Came through in the end

We (meaning the Insuperable Mr Bugg and I) had another outing on Friday – intended to be a morning session, but the overnight and AM temperatures were less than inviting and we knew it would prevent many species from even poking a head out, so we postponed it until early afternoon. Even then, it was pretty slow going. The temperatures had gotten into a quite comfortable range, it was sunny and clear, yet the critters were few and far between. However… but I’ll let the mellifluous narrator explain it:

A small note: I was trying to avoid the ubiquitous 16:9 aspect ratio for this video and use a more versatile 4:3, which hews a lot closer to the 3:2 that the camera renders, but for unknown reasons OpenShot makes such options far too complicated and byzantine, so this is what we have until I figure out how to do it properly (or that the program cannot actually accomplish this.) 16:9 is fine for movie theaters I suppose – never saw the value in having such a wide display, myself – but why it has to be used everywhere now is beyond me.

The deep canopy of trees over the heron is responsible for the greenish cast to most of the photos – that’s the way it appeared, and I’ve never liked the vagaries of Auto White Balance.

Some of the other photos from the session. The heron of course:

great blue heron Ardea herodias not looking gorged at all
Unless it pulled a switcheroo in the brief period it was out of our sight, this is the same heron that just horked down a kilo of catfish. You’d never suspect it, would you?

possible Greater Bee Fly Bombylius major on bluet Houstonia caerulea
Another look at the greater bee fly (Bombylius major,) or what I take to be one anyway. The few photos I have aren’t close enough to pin this down for sure. Bluet blossoms (Houstonia caerulea) are only about 10mm across.

crested dwarf iris Iris cristata in bright sunlight
This is a crested dwarf iris (Iris cristata,) a fairly common NC wildflower but I think the only place I’ve ever seen them is Duke forest. Finding them is bright sunlight was slightly trickier, but hey, you know I’m up to the challenge.

likely northern water snake Nerodia sipedon sipedon nestled in crevice in rocks
And, after the heron sequence, we managed to find another snake – normally Duke Forest is loaded with them. This is a smallish water snake, likely a northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) but the key features to distinguish this for sure are hidden under debris, and this was as close as we were getting without risking a dunking in a deeper section of river (not, by any means, deep, but deep enough not to risk camera equipment, you know?)

It would have been a pretty weak shooting session without the heron, so credit where it’s due. Now I simply have to decide if I’m going to start packing along at least the monopod on most of these outings…

Don’t plan on it

[Another meaningless milestone: this post is the 2021st, and it’s the 2021st year since jesus was born only not really because early chroniclers got the dates wrong and he may not even have existed anyway and why the hell are we still using this idiotic dating system? It’s year 60, since we entered into space – let’s start using that. Anyway, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to do anything again with the year and post counts, unless I stop right here and post nothing more for, oh, another eight-plus months, but I’m not that dedicated to a silly coincidence. I just stalled some of the cooler photos taken recently to meet this conjunction.]

There’s a certain level of irony in preparedness when it comes to nature photography – probably other topics too, but we’re not on that kind of blog. Yet you can plan and prepare and overthink an outing or shooting session, intent on getting some kind of subject, and get nowhere, only to snag much better photos without any intention at some other point in time.

As mentioned earlier, The Girlfriend and I made a little run to pick up some materials and did a side trip on the way back to stop by Jordan Lake, mostly just to see what was going on, but I did at least take along the camera and long lens. The day was almost totally overcast, far from ideal, but at least this kept the region a little quieter when it came to boaters and kayakers. Not expecting much, we were just scanning the area.

Almost immediately, a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) cruised by low overhead, not allowing much of a clear shot, but then took a perch not far off in a clear tree.

bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus perched in tree next to vulture effigy
This was unprecedented, at least in my experience, because this tree sat between two boat ramps in a fairly busy section of the lake, with lots of quieter options to be found less than a minute’s flight away, including the spots where we’d been seeing the species last year. The thing suspended from the tree below the eagle, by the way, is the still-present remnant of the vulture effigy program, clearly of stunning effectiveness.

We decided to see how close we could get to the eagle, since there’s a lakeside trail that wends along behind that tree, and started off slowly. As expected, the eagle didn’t wait around long at all, and flew off without my ever obtaining a clear, closer view, but we waited to see if it would return or at least wheel overhead. The wait was perhaps thirty seconds, as I caught a glimpse of a large bird overhead immediately before it slammed into the water not 15 meters away; my view was obscured by trees, and before I could move and obtain clear focus, the bird (now revealed to be an osprey, Pandion haliaetus) launched from the water with its successful capture in talon and flew off along a more obscured route, so all I had were unfocused grabs.

This miss was not indicative of anything, however, as soon another started circling straight out from where we were, fairly low and obviously hunting.

osprey Pandion haliaetus wheeling overhead
This helped correct a misconception that I had, I admit, which was that fishing birds were more likely to hunt in brighter sunlight, when the light would penetrate the water better, than on overcast days when the entire sky will reflect from the surface and reduce the ability to see within. I’ve never had the opportunity to see the water from an osprey’s altitude, or with an osprey’s eyes either, so maybe I’m missing something, but they certainly seemed to like fishing more in the dimmer conditions. Soon enough, there was a pair wheeling around.

pair of ospreys Pandion haliaetus actively fishing
Looking through the viewfinder as I followed the one, I wasn’t even aware of the other approaching until it entered the frame, but got lucky enough to snag it before it left. The focused one is ‘backing,’ going into a near hover which is often an indication that it spots something and is about to begin the ‘stoop,’ the dive after prey. It did this quite a lot, producing several false starts as I kept an eye on it to capture the full descent.

osprey Pandion haliaetus backing before beginning stoop after a fish
It did indeed make a dive, and the lens did the typical focus racking (which I thought I’d programmed out of it) while I tried with little success to keep it centered in the frame as it accelerated down into the water – I should at least back off the zoom a little, make it easier on myself, but I will admit that, with a heavy lens and the acceleration of the bird, it’s more than slightly tricky. The osprey was unsuccessful in capturing anything, though, and flew off into the middle distance as I switched attention to the other.

Before that one started exhibiting any backing, however, The Girlfriend pointed out that the first had returned, to the same general location in the sky, and was once again actively fishing. Very soon, it went into a stoop again.

osprey Pandion haliaetus descending in stoop
Some idea of how close it was to shore is shown by the treelimb here (another damnable longneedle pine) that it actually passed behind as it dove. Once again, focus twitched away at the crucial point as it crossed the horizon line, so I have no good frames of its entry.

