You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2007.

From the past couple of days:

Yellow (California) poppies … in Illinoize!

Yellow Poppy 2

Yellow Poppy 1

Hummingbirds … and more hummingbirds …

Hummingbird 1

Hummingbird 2

Hummingbird Magnolia

Hummingbird 3

Hummingbird 4

Blue dragonfly — this one tried to land on my head!

Blue Dragonfly 2

Blue Dragonfly 1

I grew up in a time when going to the moon was still a novelty. So new, in fact, that if you had asked other kids in my class what they wanted to be when they grew up, at least a handful would have said, “An astronaut.” (Not me, of course; I always wanted to an author.)

I did get interested in astronomy, though … eventually: in fifth grade, when Miss Kull told us — all full of the enthusiasm that only aerobics instructors and certain elementary teachers can muster — that if we went outside, about an hour after sunset, we could see Jupiter in the Eastern sky. (At least I think it was the Eastern sky; that’s the direction I looked, anyway, and I’m pretty sure I remember seeing a “star” that was distinctly brighter than the rest. And it wasn’t twinkling!)

Miss Kull also told us about a lunar eclipse that was coming up, and I made sure to watch for that, too. I learned all the planets, in order: Mary Very Easily Makes Jam. SUN spells “sun,” and Pluto’s all alone. (In case you forgot: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto — the since-banished planet.)

I’ve been watching the sky — albeit with frequent distractions — every since.

As an astronomer, however, I have proven, this month, to be an abject failure.

First there were the Perseid meteor showers that took place a few weeks ago. Perfect viewing conditions, experts said, for the night that was supposed to have the highest level of activity: few clouds and no moon, making for a dark sky — allowing the meteors to be even more visible.

I slept right through it.

When I read about the full lunar eclipse that was to occur this morning, I was determined not to miss it. In fact, I was hoping to photograph the event, too. I figured I could set up the mini-tripod, maybe even take some time-lapse photos; I even hauled out my “film” camera for the first time in I-can’t-remember-when!

I shot some photos of the almost-full moon early in the evening, just for practice. Then I went about my usual Monday-night activities: Watching The Closer and Saving Grace, in-between coverage of the U.S. Open (normally, I’d be watching a baseball game or two, also). I was pleased to discover several rolls of film — including some 400 and 800 speed — in my Tamrac bag, but the battery in the trusty Canon Elan II EOS was just about to flat-line. After Grace, I drug myself to Wally World to get a new battery; when I returned, I watched the end of Cold Case and headed to bed shortly after 11 p.m. I set my usual alarm for 6:30 a.m. and the second for 5 a.m., which I figured would give me plenty of time to watch the eclipse — even if I had to drive over to the road by the airport (I had no idea exactly where in the sky the moon would be at that time).

I wasn’t thrilled by the notion of getting up at 5, but what the heck? I’ll still get a good six hours of sleep, I told myself.

And then I proceeded to toss. And turn. And wonder about such useless topics as the price of hamburger (and bubble gum!) in India. Before I knew it, I glanced over at the clock and saw that it was already after midnight!

I should take some NyQuil, I thought. That’ll knock me out.

No, you can’t take NyQuil just because you can’t get to sleep, I reasoned.

I lay there for a few more minutes.

You know, those mosquito bites on my legs are really itching, I thought. I really should take some Benadryl!

With that, I was up and off to the bathroom to find my over-the-counter allergy-relief medicine; you know, the one that (temporarily, at least) puts me out of my misery every time I get poison ivy.

In a few minutes, I was unconscious. Until just before 5 a.m., at which point I awakened as if I’d been catapulted against a brick wall.

Groggily, I grabbed my glasses and put them on, staggered out of bed, slipped on my shoes, gathered up my cameras and went outside.

