Latest Local Birder News

Yesterday a flock of Indigo Buntings flew through the area. The males are deep blue and the females a sparrow-like brown. There is an empty lot next to our home currently filled with ripe-to-bursting wild peas of some sort, and indigo buntings apparently love to eat seeds and berries.

And I do mean literally bursting – as I went out recently to check on our newly planted honeysuckle and blackberry bushes, I realized I was hearing an odd popping sound. I stood quietly and looked around. Gradually I realized the pea pods on the wild plants were now fully ripened and dried, and since the sun was hot enough, the heat was literally making them explode open, spreading the tiny black “peas” in each pod in every direction when they burst. As I watched, one split and hit me in the face.

These plants must be very popular with the local birds because I have also seen our resident nesting cardinals fighting other birds over rights to feed in the lot, as well as significant blue jay activity there, along with the inevitable small brown birds you see all over.

We saw a hawk last weekend – I think a young one, it seemed clumsy, as if it had recently become accustomed to stretching its wings. It only appeared to be passing through, because after a moment it was gone. Other recent sightings include a flock of about 20-30 Monk Parakeets, and a close up sighting of a buzzard.

Currently two ducks seem to have taken at least temporary residence in a pecan tree across the street. I am not clear on their relationship – sibling or mates? Young ducks tend to stay close in family groups until mating time, and these look very similar in color, and small. Possibly they are both young mallards.

Our four cats remain convinced that if I let them out they could catch any of these fascinating feathered creatures, but the only cat I have known to have caught a bird is the feral cat who graces our doorstep and whom we feed to discourage her bird-hunting ways.

Politics Stuff and a Chart

We’ve all been very caught up in politics in our house lately as we follow the Dramatic Primary Season. It’s our geeky version of football, I suspect.

I spent some time doing some research on voting patterns by region and came up with this .xls chart – RedBlue Analysis.

Details about data below:

The Great Outdoors (Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming) 44 electoral votes – DEEP RED –

This is where the true GOP stalwarts live. This long list of states has a fairly low-density rural population in middle America. With the exception of Missouri – a border state – none of these have voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate in over 40 years; and Missouri has only done so twice. These states have a small population, despite covering a huge amount of land – even so, their population is slowly declining, so they have lost five electoral votes in the last forty years.

The Appalachian South (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia) 135 electoral votes – MAGENTA +

While the Appalachian South region is commonly called out for being the GOP’s most stalwart area, the data shows several Southern states are actually swing states – most notably Florida, the region’s largest and most rapidly growing state, which has 29 electoral votes in 2016. Florida has gained 12 electoral votes in the last 40 years, the bulk of the region’s overall gain of 21 electoral votes in the last four decades.

The Southwest  (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah) 75 electoral votes РPURPLE ++

Many people like to group Texas with the other Southern states, but much that happens in Texas – politically, geographically, and historically – places it more firmly in the Southwestern region. All six Southwestern states are experiencing dramatic growth, in large part because of immigration – which is both a boon and one of the thorniest political issues on their plate. Since 1976 these combined states have gained 25 electoral votes due to the population increases they are experiencing. Politically, they are mixed: Texas, Utah and Arizona are extremely Republican; while Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado have been voting Democratic in more recent elections.

The Mid-Atlantic Rust Belt (Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) 170 electoral votes –
INDIGO – – –

The Mid-Atlantic Rust Belt is a huge area with many similar interests and comparative voting behavior. Although slightly mixed, they tend to vote strongly Democrat, and have done so more often in the last twenty years. They have taken a huge population hit over the last few decades, most likely due to the decline of manufacturing jobs in the region – which is one of their largest political issues. They have lost 43 electoral votes in the last 40 years; thus, while the region includes a few populous states like New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania, their relative power is waning.

The North Coasts (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Oregon, Washington and District of Columbia) 111 electoral votes – TRUE BLUE +

While in recent elections the northern, largely coastal states have almost universally voted Democrat, in the past they were much more likely to vote Republican. The North Coasts have experienced a Westward shift in population – the Eastern states’ population has slowly declined, while California’s has surged. Washington and Oregon have also enjoyed steady, modest population increases. The net result for these liberal strongholds has been ten more electoral votes since 1976.