[A brief note here: the camera body has some settings to restrict how the autofocus behaves, but limiting how much it might wander in attempting to track a moving subject also limits how quickly it can obtain a new subject, so an advantage in one set of subjects is a disadvantage in another, and I’m still refining my settings. The Tamron has an optional doodad to do more direct programming of the lens itself, a cool innovation, and I finally purchased one, but as yet have not tackled it. I should be doing that instead of posting, I suppose.]

But we have a peek as the osprey paused momentarily in the water before launching itself back out, at least.

osprey Pandion haliaetus immediately after fishing dive, wings raised within the water
It had gone completely under, obviously aiming for a fish a little deeper under the surface, so again, good visibility to the osprey. And then it took off, and I had a clear view and tight focus.

osprey Pandion haliaetus rising from water with a fish in either talon
Two fish simultaneously! I was impressed, and happy to be capturing the photos. In fact, let’s have a closer look.

closeup of fish from previous frame
Given all of the motion at this point in time, I’m not complaining about this at all. Anyone want to identify the fish species? I mean, besides, ‘toast’?

And away it went with its supersized takeout meal, one heads, one tails.

osprey Pandion haliaetus flying off with fish in either talon
My real view was a bit farther off than this – it’s a tighter crop, but that just shows that focus here at least was bang on. The Girlfriend lamented (on seeing the pics at home) that it was a shame the head wasn’t visible, which is true enough, but I’m cool with this for now.

The other osprey had moved farther off, so we headed back towards the car, catching another glimpse of the eagle (or an eagle, at least) as we did so, but still obscured by trees. It was low, once again, and visible over a wooded section that sits between the two parking lots for the boat ramps, and I was starting to get suspicious that there might be a nest back in there, especially after hearing an eagle call and seeing what appeared to be harassing behavior from a vulture. But nothing remained visible, and so we elected to leave.

On our way up the parking lot, I remarked that I wasn’t removing the long lens until we’d reached the car, since I’d snagged the previous eagles from that very area as I was examining a flock of vultures wheeling overhead, as they were on this day too. Less than thirty seconds after saying this, we both heard the distinctive calls of an eagle, seemingly from right alongside the parking lot in the trees very close by (opposite the suspected nest site, however,) and within two more seconds it broke from cover and cruised low overhead.

adult bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus cruising past
It’s amusing when I think about how long I went without any eagle photos at all, and only the barest views of them for years, and abruptly, the tide has shifted. The eagle activity down at the lake has exploded, it seems, but I’m not complaining, even though I like the osprey better (bald eagles are way over-photographed.) By the way, the time frame between the first eagle photo and the last, here, was a mere 24 minutes – not bad for a casual outing.

As a small postscript, I was faintly confused when unloading the memory card back home, since it seemed that a few frames were out of order, when I realized that the first osprey we’d seen, the one that slipped away without providing a clear view, had also snagged two fish at once. Now it’s just starting to seem greedy…

Just because, part 40

I know I just did a buffer post, but then I realized that I was about to hit another meaningless milestone and decided to sneak this one in to facilitate it. We already know I’m shameless.

These are just a couple of photos that I had in the blog folder with no real topic to attach them to, so, yeah…

female mallard Anas platyrhynchos with pale coloration
At the neighborhood pond, one of the female mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) sports a much paler and muted color scheme, seen here before. One of the (human) residents thought this might be from hybridization, but I more suspect just a genetic anomaly. She’s never lacking in male companionship at least, so maybe we’ll get more of an answer just a little later on. But I liked how the background rendered on this one.

damselflies sleeping on thin reeds
This is kind of a follow-up to a previous post, now that the pine pollen is much reduced (the pollen I’m most allergic to seems to be peaking, however.) Just being fartsy, pay it no mind.

juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea perched on Japanese maple
The ‘main’ Japanese maple out front (we have, what, five of them now?) is simply exploding into foliage this spring, and just after the rains that greatly reduced the pine pollen inundation, this juvenile green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) reluctantly posed for a portrait.

And one that’s a tad embarrassing.

piebald rock dove common pigeon Columba livia atop shed at Walkabout Estates
Just yesterday, I found this rock dove (Columba livia) perched atop the shed right here at Walkabout Estates. The coloration is impressive enough, but also, there are practically no rock doves (virtually always just called ‘pigeons’) in the area anyway, so we suspected it was domesticated. I tried to get a clear view of the legs to see if there was a band, but it flew off at my approach. The embarrassing part is, I was already thinking that this slow, high-visibility bird hanging around was going to entice the bird-eating accipiters that are in the area, and as the dove flew off, The Girlfriend saw a hawk fly from an observation point nearby and pause on a branch almost directly over my head before darting away; I saw nothing. I mean, they can be very hard to spot in the heavily-wooded environs, so I likely would have missed it anyway, but even while thinking of the hawks I never bothered to even look, and missed the one that was ridiculously close. Ah well. Hindsight (and this post) is 20/20.

Focus, part 3

Still not photography-related, this is mental focus, like part 1 and part 2. This is, I believe, the last of them.

So in part 1, we looked at jumping to conclusions and not having any kind of solid background info, and in part 2, we looked at the protests that sprouted up because of this. Now we’ll look at the overall attitudes that have been getting far too prevalent in this country, and the actions sparked by them.

With a lead-in like that, you already know that I’m not in favor of them, and I’ll be blunt right off: I find “Wokeness” to be nonsense – not that I’m dismissive of being inclusive, unbiased, or active within social advancement, but from the standpoint that far too many of those who adopt the term and cause haven’t any fucking idea what they’re doing or how to go about it.

Let’s start with something mentioned in the previous posts, tightly aligned with the protests, which was the vandalism of various statues across the country, but really, this practice had been going on for long before George Floyd’s death. It has become fashionable to target statues et al that depict historical figures who lack a spotlessly clean, morally acceptable life, in the apparent belief that these depictions encourage and promote those unclean aspects. And, of course, that the removal of such now promotes healthier social attitudes.

To begin with, vandalism in the name of any cause yet remains vandalism; while we may not approve of some (apparent) message of any given monument, plaque, building name, or what-have-you, acting illegally kinda subverts the whole “squeaky-clean” image that we claim to be promoting, especially when a little patience and campaigning may be enough to have the responsible parties alter them willingly, which might indicate that they agree with our goals and ideals, rather than forcing them upon others, which as I said before, is just shy of fascism.

Or it might not indicate agreement at all, and we’ll get to that shortly.

