back yard in Colorado.

Male Broad-Tailed hummingbird on Wendy's feeder.

Male Lazuli Bunting on feeder at Jen's school.

Male Downy Woodpecker on feeder at Jen's school.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 15, 2009 at 10:33 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 10, 2009

Great Horned Owlet

Yesterday, when I brought Jennifer home from the airport, we stopped to check on the Great Horned Owl nest and, for the first time this year, I spotted a baby owl. The owlet is snow white and appears to be covered in down. The baby was eating something when I spotted him. I snapped a few Bigfoot/UFO quality photos of the baby, but you can see the little bugger if you look closely. It's the white little furry thing behind the momma owl.

Categories: Photos, Birds, Owls

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 10, 2009 at 11:00 PM : Comments (1) | Permalink

April in San Diego

Here are some shots from San Diego in April. Basically, I flew out of a 3 day blizzard in Colorado and touched down in San Diego in the springtime. Indescribable, really. San Diego is a beautiful place.

The images are compiled into a 16 Meg (3:33) Adobe Flash slideshow(abril.swf) that you should be able to open and view with any browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). To view the slideshow, just click on the photo above.

These images were all captured with a Canon EOS 40D with a Canon BG-E2 battery grip. The short lens is an image stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF-S 17-85mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM). The long lens is a Canon L-series ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF 100-400mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM) with an ET-83C hood.

If you want to view the slideshow as a Windows executable, you can play this version (abril.exe), and it allows you to play, pause, skip forward, backwards, etc.

Image post-processing was done in Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended. The slideshow was created using Imagematics Stillmotion Pro.

The soundtrack is Mistaken For Strangers by The National.

Lyrics in the extended entry.

Click here to view the other slideshows.

Continue reading "April in San Diego"

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 10, 2009 at 12:21 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 9, 2009

Gray Tree Frog

Wendy told me she was hearing something odd in the woods. Not that this is unusual. She lives up in the mountains and her daughter couldn't tell a crowing rooster from a mountain lion, or a pollywog from mosquito larvae. So, when she says she hears something outside, I say I'll tell her what it is and as soon as I hear it, I tell her she has a tree frog.

But it does surprise me a bit. I really didn't think they could survive the winters up here, but apparently the gray tree frog has glycerol in his body which acts as an antifreeze. This site says "Sexually mature gray tree frogs can survive for several days at temperatures as low as -20°F."

So I went outside and after a few minutes, I informed her that he was living in a pile of bricks out back, which probably is a good radiant heat source for him at night. Jennifer and Sidney pulled bricks off the pile until Jennifer found him and she and Wendy started squealing that I should catch him. I don't know why this surprised me, but it did surprise me that they couldn't reach down and pick him up. So I collected him in my hands and we put him in a little goldfish bowl, with rocks and water in the bottom.

He was fairly small...probably about an inch and a half long, I'd say. I could tell by his toes that he as "a" tree frog. I just wasn't sure he was "the" tree frog making the noise. But we were eating dinner when he started croaking. I immediately knew what the noise was, and everyone else slowly caught on as well. We'd captured the same tree frog that we'd heard croaking outside. A fun way to spend the evening.

Hopefully, they'll let him go tomorrow so he can find a mate.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 9, 2009 at 9:46 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 8, 2009

Garbage Disposal

I saw this sign at work and thought it was sort of funny.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 8, 2009 at 12:42 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 6, 2009

I-5 Flowers

I actually stopped and shot this flower under the overpass at the I-5/I-8 interchange this morning on the way into work. Of course, I have no clue what it is.

Update: The comments suggest this may be a variety of Allium, which I'm inclined to agree, I think. Possibly some flavor of Allium. Hmmm.

Continue reading "I-5 Flowers"

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 6, 2009 at 10:48 PM : Comments (2) | Permalink

F/A-18D Hornet

If any of you saw the movie Top Gun, you may recall that the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School TOPGUN training program was located at a military base just outside of San Diego. Today it's called the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, but back then, I believe it was known as Naval Air Station Miramar.