Notes:

Why did I divide the regions the way I did? I chose several factors in dividing states into their regions:

1. Geography. While this is the oldest and most obvious way to politically organize and think of the country, it is not perfect – yet it is a starting point.

2. Past voting behavior. To get a good idea of past voting behavior, you have to take into account more than one or two elections, so I went back ten for a nice round 40 years (with presidential elections happening once every four years, 30 or 50 would be more difficult).

3. Growth rate. Is a state’s population growing, stable, or declining? This shows if a state shares a neighboring state’s regional influences, and also signals the region’s increasing or decreasing political strength.

Summer PhotoBlog

This Summer we bought our first home.

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So I’ve been doing a lot of gardening and work around the house.

Probably the best part of the garden so far is the sunflowers:

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Of which the bees seem to approve:

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We also have a New Orleans yard classic, banana trees, although they aren’t very large yet:

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As well as a number of other plants in pots and around the house.

The cats have slowly settled in. Once they became acquainted with the local wildlife it all became a bit easier for them:
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And before we knew it, Rosh Hashanah had rolled around again.

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All in all remarkably busy – and that is just a brief overview! More to come soon!

Spring, Busy Spring

The weather is gorgeous this week, unlike last week – hope you weren’t affected by those storms! Mardi Gras, Passover, Easter, Lent are past and we prepare for the long hot summer ahead. But for the moment it is still relatively mild.

Our home has been bustling with energy. Along with the various spring annual festivals and associated spring cleaning, I have been making slow but steady progress on my novel, “Azazel”; we have been house hunting; and I have a number of other personal projects going at any given time.

I’m thinking of putting together my ultra-simple recipes into a cookbook for the ultra-beginner and seeing how this works out. Actually, I think I would range it from the ultra simple recipes in the beginning to gradually more in-depth and truly homemade recipes toward the end. Updates here as I further contemplate (or drop) that project entirely!

 

Strange Tales from 1990s New Orleans

I’ve been working on a video project with a backstory so bizarre it couldn’t be anything but a classic New Orleans tale – something too strange to be fiction.

I have an album whose artists are to be found no where on the internet. Or rather, they come up only as some people who sang at a concert once or twice many years ago, listed under names that are clearly not “real” or “legal” names as most people in America would understand them (see “NymWars” if you are interested in the controversy concerning the issues over “real names” vs. “legal names” among the artistic and other segments of society). The album, being on a CD, is in danger of soon degrading and being lost forever and there is no where to purchase it that I can find anywhere.

So I decided to upload the songs onto youtube, making the video some pictures I’ve taken around town. The band was named “Cybersanctum”; the album named “Alchemy”, and the artists in question called themselves “Lorelei” (vocals) and “Pteran” (mostly forms of electronica). The songs seem to be mostly based in the neopagan ’90s culture with perhaps a bit of influence of ceremonial or “high” magic in the lyrics.

The odd backstory, however, is how I acquired the CD.

For a brief time I had this roommate. I will gently allow this person to remain unnamed, although certain friends of mine will read this and know exactly who I am talking about. He declared himself to be a high priest of Satan and spent a good deal of the 90s walking around wearing these rather fetching robes – black choir robes with flames licking about the bottom. He shaved his head and the entire rest of his body, so he told me once. I never asked why. I didn’t want to know.

For all of these personal oddities, he was actually a pleasant enough fellow; intelligent, insightful and talkative. I never saw him do anything violent or even raise his voice. He smiled a lot and if anything he just seemed rather… flaky. He seemed, absent the Satanic schtick, to just be a person who was sort of absent-minded. I can’t even recall any notable tattoos or piercings, although it would seem odd for anyone in the alternative culture to not have any at that time – if he had any, they were rather understated and not very flashy. He was rather thin and not very muscular. Also, he was usually broke.