More to the point, statues and memorial naming and all that really don’t have the impact that activists seem to imagine – we’re getting into the pop psychology angle where everyone else is impressionable, easily swayed into adapting or altering their worldview when they see a bronze bust, and of course nowhere near as edumacated as we are about them – it’s the common-as-muck attitude that ‘people’ are far too stupid. But bluntly, no one in the history of the fucking world ever looked at a statue and flip-flopped their stance, on anything. In most cases, no one has the faintest clue why these things even exist unless they’ve received a bit of background in the first place, actually learning about what they were intended to represent and/or exemplify. That’s kind of the point: we may see such things and wonder, What’s so great about this person? – hopefully enough to actually find out.

The intention and the reality are usually two different things, though. Feel free to poll any decent number of people and ask them to even name all four presidents on Mt Rushmore, and then the specific policies or accomplishments that they’re recognized for. This is one of the most prominent and well-known monuments in the US, so everyone should know these, right? Yeah.

Even when fully explained, such things are rarely if ever capable of changing minds. By a huge margin, people seek validation for their pre-existing beliefs, not any form of guidance. The history of any given figure, if it fails to align with their present worldview, will most often be ignored wholesale. People do not ever change their minds quickly or easily, and usually are not even amenable to the attempt – this is an admission of ignorance or failure on their part. Changing minds takes a lot of time and effort, and in most cases people will only give credit to themselves for it.

Furthermore, no one, not a single person throughout history, has a perfectly acceptable history, background, personality, whatever – especially not when seen through the moral glasses we currently wear. It would be ludicrous to expect that anyone was so magnificently perfect as to not have some distasteful aspect of their lives, no matter what or when, but doubly ludicrous to expect them to conform to the ethics yet to come in the future. If this is our goal or expectation, then we need to bury ourselves alive, immediately, in order to avoid any potential for gross hypocrisy that will inevitably come along. And we’ll already be too late, so who are we to judge, being such imperfect vessels ourselves?

Even worse, this prerequisite of a pristine background in order to be allowed to exist in the historical record hews disturbingly close to the old “one drop” rule, the historical guideline regarding racial distinction, where any vestige of ‘black’ ancestry rendered someone ineligible for voting rights, fair legal treatment, adequate schooling, and even their own freedom. Outward appearance wasn’t trustworthy; one must present an unsullied family history or risk being branded as a subhuman, as if there was such a thing as a ‘clean’ bloodline and that this actually made a fucking bit of difference to anything. Now of course, if we allow imperfect, unclean historical figures to be learned about by our schoolchildren, they’ll become imperfect themselves, and pretty soon we’ll all be imperfect. And then we wouldn’t be able to draw such distinctions…

We don’t record history to show how perfect we are. We don’t record it to demonstrate how we made the right choices all along the way; both of those are mythological concepts (as history aptly shows.) We record, and learn from, history simply because it’s what happened – good or bad, right or wrong, inspired or foolish, it’s simply the facts (at least, insofar as we didn’t have any mooks in the past that thought they needed to sterilize or editorialize the record.) We aren’t born perfect with the need to remain this way or fall from grace; we learn from mistakes, and preferably not our own. We learn from seeing the consequences of given actions or attitudes, and can only make reasonable, informed decisions by being informed in the first place, by knowing that the end result will almost certainly be this, because we’ve seen it before. That’s the intrinsic value of recording it in the first place, and when we choose to erase or sanitize such things, we eliminate that value, that immune system that we built up over time by succumbing to poor decisions – even if they seemed (or actually were) right at the time.

It’s probably a good idea not to idolize anyone at all, and to move away from the concept of ‘the person’ and towards the concept of ‘the idea’ – or goal, or philosophy, or accomplishment, or whatever we were recognizing about the person in the first place. It’s not Thomas Jefferson that we should be learning about, promoting, recognizing, or encouraging, but a lot of the (damn good) ideas and policies that he put forth – that’s what we really need to know. But in some cases, the person was responsible not just for the idea, but for their efforts in bringing those to adequate attention, establishing them, fighting for them, and so on – a good idea isn’t even an idea unless it reaches someone else. And in a lot of the situations regarding statues and memorial naming and so on, that’s the concept that was and is being put forth – not idolatry, but the recognition of special effort and accomplishment above the norm, and the huge number of people that benefited from it.

There’s a certain level of irony in the protestors and activists who don’t want a nasty message getting out to the vulnerable public, while utterly failing to recognize the message in the first place. Thanks, guys.

There’s a far more insidious aspect to the ‘Woke’ movement, however, currently rampant on college campuses but spreading rapidly: it’s the ‘cancel culture,’ the disallowing of speakers that are not approved of, the cleaning of books and libraries, and most especially, the eradication of the ‘white male privilege’ and ‘systemic racism.’ We’ll tackle these one at a time.

First off, one of those ideas established by many of those memorialized with statues is free speech; it’s one of the principle standards of freedom within this country (and many others.) We are all able not only to hold whatever opinions we wish, but to express them at will. It says nothing about needing approval of the majority of the country, or even of hyperactive college students, and in many ways, it is intended to allow or even encourage alternative ideas, things outside of the mainstream or social norm. There are restrictions of course, mostly having to do with causing harm to others, and these will remain contentious and subject to refinement as we discover the variety of ways that people can be provoked towards detrimental actions. Those circumstances will never diminish the value of open expression, and most especially the value of accepting and coping with open expression. Which really isn’t that hard; grown adults that can deal with traffic lights can handle opinions contrary to their own.

Preventing this, in any way, shape, or form, is censorship. Full stop. The only people who have ever had to resort to censorship are the ones who could never convince the public that their own ideas were better – we can still find those examples in our history books. But the ability to discuss and debate different points of view, to weigh the pros and cons, to examine and understand the rationale behind any given topic, is the only way to discover improvements – or, establish that none is needed. This was the direction we once attempted to move our politics in, with little success, and unfortunately the public arena is too often taking a cue from politicians and becoming completely juvenile – actually, bratty – in its approach.

Now we come to sanitation, which has taken place in one manner or another throughout history. Access to ‘damaging’ information, distasteful points of view, and previously held social attitudes must be removed at all costs, even from older animated cartoons, lest we devolve into… really, I have no idea what most of the activists think we’ll become. The very fact that all of the activists themselves were raised under these very influences seems to have escaped attention; either that, or they believe they’re special and immune to the mental/social viruses to which all others will succumb.

Again, this is censorship, the eradication of free speech (or its sister, the free press.) It isn’t enough to permit people access to all views and let them decide for themselves as if they had working brains; perish the thought!

