Shallow Thoughts : : Apr

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Sun, 19 Apr 2020

H is for Hummingbirds

I'd been delaying this entry, hoping the hummingbirds would show up. I only have a couple of them right now: a male broad-tailed and a male black-chinned. I hope things will perk up later: in midsummer the rufous and calliope hummingbirds arrive and things usually get a lot more active. But meanwhile, I have an H entry to write.

[Rufous hummingbird showing off his copper throat] The black-chinned hummingbirds we have here now have a beautiful purple throat. With, yes, a little bit of black there. Why womeone would look at a bird with an iridescent purple throat with a small black border and name it "black-chinned" is beyond me.

Unfortunately, this purple throat is even more sensitive to light angle than other hummingbirds' colors, and I haven't been able to get a photo that really shows it. Hummingbird feathers -- and particularly the feathers of the males' colorful throats -- have a structure that diffracts the light, creating beautiful iridescent colors that only show up when the sun is at just the right angle. If you watch a male black-chinned hummer at the feeder, its throat will look black most of the time, with occasional startling flashes of purple. You have to take a lot of photos and get lucky with timing to catch the flash. I'll get it some day. Meanwhile, here's a lovely black-chinned hummingbird photo from Arizona.

So instead, here's a photo of a male rufous hummingbirds, which will show up later in the summer. Rufous are a lot easier to photograph. Their brilliant copper-colored throats show up from a much wider range of angles, and rufous males are even more territorial than other hummers, so once one decides it owns your feeder, it will pose in the sunlight for most of the day, ready to chase any pretenders away.

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[ 20:02 Apr 19, 2020    More nature/birds | permalink to this entry | ]

Sun, 12 Apr 2020

G is for Gabion (and a nice hike in Upper Pajarito Canyon)

[Moa on Upper Pajarito Canyon trail] Last week we hiked Upper Pajarito Canyon, a trail I mostly hadn't seen before (I'd been on parts of the trail once, years ago, on a hike I mostly don't remember except as "try not to slide off the slippery rainy hillside).

It turned out to be a beautiful trail. Early on, there are imposing stone cliffs that reminded us all of the moai on Easter Island. [Burned tree in Pajarito Canyon] The trail wound through a rocky canyon, then up along the hillside where I was able to indulge my hobby of arboronecrophotography, eventually climbing out to a viewpoint.

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[ 14:17 Apr 12, 2020    More misc | permalink to this entry | ]

Mon, 06 Apr 2020

F is for Food Waste

I keep seeing people claim that 40% of consumer food in the US is thrown away uneaten, or hear statistics like 20 pounds of wasted food per person per month.

I simply don't believe it.

There's no question that some food is wasted. It's hard to avoid having that big watermelon go bad before you have a chance to finish it all, especially when you're a one- or two-person household and the market won't sell you a quarter pound of cherries or half a pound of ground beef. And then there's all the stuff you don't want to eat: the bones, the fat, the banana peels and apple cores, the artichoke leaves and corn cobs.

But even if you count all that ... 40 percent? 2/3 of a pound per day per person? And that's supposed to be an average -- so if Dave and I are throwing out a few ounces, somebody else would have to be throwing out multiple pounds a day. It just doesn't seem possible. Who would do that?

When you see people quoting a surprising number -- especially when you see the same big number quoted by lots of people -- you should always ask yourself the source of the number.

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[ 20:08 Apr 06, 2020    More science | permalink to this entry | ]

Fri, 03 Apr 2020

E is for Esquibel -- or is it?

As you drive from Española east to Chimayó -- in non-COVID-19 times, you might be heading to Rancho de Chimayó, the area's best New Mexican restaurant -- many of the street names, of course, are Spanish.

[Eh Ski Vel Ln] That's no surprise: this area is one of the oldest white-settled parts of the United States (of course, the Puebloans had been living in the area for centuries), starting in 1598 when Don Juan de Oñate declared it the capital of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, though the capital moved to La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís (modern-day Santa Fe) twelve years later. The area remained under Spanish, and then Mexican, rule until 1848 when it was ceded to the United States.

So you're driving along, moving from the little village of Santa Cruz into the equally small Cuartalez, passing street names like Avenida Fernandez, Calle de la Capilla, Fresquez Ln, Je Martinez Ln, Calle de Esquibel -- and then right after Calle de Esquibel, there's another street sign: Eh Ski Vel Ln.

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[ 12:25 Apr 03, 2020    More humor | permalink to this entry | ]