There, to the south and west, was the moon in the midst of a full lunar eclipse. It was perfectly round and kind of a dusty maroon, with just a hint of yellow. In my half-still-asleep state, I tried to snap a few photos with both cameras, but I could tell there was no way I was going to be able to get enough light for a decent picture. And, naturally, thanks to my overall lack of preparation, I had forgotten about the possibility of setting up my tripod.

This is the best I could come up with … and it, to paraphrase Napoleon Dynamite, is pretty much the worse lunar eclipse photo ever:

Eclipse?

(The blur effect should not be interpreted as actual movement on the part of the fully eclipsed moon; it is mostly the result of my [digital] camera shooting at a speed of about half a second [or more] and my inability to hold the camera too steady.)

I stared at the moon with half-shut eyes for a few minutes, and then I decided to go back to bed. I can come back out in 20 minutes or so and see what the moon’s doing then, I told myself.

I collapsed onto my bed and wrapped myself in my covers — and did not get up again until 6:20 a.m., by which time the eclipse had undoubtedly ended and the moon had already set.

I decided that I do, indeed, occasionally feel the pull of the moon; however, it sometimes doesn’t compare to the lure of a warm bed!

Yellow Center Lite

Yellow Center 1

Yellow Center 2

Dried Cones

My boss showed up next door (her ex lives there; she was dropping her son by to pick up his bike and some clothes) this evening whilst I was over at Donald — or, as Kameron calls him, McDonald — and Virginia’s, staking out the hummingbird feeder. At that particular moment, I was staring straight up into a tall tree, where the hummingbird was perched on a branch — waiting to see if the male hummingbird was nearby so she’d know whether it was “safe” to visit the feeder.

“Are you praying?” my boss asked.

I told her I wasn’t. (I didn’t mention that, a few minutes earlier, a bird had pooped on my back!)

I ended up with a few hummingbird shots, nothing noteworthy. I experimented a little: using flash, bumping up the shutter speed, shooting from different angles. Still can’t get as close as I’d like … and I’d still prefer getting shots in which the birds are dipping their beaks into actual flowers instead of the humdrum, artificial-looking feeder.

Patience, Grasshopper …

Hummingbird

What did you do this weekend?

I pretty much did absolutely nothing — which, admittedly, is one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend. Limited human contact, a great pseudo-Mexican lunch, a couple of naps, some unexpected photo opportunities. I spent the first 36 hours or so feeling rather lethargic, which only further enhanced my desire NOT to do anything; I started to perk up today around 2 p.m., just in time to start lamenting the fact that Sunday was more than halfway over.

Not long after that, I found out that Diane had had a flat tire and Karl’s Jeep had broken down. Both were more than an hour from their respective homes when their car troubles had struck (stricken?). Diane, driving on the spare, had to backtrack to help Karl transport the kidlets to his house. Meanwhile, I was relegated to the role of dispatcher but ended up not having to make any emergency runs. Fortunately, everyone made it to their destination safely and soundly.

I’ve been in a bit of a sports mode here lately, what with the Cubs leading the National League Central … and here it is, late August. What a rarity! Oh, I know it won’t last, but wouldn’t it be cool if it did? (I, too, am a dreamer, at times!) Plus, tomorrow the U.S. Open starts, which means 12 hours of tennis a day over the next two weeks. Yay!

I’m also kind of excited because there’s supposed to be a full lunar eclipse tomorrow night/early Tuesday morning. Of course, knowing how much of the meteor shower I managed to see a couple of weeks ago (none!), I can only predict that I will sleep through this event, too.

Yesterday evening, I found some horses. (I probably should’ve made a separate post, but I’m feeling really really lazy right now. Plus, it’s past my bedtime as it is!)

Closeup Paint

Running Horse

2 Horses

Horses Eating

Not long after that, I stumbled upon some flowers. And monarchs.

Puffball

Monarch

Open Monarch

The only drawback about shooting the flowers and flutterbies was that, later, I found two tiny ticks on my left foot! (Neither of them had attached themselves to my skin, though. Thankfully.)