But more to the point, the entire concept is beholden to facile and ludicrous pop psychology, the idea that exposure to any such tidbits is capable of altering people’s minds and worldviews, a belief that has yet to find any support from any scientific or sociological study in existence. I mean, think about it: every last activist has had full and unfettered access to the values and reasoning behind free speech, and the perils of censorship, so obviously this exposure cemented those ideas in their minds, right?

As I type this, there’s a lot of fuss about ‘racist’ depictions of Asians in some of Dr. Seuss’ books, and the eradication of numerous Looney Tunes cartoons and characters from any form of public access. I’ve addressed the idea of caricatures in an earlier post, so I encourage you to go there so I don’t have to retype those points, but to be brief, no one has shown any support at all for the idea that caricatures are in any way harmful. It’s assumed that resorting to some racial stereotype, like a conical reed hat or towing a rickshaw, or some cartoonist’s technique like depicting ‘closed’ eyes to indicate the epicanthic fold found in most Asian cultures, is damaging, somehow making Asians silly or backwards or something unhealthy, but even expressing this distinctly begs the question of how, exactly? And of course, no one can offer any solid evidence that it provokes this response in the slightest.

Nor has there been much of any attempt to differentiate stereotypes and caricatures intended for humorous or illustrative purposes from those that might actually have a negative message. Cartoonists and graphic artists often have to illustrate a label or trait to get an idea across efficiently, and let’s be serious: unless they’re doing full-detail realistic portraiture, they’re going to resort to shortcuts, and that most likely will be simple techniques like showing ‘closed’ eyes to indicate the broader difference from European/Caucasian eye shape. So? Who, exactly, is saying there’s something bad about this, and in what way? I mean, are the activists sure that the intent was even to depict Asians, and if so, how did they know this? Can they establish that this wasn’t actually a depiction of somnambulists?

The argument might be made that those who demonstrate strong racist behavior also resort to racial stereotypes, more often than average; it’d be nice to see a definitive study rather than assume that it’s true, but for now we’ll use it as an argument. Because it still doesn’t indicate that stereotypes promote racism, and can just as easily mean that those who already possess racist tendencies embrace stereotypes because they appear to support and strengthen the belief that other races are flawed; one does not have to cause the other, in other words, which is a basic premise of any remotely competent scientific study. In fact, this highlights the rampant oversimplification of human behavior that is too often present in such activism. Psychologists may spend months or years attempting to fathom the root causes of behavior in just one patient, often without success because root causes may be developed throughout a lifetime and never even recognized by the holder. We spent over a century piecing out what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, often insisting that it wasn’t even real, and in another fifty years we’ll look back on our knowledge of this now as inadequate. No one can even say how long we’ve been quantifying/classifying Autism Spectrum Disorders, and there’s no confidence that we understand those decently. To think that anyone, anywhere, could determine what kind of harmful effect the exposure to any influence provokes in a notable percentage of the public, no matter how pernicious we judge those influences to be, without even collating some statistics, goes beyond ludicrous into the realm of, “Go sit in the corner and play quietly – this is a topic for grownups.”

And finally, we come to the topics guaranteed to be the most fun, those of ‘white male privilege’ and ‘systemic racism,’ and I can assert with utter confidence that the most ‘Woke’ people reading this will be the least likely to pay any attention, concentrating instead on doing their tidy little psychological evaluations, ‘reading between the lines’ rather than the lines themselves – there’s not much I can do about it, but anyone who believes they can tell me what my feelings or motivations are is obviously too full of shit to entertain.

We’re hearing the phrase ‘white male privilege’ all over the place now, with college courses and even human resource programs addressing it, because see the previous post in this series regarding mob behavior and following along without thinking. The most adorable aspect of this is how few recognize that ‘white male privilege’ is remarkably similar to ‘black male indolence’ or ‘greedy jews’ – seriously, should we go back over the definition of racism? And in exactly the same way, we cannot rationally or evidentially assign a trait to all, or even most, white males as if there’s a racial/cultural aspect that has to apply. About the best that we can say is that members of some families that built a fortune over the past one or two centuries – as in, factory or southern plantation owners – may reap the influences that the family garnered from these periods, but this applies to such a small percentage of the population that, again, believing that most/all white males could somehow benefit from this shows the application of too few brain cells to the matter. We’ll go take a tour of rural America and tally all that ‘white male privilege’ that’s so apparent. At the very least, then we’d be working from actual evidence…

We might look at the number of white male CEOs of major companies that exist in the US and believe it’s an indication of that very white male privilege, but this is what we call anecdotal evidence – without a complete tally, with a comparison against the actual population numbers, we really don’t know any real numbers in the first place – and then, we haven’t even a bare smidgen of information as to why the numbers are the way they are. Segregation in this country was absolved about 60 years ago – how much time does it take to establish a representative black population in big business? Or are we looking at the right numbers and locations in the first place, ignoring the black sports and entertainment figures? How does one even go about determining how and where this supposed influence is manifesting? Because, for damn sure, no one has actually done it yet – it’s just a gross assumption.

Some time back, the question was raised as to why white males were the most populous demographic among atheists/secularists, which is certainly a curious question. And as pointed out in that post, the immediate assumption is that white males are doing something to prevent/discourage others from the ranks – as if there’s such a thing as ‘ranks’ in the first place. But without distinct evidence that there are such efforts, this assumption is unwarranted, and we’re well aware that, for instance, black and Hispanic communities/cultures display a lot more emphasis on religion and churches, a initial indication at least that no one is keeping anyone out, it’s simply a matter of choice.

[There’s also a certain level of amusement in the idea that atheists, one of the more maligned groups in this country, are able to keep anyone out, or would even try. Shit, we’ve already had a black president, but not yet an atheist one…]

The idea of ‘systemic racism’ is even more corrupt. There is nothing systemic within this country, or indeed any – no attitude, influence, mindset, or anything else that might be possessed by enough of the population to be considered ‘systemic’ in any way, and I challenge anyone to demonstrate otherwise. We are instead remarkably polarized, even over social issues of undeniable benefit that we should be united upon; to believe that most of the country could somehow be racist (except, of course, for those very special ‘Woke’ people) is abysmally ignorant. Again, we’ve had a black president, and presently have a female vice-president, which require a lot of votes to achieve.

