Whatchoo Lookin At?

Hummingbird on a feeder looking at the camera

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Whatchoo Lookin At?

Setup the camera on a tripod in the breakfast room and focused on the spot where the hummer was landing with some frequency. Used the IR remote and bounced it off the window pane so I wouldn’t startle the hummer when taking the shot.

The shutter noise didn’t scare him off, but did make the little guy look at the camera and cock his head in a rather quizzical manner.

Hummingbird on a feeder looking at the camera

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Whatchoo Lookin At?

I For One Welcome Our New Ant Overlords

With another blistering summer firing up and an in-place population of any number of unpleasant bugs and critters, life in Houston may be getting just a little more unpleasant as we find ourselves being invaded by a species of ant that seems to be impervious to pesticides and has an appetite for electronics.

Exotic Texas Ant, Paratrechina also known as the Crazy Ant or the “Raspberry Ant” (named for Tom Rasberry who discovered them) stands to make his mark our humble little town.

Mentioned at Engaget this horrifying little creature has captured the limelight and is making headlines all over the web.

They have been known to short out many different types of electrical apparatuses. In some cases the ants have caused several thousand dollars in damage and remedial costs. These ants often cause great annoyance to residents and businesses.

For now they seem to be mostly in the South and the East…near the chemical plants oddly enough.

(queue 50’s sci-fi music).


Distribution
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Distribution

Distribution

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Distribution

I’ve already had one support call where the user jokingly suggested the problem with our Blackberry Enterprise Server might be a result of Crazy Ant infestation…har har…Rasberry, Blackberry, get it? Ugh!

On the plus side, these “Crazy” Ants seem to eat Fire Ants so they could be a boon to our area.

Now playing – Cheepnis by Frank Zappa

Ladies and gentlemen,
The monster,
Which the peasants in this area call FRUNOBULAX
(Apparently a very large poodle dog)
Has just been seen approaching The Power Plant
Bullets can’t stop it
Rockets can’t stop it
We may have to use NUCLEAR FORCE !

Bat Terrorizes Local Software Company

In my job, one of my responsibilities is to oversee incoming trouble tickets and make sure the support staff is routing them correctly.
I was working on something when my co-worker Luis asked me about a particular ticket that had just come in and how to handle it.

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There’s something you don’t see everyday. A trouble ticket about a bat loose in the building.

Even more distressing was this bat was on my floor.

I told Luis to pass it to facilities and to contact the facilities manager so she could contact animal control, which he did. But then he decided to go have a look and in the process of checking out the bat it took flight across the length of the 15th floor and buzzed my desk.

Did you see that episode of The Office where they discovered a bat living in the ceiling? It was the episode titled “Business School

I can now tell you from personal experience that having a bat flying loose in your place of work is not nearly as amusing to experience as it is to watch.

When it was reported as a barely moving, half dead bat I was just a bit put off, but mostly uninterested. Now that I could see the thing flying around the office I, of course, had to get in on the action. It eventually landed itself near the ceiling where the window blinds are.

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As I was snapping a few shots for the record I did begin to question the sanity of getting too close to what could easily be a half-crazed, sharp-toothed, erratically flying rabies delivery system. That was when the Dwight Schrute quote from the same episode sprang into my forebrain:

“Whenever I’m about to do something, I think “would an idiot do that?” and if they would, I do not do that thing”

Animal Control eventually came and took the bat away.

Pigeons

Cynthia and I were heading down Richmond in an effort to get around some congestion on 59 headed back to the house. As we were driving past the Ragin Cajun we noticed the most enormous flock of pigeons in the parking out front of Jarinee’s Dressmaking & Alterations, which is in the same strip center.


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We had to circle back and investigate.

There were hundreds and hundreds of them all in the parking lot. They were also lining the roof of the building.


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Then this man came out of the building and they all took off…


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The birds flew around in a few circles, but landed again pretty quickly and the man just walked amongst them…


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He came over to me and we started talking. His name is Vichien and he’s been working at Jarinee’s Dressmaking & Alterations for over 22 years. He’s been feeding the pigeons for 10 years.

He expressed some sadness as he told me the property had recently been sold to developers and he worried about the fate of his “friends.” Vichien told me how he tried to watch over the pigeons and how much money he’s spent on feed over the years.

As we talked I saw a Red-tail Hawk circling above the parking lot. Vichien clapped his hands and the birds all flew into the sky. This caused the hawk to retreat a bit, but he stayed close. Vichien confided that he’s lost to the hawk on many occasions.

After we were done chatting he went to his truck and pulled out a bag of bird seed and began to pour it onto the pavement. That was a sight to see…


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Before I left Vichien gave me a copy of last month’s Houston Press. He pointed out a picture of himself and said that the Houston Press was making fun of him. He just smiled. He asked if I could bring him a print of one of my pictures and I said I would bring one by when I had a chance.

All in all, it was an odd encounter, but it completely made my day.

Inis Mór – Part 1

Decided to take a day trip to Inis Mór, the larger of the three Aran Islands. It was a one hour bus ride to Rossaveal from Galway to catch the ferry over to the island.
Theferries are basically modern, aquatic people movers design to shuttle tourists to and from the islands. No cars, only pedestrians.