I shot this deer before leaving the late. I was in my car, and I was hoping to have time to fire off three or four shots (or more!) and get something in focus, but this young buck wasn’t in the mood to stand around waiting for me … darn it!

Young Buck

Kiddle

Kiddle has become my new (feline) best second-best friend (just seeing if Mittens was paying attention). Yeah, Little Kiddle’s missin’ her kittens; I can tell she’s sorta looking for them, occasionally — when she’s not rubbing against my legs or trying to trip me while I mosey around the yard. Purring all the while.

This one’s for Jill because she actually likes dragonflies … just like I do!

Dragonfly on a Stick

This is a hummingbird, silhouetted amongst the maple leaves:

Hummingbird Silhouette

(Times like these, I really wish I had a stronger lens.)

Sunset Fishing

Sunset at Rend Lake

5 Kittens

The kittens are gone now. Amazingly, thankfully, we were able to find homes for all 5 of them … because, honestly, as much as we would’ve liked to have kept them: Diane already has her limit (2), and I happen to have a cat who absolutely HATES other cats (she seems to love dogs, though; go figure), so that rules out bringing another feline inside, and I live a little too close to a busy street to think all too seriously about having an “outdoor cat” of my own. Although, when The Lovely suggested I get a small doghouse and bring Kiddle and one of her kittens over here to live, I did give it a fair measure of consideration. Then I thought, again, of the street, and the poison ivy they’d be crawling through, occasionally (I’ve Roundupped most of it, but there’s still plenty that’s not dead, so I plan to spray it all again this weekend … and even though I know the cats won’t get it, I suspect I would if I wallered them the way I intended to), and decided that finding new homes for them was the best alternative.

Over the last couple of days, I’d been asking my co-workers, “Does anyone need a cat?” Because I know plenty of people want a cat (and others who don’t), but most of them aren’t going to consider getting a cat unless they’re convinced (or perhaps just reminded) that they need one.

Sheila was the first to give in. Which wasn’t surprising because she’s a little like me: Easy. She told me she’d take Blondi if it happened to be a boy. Mid-morning, I took her over to meet him (or her), and immediately, Sheila loved him (or her). In fact, she first pronounced him a “she” but then said, “She might be a boy; it’s kinda early to tell.” She was holding her (or him) the entire time, and then she found a gray-and-white kitten she liked, too.

Would she possibly consider taking 2 kittens?

“Maybe!” she said.

Later in the day, Traci heard us talking about kittens. She seemed interested, so I asked her if she needed any. “We don’t have any right now, so I’d take a couple!” she said.

“Well, you’ve got 3 boys; shouldn’t you get one for each of them?” While she pondered this, I mused, “Wait, if you take 3 kittens, and Sheila takes 1, that will leave 1 kitten all by itself. Are you sure you don’t want 4 kittens?”

Traci made the obligatory phone call to ask/tell her husband about the kittens. An hour or so later, I asked her, “What did you decide: 2 kittens? Or 3? Or 4?”

“Ah, just box them all up!” she said. (Traci, apparently, is easy, too!)

It wasn’t too difficult to say goodbye to the kittens because I had already bidden them farewell earlier in the day when I had dropped by to watch the last 3 innings of the baseball game (Cubs 2, Cardinals 1; Cubs move into first place!) — in-between taking pictures of the kittens as I, for the last time, watched them all play together.

I have discovered that the term “as playful as kittens,” while totally overused, is just about as accurate a simile as any I’ve ever heard.

I got teary-eyed when I thought about not getting to see them play together on a daily basis. I worried about Kiddle and how she would “feel” when she realized her kittens were gone. I mean, I believe they were ready — they were still nursing, but they also were able to eat everything we put in front of them (milk, wet cat food, dry cat food) — and Kiddle seemed completely famished, every time I appeared, but still: Do mama cats realize what has happened when their kittens are gone? Can they possibly understand that yes, indeed, they had done everything “right” when it came to raising their kids?