They don't fly TOPGUN training missions out of Miramar any more. I think they moved the TOPGUN training program into the Nevada desert.

Or, maybe if you don't recall the TOPGUN training program, maybe you remember when the FA-18D Hornet crashed into a neighborhood destroying several homes and killing four people on the ground in back December.

In any event, today they're still scrambling fighter jets out of Miramar like mad. I went outside and shot a few of them taking off today while I was talking on my cell phone. It's so loud that it shakes the building and I just have to wait for them to pass before I can resume communication. This is an F/A-18D Hornet taking off.

Update: The plane crashed at 4416 Cather Ave. San Diego, CA.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 6, 2009 at 10:22 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 5, 2009

Neptune Beach / Strand Beach

I slipped away from work in time to get a few shots in before sunset. These photos were taken in La Jolla at the beach. I'm not 100% clear if it would accurately be called Neptune Beach or Strand Beach. I'm leaning towards Neptune Beach, as I parked near the intersection of Neptune Place and Nautilus Street.

Update: According to Leslie Tarbell Donovan, this is called the "Tiki shack at Windnsea. It's famous for its sunsets and boasts a massive and powerful on- shore surf break.." It's located on the beach at the end of Bonair Street.

In any event, there's a little surf shack down on the beach, sort of like the one at 4 Mile Beach in Santa Cruz. I forget what they call it, but there's a Hawaiian name for these little surf shacks. In any event, the surf was up and there were some decent surfers there. So, maybe this is where the better surfers hang out?

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 5, 2009 at 10:40 PM : Comments (4) | Permalink

Disable Office Clipboard toolbar

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/207438

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 5, 2009 at 12:18 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 3, 2009

San Diego Flora

Today, I drove by a man that was gardening and I stopped and introduced myself as I just can't stand being out here and every idiot I ask has no clue what as to the names of the plants and flowering trees. Like these trees and flowers are exploding all around us like Roman candles and every dullard I ask just has no clue. No clue at all so today I just stopped right in the middle of the street and started quizzing this guy around his flowers. He mentioned Encilia and Portulaca, but I'm not clear that I've seen those plants. The bee keeper I met yesterday mentioned Oleander, but I'm not clear that this flower is on my radar screen either.

However, he did correctly identify these as "Ice Plants"(Carpobrotus edulis). (Wendy called them "ice flowers", but for some reason I couldn't make the connection.) Apparently, they were once touted as "the perfect solution for fire safety. Planted on hillsides of thousands of homes in San Diego, it has since crawled off the original site and into neighboring Open Space parks, endangering unique plants by smothering them." So today, they're an invasive species and they're going into the parks and ripping them out. But they are beautiful.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 3, 2009 at 9:01 PM : Comments (1) | Permalink

Ocean Beach

I just stumbled onto Ocean Beach today. I'd never even heard of it. It's not the kind of place people would tell you to go. It's not like Del Mar or La Jolla Cove. It's just a bunch of head shops and surfers and skate board punks. Homeless people walking around talking to their pet rats and things like that. There was one restaurant there called Hodad's, which apparently is nationally known to have the best hamburgers in San Diego and people are literally lined up around the block to get into the place and I hear it's like this every day and every night.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 3, 2009 at 8:46 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Cabrillo National Monument

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was reportedly the Portugese explorer that discovered San Diego bay in 1542 and claimed it in the name of Spain. He was on a mission to find the mouth of the Colorado River, search for gold, and find a trade route to the Orient.

Like Coronado and De Soto before him, he failed to find any gold. He missed the mouth of the Colorado River by cutting across the Sea of Cortez to Cabo San Lucas. He did, however, discover the best port on the west coast of North America which he named San Miguel. Unfortunately for Cabrillo, he died on his mission and 60 years later, an explorer named Sebastian Vizcaino came along and renamed all of the places Cabrillo had discovered and named. In 1603, San Miguel was renamed San Diego and it's been called that ever since.

Cabrillo National Monument looking East at the North Island Naval Air Station on the Coronado peninsula, with San Diego in the background.