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Sleek, modern and safe (knock wood)

It was about 20 minutes to the island where we were greeted by tour bus drivers, horse and buggy drivers and proprietors of bicycle rental shops, all looking to see you on one form of transportation around the island or another.

Renting a bike struck me as a novel way to go so that’s what I opted for.

Now I had been told you could see puffins on this island and the tourist brochure advertised puffin holes so I asked the guy at the bike shop where the puffin holes could be found and he told me it was on the far end of the island. Just follow the road around the harbor until it ends and then I would have to leave the bike and do some hiking up and over a hill.

This sounded just dandy and i set off.

As it turned out, all the buses and the most of the other cyclists headed the opposite direction looking to find Dún Aengus leaving me to ride fairly leisurely to my own destination.

It was odd riding a bike. It’s been a lot of years since I have done so, but I sorted out the gears shifters and so forth without much problem.

There was a near miss as I dodged a cow tromping down the narrow street.


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I realized, right after the cow let out a mighty “MOOOOOOOOOOOO”, that I had not actually ever heard a cow “moo” before.
It was a bellowing and loud sound that seemed to urge me to MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE out of the way as loped past me and on down the road.

Moving on I was just awestruck by the things I was seeing


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As I was taking some pictures, another rider came by and stopped. From his accent he was Irish and it turns out he was visiting his mother who lived on the island. I asked him if he knew where the puffin holes were and he said he would show me the way as he was headed that direction to go fishing.

When I explained to him how excited I was to see some puffins he explained that I would not be seeing any. This is when I learned what a “puffin hole” was. It’s not, as I would have thought, some type of nesting area for the puffing bird. Oh no…it’s a hole in the rock on the shore line where water rushes in from below and “puffs” into the sky like a geyser.

Well. This was not what I was peddling halfway round Inis Mór to see. But, since I had made a good part of the trek I decided to press onward.

The road finally ended and we picked up our bikes and passed them over the stone wall and proceeded to walk toward the shore through an open field. I stopped and took this picture of area we entered the field from:


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After a few hundred feet of walking the bikes I began to see movement all around me. Hares, hundreds of them. I couldn’t get very close without them all scurrying into holes on the ground that were literally everywhere.


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I told my new friend to go on ahead as I was going to pause and take some pictures and just soak it in. It was so peaceful and so isolated. The grass beneath my feet was soft and spongy.

As I pressed on things began to get a bit more rugged so I was forced to leave the bike (which I had been walking anyway) so I could navigate the increasing number of damp and slippery stoned on the ground.


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Click for larger version

I could see my Irish friend way in the distance walking up the rough trail on over the hill and then out of sight. I crossed the rocky flat and started to make my ascent when I came to the conclusion that I was putting myself in unnecessary jeopardy. I kept slipping on some rocks while others rolled out from under my feet. I figured I was on a collision course with a broken ankle.

I could just imagine myself snapping my ankle and being stranded out there. I’m sure I would have been found eventually but you know, discretion and valor and one being the better part of the other and all that…I decided to head back.

To be continued….

What time is the eleven o’clock duck parade?

The hotel they have us shacked up in is for this event is the Peabody Orlando.
It’s pretty posh, but not exquisite or anything. Convention rates put the rooms at $200 a night (company is paying) so I am sure they’re more expensive for the average visitor.

The “mascot” of this hotel is the Peabody Duck and since opening its doors on November 1, 1986, The Peabody Orlando has continued, in unbroken sequence, the traditional March of The Peabody Ducks which began at its sister property, The Peabody Memphis, many, many years ago.

Each morning, promptly at 11 a.m. the ducks ride in a special elevator that descends from their $100,000 penthouse Royal Duck Palace.

When the elevator doors open, The Peabody Ducks, accompanied by their crimson-and-gold-braid-jacketed Duck Masterâ„¢, take up their positions on a plush red carpet and begin The March of The Peabody Orlando Ducks to the strident tones of John Philip Souza’s King Cotton March.

Oh the huge manatee!

I have been dispatched to Orlando, FL to support the companies annual sales rally. It the one time each year all of our sales critters are brought together to be educated and hyped on the corporate sales strategy.

Overall, it’s not a bad gig for me. Good food and a luxury hotel combined with an endless stream of sale people who each owe me a drink, or WILL owe me a drink so let’s just get it out of the way thankyouverymuch.

My Internet friend Suzanne lives out on the coast in nearby Melbourne. She and her husband recently moved there from Lansing, Michigan. Since I was in the neighborhood I dropped her a line and we arranged to meet up for lunch at a pretty cool tiki bar and grill called Bonefish Willies. Great place!

From there went by her art gallery and checked out some of her painting and then moved on to a local park where you can go out on this small pier and actually pet a manatee. When we arrived there were around 6 or 7 of these odd creatures milling about.

Apparently they’re quite common around these parts. Regardless, I was very excited to see them for the first time and to actually get to pet one on his grizzly little manatee head.

Thanks Suzanne for showing me a little slice of life in Florida I would not have otherwise seen on this business trip!

I was pretty beat after I got back to the hotel but I snapped this from my hotel room window before crawling into bed and getting some sleep.