Countless people are taking this to mean that I’m saying that racism does not exist, or is not a problem, or variations thereof – again, not reading the lines, just the blank spaces in between where they imagine the real content lies. I will firmly assert that yes, there’s plenty of racism to be found; shit, I used to drive by white supremacist rallies when I lived in Georgia, and even found a fucking compound there, and have noticed some disturbing differences in law enforcement attitudes between the nearby metro areas where I presently live. But seeing it doesn’t make it systemic or representative or anything of the sort, and offers no information whatsoever as to how many people could be called ‘racist’ (and as I said, there are degrees of everything, so who decides what crosses the line to deserve a label?) nor how much influence they can have over others. The bare fact that the compound was surrounded by 4-meter fencing topped with barbed wire and had a watchtower is an indication of how much they remained separated from the general population. The idea of critical thinking is not to assume, and not to consider limited data as useful, but to recognize the possibilities that always exist. This also means that the uglier aspects remain in consideration as well; if we find that some predominantly black communities, in some cities, have a demonstrably higher crime rate, then we accept that as it is, with no assumptions as to cause or blame or traits or anything. Finding out the cause is paramount, and this usually takes a lot of effort.

[I will note here, too, that a lot of this depends on what distinctions are being made; high-crime areas tend to be very localized, far below black or hispanic or whatever neighborhoods, but usually down to a few blocks at best. And of course, our definition of “high crime” also deserves examination, since much more costly crimes tend to be committed at the corporation level, or even at the political. It all depends on perspective, which should never be fixed or assumed.]

This is the subtler aspect of the Woke culture that nevertheless remains a serious problem, and it applies to countless other forms of activism as well – I used to see it when working for animal shelters. A very significant amount of people seem to believe that ‘the problem’ is easy to define and firmly delineated, and expend a lot of effort in their pursuits under such assumptions. But nothing is ever that simple, and root causes of anything can be terribly hard to ferret out; in a lot of cases, what is considered to be one problem (or cause) is actually many, with different aspects and wildly different methods of approaching them, if any such thing could be said to exist in the first place. Yet the more zealous Wokes, like conspiracy freaks, will seize onto anything and everything as ‘evidence’ of their standpoint, no matter how unrelated and unsubstantiated – and naturally, any questioning of this at all will often get one branded as ‘the enemy.’ Was someone involved in some incident black? Then it must be race-related! Is there any ethnic distinction that can be found? Ah, then there’s more proof!

Which is highlighting another fun trait, in that being Woke usually means making special note of the race of everyone – far more so than being non-Woke. The point of integration, and good race relations and equality and so on, is that such distinctions aren’t made at all, at best noticed in passing but having no other impact, yet being Woke requires one to remain hyper-aware of such, sure that there must be a connection because it’s systemic, donchaknow. And whenever such racial distinctions are found, then any other possible explanations are dismissed out of hand. Again, the entire world is racist, except for Wokes.

Yes, it’s a religion, and the zealous kind at that: the self-annointed holies crusading for a cause and pushing the heretics (everyone who is not as zealous as they are) behind them. It’s easy to see in the amount of pressure that’s placed on officials and administrations everywhere to bend to the Woke Will; no discussion is invited or welcome, no possibility that their scripture is wrong. (Way) up above, I said something about capitulation may or may not indicate agreement with the cause, because in many cases, it’s simply the only way to get a radical, self-important group of people to shut the fuck up and leave. If we can’t get our points across with rationale, open discussion, if we have to resort to pressure tactics and protests and boycotts and so on, maybe our cause isn’t actually a good idea in the first place.

Too many Wokes don’t see it that way, because they believe that they, and they alone, know what’s right – no need to harken to the pagans (which is everyone else.) The ego is astounding, really, and all the more ironic when their standards of evidence are nonexistent, their ability to review all of the possibilities discarded as unnecessary. In part 1, I made a left-handed comment about lynch mobs, and now I’ll be more direct: what we need are people who can support their case, who can even make one, without resorting to mob tactics.

[We have this big thing in this country about revolution and freedom fighting and all that, based on our war of independence from Britain. But we had some remarkably bright people leading the way, and may have even achieved independence without bloodshed had enough of the public avoided acting rashly. Since then, history shows us that revolution nearly always results in just another shitty state of affairs, since revolutionaries without really slick thinking skills are not the kind of people that should ever be in charge, or even making decisions.]

Effectively, and accurately, determining what issues exist is a major undertaking in itself, and not something that can ever be accomplished by people reading selective news reports or surfing websites. Determining the extent of the issues is yet another, and unlikely to have any accuracy behind it in the slightest; racism, or indeed any kind of unwarranted bias, exists in a broad spectrum of strengths and impacts, from trivial to overt. And then, finding ways to address these is a far greater and more complicated program, since everyone has different things that they might respond to; witness the various approaches taken by politicians within the past decade. All of this will take a significant amount of time, and in some cases, we’re only waiting for the older folk to die off, literally, since deeply ingrained beliefs are highly unlikely to be changed by any approach. Various repressive governments/regimes/religions/et al have demonstrated that repeatedly over the centuries.

We will always have bias and intolerance – and should: most activism is a form of intolerance, and very few people argue over intolerance of child abuse, for instance. The definition of what we presently hold to be intolerable is a constantly-changing thing, and should be approached with careful consideration, especially over the consequences, rather than with kneejerk emotional reactions based on almost complete ignorance. And then, what we do about it, the approaches we elect to take, should be as effective and focused as we can make them – which means more careful consideration. Our future society will one day look back on this period, reflecting on what we were doing wrong or the ‘backwards’ views that we held – it’s inevitable. But it would be nice if that future society was a bit more removed than a mere five years down the road.

Reptilian buffer

Gotta have something between the birds…

On an outing along the Eno River a couple of days back, the trails we usually take were closed down for utility work, so we traipsed up over the hilltops on the ridge trails, usually well away from the water and thus with fewer subjects to be found. Spring has finally taken a good hold, however, and that means being able to find a few more species with a little effort.

Passing by one stump, I caught a hint of movement as something dark slid out of sight, and we paused to wait it out. It didn’t take long.

eastern rat snake Pantherophis alleghaniensis peeking from hollow at base of stump
This is the wide, establishing shot, representing pretty much what we saw without magnification – you’re looking for the thing that doesn’t belong. Well, okay, it belongs there more than we do, but what I meant was, the thing that isn’t inanimate. The thing we’d have an interest in photographing.

But sure, let’s go in closer.

eastern rat snake Pantherophis alleghaniensis showing head from burrow
That’s (now) an eastern rat snake, formerly black rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis,) and a little one at that, edging out to take advantage of the warm sunlight after a slightly chilly night. We waited a little, but it was disinclined to venture further out and we eventually left it alone.

