Inoffensive glance

There’s something about the look on Grendel‘s face in this picture.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s as though he’s trying to look innocent.  Trying perhaps a bit too ernestly.

Truth be told, he wasn’t doing anything wrong.  I think the look came from my sudden turn in the chair in order to get the picture.  He was probably taken aback by the quick move and felt it possible he’d inadvertently done something wrong.

No harm, though.  He got plenty of lovin’ for always usually being a good boy.  In fact, he’s least likely to cause trouble, although sometimes he stirs up a hornet’s nest when he asserts his alpha status.  Thus is life with a pride of felines.

Grendel looking up at me with sunshine falling across half his face

A good and bad morning

I awoke shortly before six this morning feeling as though an explosive had detonated in my head.  Before my back surgery in 1996, I used to get migraines every day.  They were great debilitating assaults from which very little could offer reprieve.  So I’m no stranger to them, although since then I generally don’t get them often.  But when I do…

So ouch.

It has clung to me all day like a suckling parasite.  The malaise that accompanies them bestows its own suffering by way of mental stupor.  It’s been difficult to find motivation or inspiration.  Yet hope is not lost as it’s now slowly fading away, the blinding light of a train finally disappearing down a dark tunnel.  Meanwhile, I’ve napped.  A lot.

But this morning had more to offer than the headache from hell.  Ay, poppets, we had a wee touch of the winter—again.

I suppose it was around eight when I first realized it had begun sleeting.  Mixed in with the icy pellets were occasional flakes of snow.

As the morning progressed, we saw less sleet and more snow, and around ten the sky was alight with cold confetti silently falling in heavy curtains, large, beautiful white flakes coming in droves as they followed spiraling paths toward the ground.  The scene was tranquil, quiet in that snowy way that is most admirable, most agreeable.  I stood and watched as the air filled with the stuff.  They journeyed so elegantly, so serenely.

Because our temperatures hovered right at or just above freezing, no one feared treacherous road conditions or accumulation, but oh what a show while it lasted.

There comes a peace with snow that cannot be found in any other kind of precipitation.  It’s the hush of the thing.  Unless driven by tempest winds, snow brings with it an unhurried, leisurely feeling, as though all the worry and stress of the world can wait for but a moment while nature puts on her dazzling white gown for all the world to see.

What a welcome sight it was.  Migraine or no migraine, those few hours of heavenly decorating soothed and comforted like nothing else can.

But it’s all gone now, I’m afraid.  Most of it melted the instant it reached the ground, although a bit here and there remained long enough to look more promising than it actually was.

I could almost hear the earth pleading needfully, “Let me hold it to my bosom for a minute or two more.  Please, allow me this frigid caress from the clouds.  Even if only temporarily, let me wear this frosty blanket so that you might see the loveliness cold has to offer.”

But it was not meant to be.  Now the streets are dry, the ground carries no signs of the event, and no promises of more to come will be made… at least not yet.

Hidden amongst the detritus

Several weeks after torrential rains had caused significant flooding in this area, I took a walk at the lake (more from that walk here, here, and here).  That the flooding had been extensive is uncontested.  In fact, a week later the floodplain was still a lake unto itself, and that provided an interesting canvas for freezing temperatures.

But during my walk before the weather turned cold, the results of the flooding lay everywhere.  Most of it was natural debris, such as twigs and sticks and leaves.  Occasional tidbits of litter also could be found, yet the flood’s most apparent traces were pieces and parts of local flora.

My walk took me close to the pier in Sunset Bay, and I spied a large number of ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) standing upon it in the morning light.  They were preening and gabbing, and then gabbing and preening.  I made my way toward them to see if I could get a photo or two.

Ring-billed gulls on the pier with American coots beneath them and double-crested cormorants in the background

From that vantage, I could also see double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) further out in the water and a few American coots (Fulica americana) bobbing along under and beside the pier.  Something else caught my attention, too.  Behind the brush and tucked away on top of a large pile of flood-related debris that had been washed ashore, I spied a dab of white in the lower-left corner of the frame, something too large to be a bit of flotsam.  Besides, it was moving.

I ventured further out on the pier for a better look.  What I discovered was a beautiful white duck.  Like the gulls, it had nestled down in a comfy spot to preen and enjoy some early sunshine… you know, something to take the chill out of the morning air.

A white duck preening while nestled atop natural debris on the shore

This appears to be the same species of duck I’ve seen before but could not identify.  White ducks come in various flavors and… wait for it… they all look alike: white, and like ducks.  There are many of this particular breed at the lake.  In fact, I also caught a few of them doing a drive-by while I took some video of an egret.

Because she seemed comfortable and busy with her morning routine, I left her where she was and bothered her no more.  Although I’ll add she didn’t seem bothered by me much at all.  After one quick look when I first approached her, she went right back to grooming and cleaning without a second glance.

[Update] I have since identified the white duck as a pekin duck (a.k.a. domestic duck, white pekin duck, or Long Island duck; Anas domesticus).


Because I awoke this morning with a severe migraine that won’t go away, I’m feeling a bit like this.

peevish (pee·vish): / PEE vish /

(1) querulous in mood or temperament; fretful; cross
(2) demonstrating an ill temper, bad mood, irritation, or annoyance; cranky
(3) obstinate or perverse

[From Middle English ‘pevysh’ meaning “spiteful.”]

Usage: No one could believe the peevish child’s incessant screams throughout the entire movie.

Open thread

Now we know the hobbits were real: “The three-foot human ‘flores hobbit’ who lived on the Indonesian island of Flores more than 13,000 years ago had a sophisticated brain which was rewired internally to compensate for its small size, a study has found. An internal cast of the brain case shows that the hobbit possessed rare cranial features that would probably have conferred unusual intelligence on such a small creature, scientists said. The findings pour cold water on the idea that the hobbit was not a new species of human but an ordinary person suffering from microcephaly, a disease that causes stunted growth and small brain size. Ever since scientists announced in 2004 that they had discovered the skull and partial skeleton of a tiny human female on Flores, experts have argued about whether she belonged to new species of human or was just someone born with microcephaly. The latest study confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that the Flores skull belongs to a new species who was probably intelligent enough to make and use the tiny stone tools found alongside the bones, said Professor Dean Falk of Florida State University in Tallahassee.”

This could provide more answers than we presently have.  “Archaeologists have uncovered what may have been a village for workers or festival-goers near the mysterious stone circle Stonehenge in England. The village was located at Durrington Walls, about two miles from Stonehenge, and is also the location of a wooden version of the stone circle. [. . .] The village was carbon dated to about 2600 B.C., about the same time Stonehenge was built. The Great Pyramid in Egypt was built at about the same time, said Parker Pearson of Sheffield University.”

More bad news about the climate.  “Mountain glaciers are retreating three times faster than they were in the 1980s, says the World Glacier Monitoring Service. On average, they lost about 66 centimetres in depth in 2005, according to the latest report from the UN-affiliated body, released on 30 January. This loss rate is 1.6 times more than the annual average for the 1990s and three times the 1980s average.”

Tangled Bank #72 is focused on “biological classification, taxonomy and nomenclature.”  Head on over for plenty of great science.