I got a photo of this bird singing in the vegetation out on Point Lomas. I'm thinking it's a Northern Mockingbird(Mimus polyglottos).

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 3, 2009 at 8:09 PM : Comments (2) | Permalink

Swag

Here's the swag I got for Timmy and Slinky yesterday at the Sample Sale and Box Sale. For all of this, I paid a total of $8.00. Enough toys for a lifetime. :)

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 3, 2009 at 12:54 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Mexican Chocolate

Here's the chocoloate I smuggled back into the United States from Tijuana, located in the Mexican state of Baja California Norte.

The one I liked the best is "Milch", at the top of the photo. The Peloton was disgusting. I threw it away. I liked Carlos V - it tasted sort of like Raisenets. The Mr. Big was OK. Not bad. Sort of milk chocolate over a Rice Krispy center.

The Crispy Crunch is sort of like a Butterfinger. That's about the closest way to describe it I think.

The Crunchie was interesting. Not bad. The center was not like anything I've ever had in a candy bar though. Sort of large, airy, and brittle. Not bad, but different.

Initially, I had thought that Jennifer might like the Skwinkles, as I assumed they were sour. But they're not only sour - they're also hot (as in spicy). So, I'm sure she wouldn't go for this. I ate them, but I probably wouldn't buy them again.

The "Delice", which probably wouldn't sell too well in the U.S. actually isn't bad. Shaped like a brownie, but tastes sort of like a Hostess cupcake.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 3, 2009 at 12:38 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

San Diego Zoo

For those of you that haven't been there, and I may possibly be the last one of earth that had never been there, The San Diego zoo is pretty an amazing place. I wasn't really sure what to expect. I'd heard it was a cool zoo. But what I like about it is that in the middle of San Diego they've built a tropical rain forest. All of San Diego is irrigated with water from the Colorado River which has it's headwaters on the western slopes of Colorado and runs past Moab, Utah, then through the Grand Canyon and, in theory at least, should empty into the Sea of Cortez. However, it runs dry in the desert long before it reaches the Sea of Cortez. The reason for this is that the cities like San Diego suck it dry long before it reaches there to grow rice in Arizona and create rain forests in San Diego. But I digress.

The zoo is beautiful and I wandered through it for some time, but it's built on a series of hills, so walking uphill is not as pleasanant as walking downhill so eventually I opted for the double-decker bus tour. It's not as much exercise, but it's one way to put the park into perspective somewhat. I did notice that there are some European-style escalators...sort of like the ones that bring you up out of the Tube in London. There's no stairs, just an inclined moving plane that hauls your carcass up the hill.

While I was there, I met a man that's a professor at a local university. He was scribbling some notes while studying an enormous Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla), also commonly referred to as a Banyan tree.

He was able to correctly identify the Elkhorn fern, which wasn't labeled, so I asked him the name of the purple carpet of flowers I see all over California. But he wasn't sure. He mentioned that the highway department is fond of planting Oleander for erosion control, a highly poisonous flower, apparently.

It turns out he's in charge of the school's apiary, which was quite fortunate because my neighbor Bud just set one up a few weeks ago. So now, I figure we have someone we can consult with on bee-related questions.

The rainforest aviary is amazing, with a creek running through it with waterfalls and it rains every so often from giant overhead sprinklers and little covered benches to watch the birds.

This is a shot of a male Reichenow's Weaver (Ploceus bagalafecht reichenowi) on one of the feeders.

I took a self-guided botanical walking tour of the zoo and was able to identify this (above) as a species of Coral tree, which I recall seeing in Mexico and Peru.

The zoo is beautiful and I wandered through it for some time, but it's built on a series of hills, so walking uphill is not as pleasant as walking downhill so I opted for the double-decker bus touch.

Before I left, I asked what kind of tree this was and, though no one knew, some guy googled it from the zoo office while I was there and came up with the correct identification. It's a Red Bottle-Brush plant (Callistemon citrinus).

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 3, 2009 at 11:34 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 1, 2009

La Jolla Cove

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 1, 2009 at 10:32 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink