We identified a bird as a European Starling with the last post, but now a mystery remains. These two were both actually in the same shot and I’ve cropped out the intervening space on the lamp post top so you can compare side by side. Here’s part two of the bird quiz: Is one male, one female, and if so, which is which?


Judging from this paper, there’s not enough distinguishing characteristics in these two photos to tell for certain, but the one on the right is likely a male, while the one on the left is likely female.

Blue Sky and a Two-Tone Beak


Blue Sky and a Two-Tone Beak

From across the parking lot this bird looks black, but if you zoom in to see him atop the lamp post then you see he’s multi-hued, speckled, and has a two toned beak. I’m not an ornithologist, and do not have a clue what type of bird this is, so if you know drop a comment please. As with almost all pics posted here you can click on the image to see a larger, more detailed version. I never upload the full 10.1 megapixel versions however since they are bandwidth killers.

A couple of notes about the Canon while I’m talking about pictures. The first thing is that my camera has had a bent flash card memory pin since the second day I had it. This resulted from getting a “Bad Flash Card” error and multiple attempts to reseat it without my glasses. I eventually got the error to go away and I pried the bent pin away from shorting another pin with a big-ass magnifying glass and a rather stiff darning needle. Since then it’s functioned fine, but today I again got the error.

This caused quite a panic since repairing the slot means shipping the camera off, and having a new flash slot receptacle put in at a cost that’s close enough to that of a new camera body. Who knows if they wouldn’t get something else hosed since they have to disassemble the whole camera to replace the card slot receptacle? Shortly after the error however I was pleased to see a low battery warning, and after recharge the flash slot error went away. It makes me wonder if the original error that encouraged me to clumsily bend the pin in the first place wasn’t just a low battery showing up first as a flash card error.

The second thing about Cannons is that you really need to experiment with some of the non-auto settings, you aren’t really practicing the fine art of photography if you don’t. If the thick manual scares you, then there’s a pocket guide that tells you how to fiddle those settings concisely.

Update: This is an amazing video of Starlings settling for the night in Otmoor, I recommend full screen viewing.

Don Ross and Andy Mckee – Dolphins

Don Ross and Andy Mckee – Dolphins

Time for some tasty counterpoint

Pakistan Lost

Pakistan Lost

In each human heart terror survives
The ravin it has gorged: the loftiest fear
All that they would disdain to think were true:
Hypocrisy and custom make their minds
The fanes of many a worship, now outworn.
They dare not devise good for man’s estate,
And yet they know not that they do not dare.
— Percy Bysshe Shelley

I’ve been putting off writing about Pakistan because it’s so depressing. At one time back in 2006 I had some hope for them, but lately that’s gone down the drain. It’s uncharacteristic of me to be gloomy but there’s little light of hope at the moment in Pakistan; it is what it is.

Let me elaborate:

 Pakistan desperately needs strong trade with Afghanistan, India, and the countries beyond those, but in both cases they’ve allowed the Taliban and Kashmiri Jihadis to shut that down. Their economy will continue to spiral down towards ground like a wounded bird until it impacts in some grubby midden heap in Karachi unless they do something.

“Doing Something” has become less probable as their troops pull out of the border areas of Afghanistan and move to the border areas with India post-Mumbai.

I also had some hope that post-Musharraf that the political maturity of the parties would improve, but it has not. You see the same “bazaar rumors paraded as fact” libel and accusations from all parties throughout the political dialogue and very little reasoned debate. The parties in power now have swallowed so much of the swill of the far left in the west that it’s now hard to tell them from the 9/11 troofers in the old Guard ISI factions of Hamid Gul. It’s as if the country were being run by conspiracy theorists and children.

The military operation in Swat against the Taliban has failed, and Swat is lost for all intents and purposes. Girl’s schools will close, and what was once a world class tourist destination will devolve into a primitive hell hole to which nobody in their right mind will go.

As the economy falters, the extremists of all stripes gain in power, and the strength and writ of government will contract. The question remaining isn’t whether that will happen, but only “How Far?”. Soon there will be breakaways in FATA and NWFP, which to all intents and purposes are now ruled by Al Qaeda and the Taliban warlords.

Sound Gloomy? It could get worse. Millions and Millions in Pakistan are at the edge of poverty. They’ve only recently been pulled out of the ditch of extreme poverty and third world destitution. In this worldwide recession they will fall back in – hunger will stalk the lands again and hunger drives great passions.

As long as the ruling parties and elites in Pakistan continue to externalize their own problems this death spiral will continue. If they wake up one morning however and say “No, we don’t want to be the next Somalia, we must do something” then there could be some hope, the bird could gain wing and soar again; but in the current contretemps with India over Mumbai I don’t see many signs of that.

Update: At the polls in Buner a carbomb has killed 35 people. TTP – Swat claims credit for the murders of fellow muslims.

Test Post

I’m testing a new thing. Standby..


testing twice…


and done. Thanks for your patience.

I was testing a mechanism to give single posts their own style, and it works to an extent but causes further problems. I will wait until it’s a bit more developed than this initial release.

Israel Strikes back

40045443mg0Israel Strikes Back

After weeks of missiles and some heavy barrages the past few days Israel has struck back at HAMAS in the Gaza strip for their continual rocket attacks. 200 in Gaza are reported as dead, but since it’s mostly Palestinian stringers and they are putting things on the wire through the HAMAS censor it’s hard to tell what the reality is right now.

I would expect some agit-prop theater as HAMAs and PLO both are known for macabre use of bodies and wounded for staged photo shoots, a lot of theater, and doctoring words and photos, so a skeptical eye should be used for any and all reports on this conflict. Triple source everything, and watch those photos carefully.

Here’s a round up of links and blogs to watch:

Israel Matzav: Carl in Jerusalem has a series of posts and video


Little Green Footballs of course will be following this


My Wife Has Monkey Toes


Monkey Toes

My wife can make her toes into a fist like you can the fingers on your hand, they are amazingly long and flexible – so this year I got her the appropiate socks.

Jango, Santa’s Ugliest Reindeer

Jango, Santa’s Ugliest Reindeer

django-the-ugliest-reindeerJango dropped by for a visit tonight, he’s Santa’s ugliest reindeer. That’s the last of the pets in funny hats pictures tonight, I don’t want ASPCA or PETA coming after me for unusual cruelty to animals.

Kasey is not Happy as an Elf

Kasey as an Elf

kasy-as-elf1Kasey wasn’t as complacent about being an elf as Chewey was about the reindeer outfit. A couple minutes after this was snapped she was tearing around the back yard with the hat in her mouth shaking it like a bad squirrell.