I do wonder.

Kitten & Bubbles

Kittens & Tennis Balls

Headlock

I love this next one:

Paws Raised

Pinned

Upside-Down

Kitten & Shovel

2 Kittens Eating

Kiddle & Kittens

Since I last posted, I made another shocking DIscovery: A 5TH KITTEN!

Kitten Free-For-All

Yes, as you can see, The Official Kitten Count now includes 3 gray-and-whites, 1 yellow-and-white and 1 black. I have tentatively nicknamed the yellow kitty Blondi the Brave — mostly because it’s blonde, and I altered the name ever-so-slightly in honor of my friend Mary Blondi and her family, and also because this one seems to be the bravest of the litter (or perhaps the boldest) — and the black kitty Dickey because it has a white patch on its chest, just below its chin (Mona said she prefers the nickname Tux, which is still a possibility). As for the 3 gray-and-whites: I’m tempted to go with something obvious like The 3 Stooges (“Who are these Stooges you speak of?”) or Huey, Dewey and Louie or, maybe, Tweedledum, Tweedledee and TweedleDI.

I know better than to get too attached because, soon enough, we’re going to have to let them go … but not until they’re ready and we’ve found good homes with caring humans who really really want them. (Already, one of Diane’s tennis team members has said she wants one, and Karl and Sherry said they might take a couple of them; their kidlets LOVE cats!)

In the meantime, though, I can’t help but enjoy them.

Kitty & Wheel

Blonde on Green

Gato y Gato

Kissy Face

Squeezing Through

Fuzzy

Kittens & Stairs

Nurse Kiddle

Sleeping ... Sorta

A couple of days ago, I noticed that Kiddle was hanging around the corner of the garage. So I told Diane she might want to keep an eye on the cat because she might be doing her business back there — as opposed to pooping right in the middle of the garage, as she has a couple of times (the cat, that is; not Diane).

This afternoon, Diane called me at work.

“I think Kiddle might’ve been a little smarter than we thought she was,” she said. “I saw 2 kittens back there in the corner!”

Kiddle has kittens! Who knew?!

I mean, Kiddle strayed up to us, what, about 2 months ago? Maybe a little more, I dunno. And she looked to be not that much older than a kitten herself … but, now that I think about it, she did have a somewhat oversized belly, which we simply chalked up to her not eating regular meals. Or having worms, maybe.

She never gave the slightest indication whatsoever that she was a mom!

By the time I arrived on the scene today, the “2 kittens” had increased to 3: a yellow-and-white kitten and 2 gray-and-white kittens. They looked to be about 3 or 4 weeks old — maybe older? How do you know for sure? They were taking turns nursing on Kiddle and lying in the other corner, squeezed between a cardboard box and one of those cobweb dusters.

Then we made another discovery: an all-black 4th kitten!

I managed to get a picture of 3 of them:

Kittens!

(I think I’m in love.)

So, a few weeks ago, this new cat shows up at The Lovely’s house. A couple of days later, I name her Kiddle — you know, like those “Little Kiddles” from the late-1960s/early 1970s. (I had a Little Kiddle ring with a blonde-haired Little Kiddle inside; naturally, though, I managed to lose the Little Kiddle, so I was left with this monstrous ring and nothing in it. I suspect this led to my early disdain for gaudy costume jewelry.*)

Kiddle is one of those cats who’s so ugly she’s cute. Kinda like she’s been hit by a truck or something. I adore her … except when she poops in the garage, of course.

Kiddle Panting

Kiddle Walking

Patches puts up with her, long as you make sure to put out 2 separate piles o’ food.

Patches Bathing

Patches Closeup

* — Other Di trivia: I also had a Cinderella watch with a yellow strap when I was a kid. Debra had Snow White, pink strap.

August 2007
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My Shots on Flickr

Waving

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Shed & Pump