No flash was used for this despite appearances, by the way – it’s just the morning sun directly at our backs.

Even the birds were maintaining a bit of distance, save for some noisy titmouses, so I started overturning promising logs in search of subjects – carefully, because this was prime copperhead country and the various leaves off of the trail were perfect camouflage for such. The right kind of log is one that looks like it’s been down for a while, settled into the forest floor a bit and rotting away; this makes an ideal habitat for lots of critters. Routinely, I grab the log only on exposed surfaces well away from the edges and underside and roll it towards me, which means it’s between me and whatever irritated, venomous thing might be underneath. So far there’s been no need for this, but that’s not any reason to relax this behavior. And luckily enough, there were more of a particular species than I’ve ever seen before.

red-backed salamander Plethodon cinereus exposed from under rotting log
This is a red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus,) only about five centimeters in overall length, freezing in place as long as we didn’t move too abruptly, but after only about 10-20 seconds in the sunlight, it re-sought shelter under the wet leaves. There’s a narrow patch on two or three counties in central North Carolina that they appear, but then other patches in the western mountains and east onto the coastal plain – odd, but okay.

We found a half-dozen of these, actually, and while I would have liked to do more portrait shots, access in the hollows under the logs was difficult for that kind of low angle, plus I knew they wouldn’t hang around for the highly-visible movement that was required, so I never bothered trying. A few of them slipped from sight before we could even bring the cameras to bear.

We had better luck with the next discovery, though.

brown snake Storeria dekayi unearthed from under log
Brown snakes (Storeria dekayi) tend to be pretty mellow and count on their camouflage, so slow movement often won’t disturb them, and after Buggato got his frames, I relinquished the raised log to him and sprawled on the ground for my own shots, with the snake cooperating nicely. Brown snakes don’t get very big, and the listed average of 25cm seems high to me; this one was only about 15, a little less than typical in my experience. I’d be delighted (and more than a little surprised) to find one that was the listed maximum of 50cm long.

While down there, I was able to turn a little and shoot some low angle frames of another find, one that had hopped away from our feet as we approached.

small American toad Anaxyrus americanus depending on camouflage
Yeah, okay, it’s only an American toad (Anaxyrus americanus) – so common that I often see them in our driveway at night, but it was there and so was I, able to do a tight closeup, so, yeah.

I include a tiny bit of variety, because I was fascinated by these and had to get a few frames.

unidentified thick vines or saplings growing in helix shapes
I didn’t look to see if these were still alive, and if so what was growing from them, so I can’t say if they were vines (which I consider likely) or not. But they were the thickness of my calf, much larger than most vines. Strangler fig, maybe? I don’t know, but they were still cool.

I wanted to try some frames aiming along their lengths, but they were growing from a narrow drainage channel going down the hillside, still holding water, and getting a low enough angle would have been difficult and covered me in mud, so I settled for shooting blind, holding the camera down low and aiming up without being able to see anything at all. Didn’t turn out too badly for that.

same helix vines/saplings shot blind from below
This was Buggato’s cue to jump in and try to catch me chimping, which is examining the LCD after tripping the shutter to see what was captured – he’s been endeavoring to record this behavior from me for quite some time now, without success because I simply don’t do it. And even though this was an acceptable time to do so, because I had no firm idea where I was aiming, I refused solely because he was watching – it was more fun than confirming I got the framing correct. However, without trying, I still managed to capture him attempting to capture me.

All Bugg getting into the frame while futilely trying to capture bad behavior from the author
Obviously, he wasn’t considering the angle my camera was aimed, but at least he wasn’t in every frame. And he’s got the camera up to his eye.

He made the attempt later on as well, as we found an American five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) basking on a branch.

male American five-lined skink Plestiodon fasciatus basking
This is a male, and a good-sized one at that, and after Mr Bugg got his frames, I started moving in slowly to do the tight macro, seeing how close I could get. This ended up being pretty close.

male American five-lined skink Plestiodon fasciatus starting to get suspicious
This is the full frame, and I’ll be honest: I think he raised his head and turned because he was more alarmed at the noisy great blue heron that flew past quite a few meters behind him than by my presence, but the heron was moving a whole lot faster than I. Let’s go in for a detail crop:

male American five-lined skink Plestiodon fasciatus inset
Turning his head gave me better focus with the lens set at f4 for the natural light conditions, so I was cool with that. I watched him blink a few times, almost lazily, and he never moved from this spot as I closed in, shot my frames, and backed away again, but I wasn’t moving quickly and that helps a lot. While doing this Buggato was shooting his own frames, as I said, hoping to catch me chimping, but the only time I do that with macro work is to ensure that the flash is aimed properly for the subject, and I wasn’t using the flash here. But this demonstrates how close I approached, and how big the skink was.

author at closest approach to male American five-lined skink Plestiodon fasciatus, by Al Bugg
That’s the workhorse Mamiya 80mm f4 macro in use, possibly forty years old and the sharpest lens I’ve used. Manual focus and aperture (because it’s intended for the Mamiya M645 series of medium-format cameras and has no interface with Canons,) but I can cope with that – have been for years.

Boy, it didn’t take long for that beard to go solid white. I’d estimate about seven years, I think…

Soon to come: more birds, plus I still have to get part three of a series finished and posted, so that may sneak in. But it’s good to have a choice of subjects to post now.

Profiles of Nature 15

jumping spider possibly female Hentzia mitrata Gwendolyn sequestered in holly leaf shelter
This week we shout out, “Hi!” from a safe distance to Gwendolyn – not because of any fear on her part or ours, but because she has wicked hay fever and this is as close as she’s coming to the outside air during this time of year; you’d be the same way if a single pollen grain was damn near the size of your nostril. Gwendolyn is a bikini model in high demand, both because of those come-hither eyes and her ability to rock a wet, semi-transparent white top – Rowr! Not to mention legs for eight days. She’s not at all class-conscious or possessive, and gives most of her money to charities such as CARE (Cobwebs Are Really Enticing,) a program to move over-privileged spiders from upscale homes and into abandoned buildings where they’re less likely to be vacuumed up. “Humans inhale up to seven spiders a year in their sleep,” she reminds us. “With your help, we can raise that to thirty-five.” But she has her self-indulgent side too, liking nothing better than to curl up with a thick mothshake and watch any movie where William Shatner gets killed. Gwendolyn majored in Failing in high school, making her report card completely confusing, but admits her real passion is actually Indifference. She collects stamps and swats, and occasionally flaming Lysol. Her favorite legume variety is Tufrunner 297, because of its semi-prostrate growth habit.

