Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Today's Birds

Observed at Chapman's Pond, a favorite birding stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail, Gainesville, Florida.

Boat-tailed grackle
White ibis
Tri-colored heron
Little blue heron
White egret
Blue-winged teal

The 30 or so teal (mostly females) were busy dabbling. Grackles were congregating in noisy groups among the cattails bordering the pond. The lone phoebe paused for a moment's perch atop a pole supporting a nestbox upslope from the pond.

I collected a handfull of achene/pappus "parachute" fruits of a couple of aster species that grew rampantly in waste areas around the pond, in hopes of getting them established in "natural areas" around the yard at Clog-House Est. 1935.

One couldn't have hoped for a prettier day, though the birding could have been better. There will be better days ahead.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sumac Tea

I enjoyed a very pleasant walk in the woods south and west of Gainesville Florida the whole of this afternoon. The tract was former farmland. Trees along the wooded areas surrounding a cleared area exceeding 40 acres were predominantly very old live oaks, with scattered longleaf pines, post oaks, bluejack oak, turkey oak, occasional upland laurel and water oaks, Walter's viburnum, and American and yaupon hollies. There were gopher tortoise burrows, Opuntia cactus, 2 species of pawpaw, Agave, sparkleberry, and numerous wildflowers and grasses that indicated the land was once a sandhill community. It was very hard to go back to the office on this lovely Autumn day in Florida. The pressing thought was that this land needed to be burned to reset the clock to encourage those periodic fire-adapted species to reassert their presence in this area.

Before leaving, I picked a double-handfull of winged sumac infructescences: clusters of very small red drupes from which I will steep and make a strong sour "lemonade" this evening, flavored with fresh ginger and a stick or two of cinnamon, and a measure of honey or sugar.

On the balance, life is good. I try to make homemade music every day (guitar, piano, fiddle, banjo, pennywhistle), dance at least once a week, and walk through a local woodland two or three times a week. Life could be much much worse.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Serial Killer Danny Harold Rollings was executed at 6:13 EST today. I had just moved to the University of Florida when he went on his spree to become a superstar criminal: the brutal mutilation murders of 5 local college students. Residents of the city of Gainesville were terrorized by this man who had vowed to kill one person for each of the 5 years he had been incarcerated for other crimes.

One consequence of the student murders that was never discussed: the number of big dogs owned by off-campus students and Gainesville townsfolk increased noticeably. American pitbulls were previously the dog of choice for the reddest of redneck men; the most unsophisticated of drug dealers; and congenitally inhumane illegal dog fighters - most of whom live off in the woods where their pathologies go mostly unnoticed and unpunished. Suddenly pitbulls were seen everywhere. Being led through downtown street art shows; marauding through the dog park; and happily defecating on the lawns of student apartments and curbsides of the most genteel of urban core neighborhoods alike. This canine unpleasantness continues to this day, more than a decade later.

Rollings killed 5 kids just as they were blooming into adulthood. The community is still horrified and reacting to his actions.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Katharine Harris - Only Good From The Waist Up

Florida Democrat Bill Nelson and republican Katherine Harris squared off tonight in a televised debate. The event was aired on my local north Florida television outlet.

Bill Nelson emerged as a composed, experienced, humble, down-to-earth, and moderate-thinking Floridian who convincingly argued that he has served Florida while remaining immune to the interests and money of big corporations and lobbyists; one who has served with the so-called People of Florida in mind. He stood on his record and seemed to defend and deflect the rehearsed challenges of his republican opponent; challenges which seemed to be contrived and designed to snatch whatever spotlight his record, personal philosophies and positions held.

Katherine Harris put on an unflattering variety of stage show worthy of a moneyed, rehearsed-with-consultants, yet still trailing-badly-in-the-polls political candidate. The performance was vaguely reminiscent of the risible, grinning, and badly ill-advised presidential debate antics of Michael Dukakis. Harris frequently strode from behind the podium to smile, show her legs, and speak patronizingly in turn to her opponent, to the audience, moderator, and panel. She battered viewers with stiff smiles and awkward gestures. She attempted to own the stage as if this were the true key to winning the votes she needs to overtake the front-runner Nelson.

In the end, Katherine Harris' legs seemed uncomfortably too big, too out of proportion to the rest of her and to her stage. Perhaps so with her ambitions to the Florida Senate and beyond as well.

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