It was for this reason he ended up being my roommate, needing a place to stay and promising to pay some nominal fee for a room in my tiny apartment. I didn’t ask for much. Needless to say, he didn’t pay up and after a few weeks he had to leave. Within that few weeks he began an affair with one of my close friends, which is one of the only reasons I let him stay as long as I did. How do you explain to your good friend you are making her hot new boyfriend homeless? So I got to sit in the next room ignoring them while not getting any money. Thankfully it didn’t take long for them to break up.

It was during these few weeks he came home one night and tossed a CD in my direction. “I really think this is more you than me, ” he said. This was, of course, the one under discussion in the post. I never found out where he got it and by now I’m sure he’s long forgotten himself. I played it and immediately fell in love with the songs. He was totally right about my musical taste, of course.

The postscript: decades later, he is still in town and works at some club specializing in terribly kinky things that I won’t even walk into. And he still manages to affect our life in bizarre ways. We had another roommate the other year. One day we were checking our network and saw some oddly named computer hooked into it – “666”. We asked her about this. “Oh yeah,” she said, “I bought this laptop from him. That’s what he named it.”

Of course he did.

Here’s the first of the uploads from the album:

The Nature of Politics

I’ve long felt that human beings, in forming their social, cultural and political institutions, must of an unconscious necessity reflect the patterns existent in the natural world around them.

This is the convoluted way by which I explain the otherwise inexplicable levels of political corruption in Louisiana and New Orleans politics. We live in a swamp filled with molds, fungi, alligators, and strange things that mutate and crawl out of moats. Our political institutions are the same way.

Louisiana has the highest per capita number of convictions for political officials  in the United States. These are just the ones who get convicted and caught.

This also doesn’t include the number of sycophants, aides, supporters, and other associated hanger-ons that have built up in what amounts to an entire ecosystem of corruption surrounding everything to do with Louisiana politics.

People have tried to explain this for years, based on all levels of partisan political data, sociological analysis, historical roots, and everything else, but it seems to deny any rational analysis. I think the real cause is irrational. There is something, as they say, in the water. It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. We live in a swamp – strange and funky things brew beneath the surface of the clouded water. Nothing is quite clean.

Even a swamp is cleaned out from time to time, however. A marsh fire occurs in dry season. A hurricane comes. Winter peels back to tangled overgrowth.

We see what was lurking beneath. You can’t hide forever.

New Year’s Changes Incoming

I’m going to be rearranging some things and fixing stuff up around here – repainting, so to speak – for the New Year. My first year of blogging has been what we might call a “learning experience”, although not a terribly painful one. There are things I could do better and I hope to make this blog more entertaining and useful.

For the moment, me and my house are still recovering from the holidays and the flu shot. Have you gotten yours? Get it before you go out in those Mardi Gras crowds, cher!

A Matter of Honour Nearly Ends in Tragedy

After a lengthy dinner at an upscale French Quarter establishment, four young gentlemen of wealth and taste began to civilly discuss whose turn it was to pay the bill.

“I insist, my good chap,” said the party of the first part, sitting alongside his best mate. “You have paid the last several times and I simply cannot abide being treated as a charity case.”

“Never!” retorted the party of the second part, with his brother beside him. “I am more than happy to treat you every time we take refreshment, as my family has left me with a healthy independence which allows me to live heartily without even dipping into the capital!”

At this back-handed reminder of his less privileged status, the party of the first part found his honor most importunately impinged upon and requested an immediate duel, with pistols, on the main thoroughfare of the city in the presence of witnesses and with their best mates as seconds. With the restaurant fare settled, the duelists set out to their chariots to engage upon the battle.

A fiery duel proceeded to range up and down the famous New Orleans streets, leaving both duelists and their seconds injured; with sad damage occurring to at least one of the horseless chariots. Worse yet, the officious police have become involved and interrupted what was clearly a private matter of debt-settling between four gentlemen. I pray ye, can such a state of matters continue in a totalitarian clime as this; when gentlemen cannot even duel in the streets when it is needful without being harassed by the Law?!