Come back next week with a witty riposte!

Token cooperation

During a recent outing to Jordan Lake, Buggato and I received the barest cooperation from our subjects – enough for them to claim they were doing their part, but not enough to earn any tips over it, you know what I mean?

The animal subjects this spring seem to be slow in getting active, though maybe this is only perception, but I’m more than happy to put the blame solely on them. We saw a handful of osprey (Pandion haliaetus,) including one that circled for several minutes within easy sight, but it did not deign to even try for any fish, despite the fact that numerous fish were jumping from the water right in its immediate vicinity. Well, kinda – the fish were in the water, the bird in the air, but horizontally, mapwise, they were very close.

It’s not like it wasn’t paying attention, either.

osprey Pandion haliaetus cruising for food, maybe
It was exactly the kind of conditions we were hoping for: clear skies and good light, later in the afternoon so the light could get underneath the bird instead of silhouetting it, the osprey sticking very close to us and reasonably low – what more could you ask for? Well, at least beginning a stoop for a fish, to be honest, or alternately, some courtship behavior. But no. We got circling as if it was bored.

I managed to snag a point when it checked us out momentarily.

osprey Pandion haliaetus spotting photographer
There was no alarm, no change in behavior, just the quick glance in our direction before resuming its scrutiny of the water, perhaps nearsightedly because, as I said, I could see the fish therein. I guess just not the right fish – perhaps none of them had their “GMO/Gluten Free” stickers visible.

Naturally, one engaged in a little bit of action, when we couldn’t see it at all, and then flaunted this by flying directly overhead, very low, and passing smack in front of the sun as we stated tracking it. The glare effect was actually pretty cool, and shows remarkable flare control from the Tamron 150-600. And for reasons unfathomable, it was actually the sharpest frame too.

osprey Pandion haliaetus with capture almost directly against sun, with glory
I was, of course, blind at this point, stumbling around screaming and clawing at my eyes though I never really lost my professional composure, and simply tracked the osprey by sound while this was happening. Doubt it not.

The next one I’m a bit proud of, because it shows that becoming familiar with traits of different species can help out a lot. There were countless turkey vultures riding the thermals that day, mostly higher altitude and largely ignored by me because I have far too many photos of turkey vultures. But as we were walking back to the car to change locations for sunset, I looked over a flight of vultures overhead carefully, more out of curiosity than anything. And noticed a different one. Turkey vultures fly with a faint dihedral, a minor V-shape when seen from in front or back, which can often be made out as they wheel in circles. They also have a little ‘droop’ to their wings when seen from below, the front edges of the wings canting backwards very slightly. So when you see something without these, flying with flat wings that have more of a straighter leading edge, you get a closer look.

juvenile bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus soaring
That’s a juvenile bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephaus) that was cruising around in the same thermals, almost indistinguishable from the vultures at a distance. From the color pattern I would almost say it was this year’s brood, but it seems far too early for that; it isn’t any older than last year’s, though.

We saw two or three adults as well (meaning older than three years, when their classic coloration appears) – again, maintaining distance and not doing any fishing at all, but worth a handful of frames at least. One of them was eventually seen wheeling around in the same flight of vultures.

adult bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus just flying
We should be in the middle of nesting season now, but I’ve seen no evidence of any yet, though this doesn’t mean much; it’s unlikely that they would choose a spot close to the busy boat ramps that serve as our primary lake access, and as yet, The Girlfriend and I haven’t taken the kayaks out for a look at any potential nest sites away from human activity. And even if we spotted one, seeing anything from such a perspective would be nigh impossible, at least until the young were fledging out and preparing to fly.

One of the reasons we were at the lake at that time was sunset, which didn’t look terribly promising because the sky was far too clear;

[Okay, I just have to insert this here. At this exact point in typing this up, The Girlfriend wanted to go down to a neighboring city to pick up some stuff for a project, and on the return, we elected to do a quick stop by Jordan Lake just to see what was happening – she hasn’t been since the conjunction, I believe. Anyway, I have more pics, and Buggato’s probably gonna be mad, but they’re going to wait until I get through the backlog of other photos/posts that I have – I’ll try to make it quick. We now return to our story…]

One of the reasons we were at the lake at that time was sunset, which didn’t look terribly promising because the sky was far too clear; the impressive sunsets require some scattered clouds at different levels and decent amounts of humidity. But they’re also unpredictable, so we stayed for the whole show. As it was, we got a couple of useful images.

bare sapling in front of sunset over Jordan Lake
This is actually a demonstration that bracketing the exposure, and changing the contrast and saturation settings, is often better done with the camera than with an editing program afterward. I’d only used one choice of settings for this frame, and back home realized that it needed some contrast and exposure tweaking. But what this ended up doing is making the bright part of the sky too blotchy, not blended enough, almost oil-painting quality rather than airbrush, if you know what I mean. I find it acceptable, but far from ideal, and even when I’m not that impressed with what sunset produces, I’ve resolved to do more camera adjustments while on site.

And one more, a partial illustration.

sunset over Jordan Lake with evidence of fish jump in frame
That little ripple ring at lower left is the aftermath of a fish jumping, in pretty much a perfect position in the frame – it would have been an excellent composition had I captured the fish in mid air. Doing this, however, would either involve a lot of luck or the reflexes of a CGI hero. Fish jumps are brief, and if you’re not directly expecting it, the fish is likely gone before what happened even registers, but even if you are expecting it and have the shutter half-pressed in readiness, capturing it still requires exacting timing; I’ve tried this with flickering snake tongues and it’s a damn site harder than imagined. I have actually managed it, but it was with a fish that was semi-predictably jumping in a faint pattern, and of course without any kind of compositional merit. Still working on it.

Pining away

I was asked if I was going to do a post regarding the pine pollen this year, and I considered this kind of redundant and basically said, Only if I get something remarkable. And now, I’ll let you decide, because damn, it’s been a heavy year. North Carolina is virtually overrun with longneedle pines – they’re ugly, they can take over any wooded area within a couple of decades, and they produce copious, choking amounts of pollen right around this time of year. Seriously.

pine pollen visibly moving across Jordan Lake
Out at Jordan Lake, the water’s edge was typically stained that curious greenish-yellow, and large patches of the pollen could be found getting blown across the surface; with enough sight distance, a yellow haze could easily be seen in the air, and in a headlamp’s beam at night, it actually looks like fine mist. Gradually, it turns brown, and eventually either sinks or gets washed away. But until that time, it looks like a sulfur mine exploded.

six spotted fishing spider Dolomedes triton sitting atop water surface stained heavily with pine pollen
This little six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) was not likely to catch anything in this muck which, as stagnant and polluted as it looks, is simply what occurs in the leeward portion of any body of water. And yes, you can see the dusting of pollen over the entire spider. It gets more noticeable, though.

Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis with dusting of pollen
This Copes grey treefrog had only been out of its daytime shelter for an hour or so, but was easily showing the effects, and this was right here in the yard at Walkabout Studios, also the location of the next.

viburnum blossoms liberally coated in pine pollen
These are more of the flowers seen earlier, and The Girlfriend has identified these as viburnum. It’s a good thing that most species can’t hybridize, because every plant (and more than a few animals) in North Carolina would soon be a pine mule. While over at the nearby pond, it showed far better.

damselfly possibly female eastern forktail Ischnura verticalis liberally coated with pine pollen
The damselflies are becoming more visible, and several were sleeping on some fine reeds at the water’s edge. The one, only about 30mm long, may be a female eastern forktail (Ischnura verticalis,) but don’t bet the GameStop portfolio on it. And this isn’t close enough for the full effect, so closer we go.

damselfly possibly female eastern forktail Ischnura verticalis in closeup
I really do wonder what pollen does to compound vision, but I’m quite sure, once awake, the damselflies would clean their orbs before flight.

Now that you’ve seen those, this fartsier one will probably be easier to figure out.

unidentified damselflies head-on in pollen
This could be a male and female of the same species above, but I didn’t do any side shots and the markings are too obscured to be seen clearly enough anyway. They’re damselflies – that’s enough.

And they weren’t too far from this guy.

American bullfrog Lithobates catesbeianus coated in pollen 'camo' pattern
This American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) had apparently surfaced through a cloying layer of pollen, which had then dried onto its skin, getting additionally dusted by the airborne particles. On the plus side, it could easily blend in with a butter-and-pickle salad. Mmm, now I’m hungry.

All of this was last week, however. Just after peak production, the rains rolled in, and most open surfaces got washed free of the pollen with little to return, at least for another year. The stuff still remains in cracks and crevices, and cars need to be meticulously cleaned to eradicate all that which seeps into the seams, but at least things are looking a bit more normal. Here’s a trio of happy rosemary flowers just after the rains, showing off.

trio of rosemary flowers following rain
And more will be along in another little bit. Take your anxiety meds – it won’t be long.

Now it’s been 60

That’s right – sixty years ago today, Yuri Gagarin from the Soviet Union became the first human in space, and the first to orbit the Earth, and the first to scare the hell out of some Russian farmers when he landed, mostly due to the secrecy that the Soviet space program maintained. I’ve covered my thoughts on this accomplishment, and the space race in general, on both the fiftieth and the fifty-ninth anniversary (which happened to be easter,) and in the latter, I lamented that despite a couple of small shelves full of space program stuff, I had nothing that commemorated Gagarin’s milestone (but was acting on it.) I did indeed correct this oversight, in two ways, and the first was a model of the Vostok 1 rocket booster which carried Gagarin’s capsule (Vostok 3KA) into orbit.

Despite getting this by the end of April last year, this lounged around on my shelves until the anniversary was approaching again, and I got off my ass to complete it in time – with less than a day to spare. I used to be an avid model builder, but that was years ago and the practice had largely lapsed, so I had to get back into the swing of it, and I’ve certainly done better, but for a commemorative it works just fine.

1/100 scale model of Vostok 1, Yuri Gagarin's launch vehicle
1/100 sclae model of Vostok 3KA capsule and interiorI had to do a bit of searching for photos of the real thing, of which there are few (as in, just one of the launch itself) to try and get some details correct, and at 1/100 scale, it stands 38cm tall. This particular kit featured a semi-detailed orbital capsule, which also took a few searches to get the details of – this is what modellers do. I didn’t go nuts with it, because if I wanted to do fine detail it wouldn’t be for something so small, but I did end up adding some stuff to the capsule beyond what the kit provided.

Inside, the only thing provided was the seat and Gagarin’s figure itself (seen from the top down here, orange suit with white helmet,) so everything else was added, though the detail on the exterior ‘waist’ of the orbital vehicle was in the kit. The spherical re-entry capsule itself was (in the model) only 20mm across, so not a lot of opportunity to add stuff unless I felt like working under heavy magnifiers, which I didn’t. Plus the kit was sparse on other details so not worth the effort. However, it included a clear half of the nose cone, so the capsule could be seen in place, or you can rotate that around (like the photo above) to make it look a bit more realistic.

I was going to add some stuff about the launch, flight, and re-entry, but it’s been a long day as I’m typing this, with a major unplanned project taking over, so I’ll just refer you to better sources anyway. The most notable thing is that, unlike the US space program, the Soviet/Russian programs brought their capsules in over land. Gagarin’s flight was slowed by parachute and then he ejected to land outside the capsule, but later Soyuz capsules descended all the way on parachutes, but had/have a long probe extending out the bottom; when it touches earth, it triggers the retro rockets that slow the capsule a bit more and make the landing gentler. Because these might come down well out of immediate reach of recovery teams, out in the Russian barrens, cosmonauts were given survival training, including foraging, and even carried a gun in the capsule for protection against bears.

1/100 scale Vostok 3KA capsule and commemorative pin
There was another thing that I ordered, from Ukraine, and that was a Vostok 1 commemorative pin – near as I can tell, this is an authentic issue from that time period, but I could be wrong since I didn’t spend a lot for it. Regardless, I’ll be wearing it all day today, which probably wouldn’t have garnered any notice even if I was out ‘in public,’ but now about the only people who might see it are The Girlfriend and possibly a delivery person. If they remark about it, however, I’ll be sure to provide plenty of information.

And again, this posted at 06:07 Universal Coordinated Time, the time when Gagarin launched, because.

Soon, soon

I’ve been trying to get to a couple of posts, but there have been numerous outside projects to be tackled (which are coming along fine, and some even completed) and so the time just hasn’t been there. And I’m exhausted right now, so I’m sneaking in a little very late Sunday color, largely because it doesn’t fit with any other topic in the works, and promising that more will be along soon. Maybe later Monday; there’s an early Monday post lined up, but more plans for the morning, and who knows what’ll happen after that?

So, color, and promises. Open promises, no timeframes or deadlines, no specific promises of what, so easy to keep. But they’re coming.

swamp maple Acer rubrum seeds samaras against unidentified buds and blue sky

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