Storm Damage

When I came home Friday evening, the first thing I did was to head upstairs to take down the gate so Wylie could come downstairs. For the second time this week, I reached the bottom of the stairs just in time to see Wylie come out of the bathroom, leading me to chuckle at the notion that I’d just missed catching him with a newspaper.
Wylie’s not a big fan of violent weather; distant thunderstorms upset him and when the big storms come into the immediate vicinity, Wylie heads for someplace safe. Usually this means he comes looking for the alpha dog, but when I’m not around, the upstairs bathroom becomes Wylie’s storm cellar.
We’ve had a few big storms lately; this week they’ve included heavy winds and a bit of thunder.
After a little while I happened to glance out into the back yard and noticed that the storm had broken one of the trunks on the crabapple tree. Looking a little closer, I saw a big pine branch laying on the other side of the fence.
Trees broken by the storm.
A huge branch lying behind the fence.
I have a couple large pines near my house. A particularly large one is just to the side.
Really huge tree next to my house.
Going out into the back yard, I discovered that in addition to the crabapple tree, two large pieces had broken loose from the pine next to my house. Along with the branch which landed behind the fence, another was laying in the yard. It looks like they were probably the same branch, somehow falling in two places. Judging by the hole it left in the ground, the piece in the yard missed my deck by less than six inches.
This branch came within inches of hitting my  deck.
After taking Wylie for his late afternoon walk, I got the ladder out of the shed and checked out the back part of the upper roof. Everything looks to be OK, but I’m thinking it’s a good thing I trimmed those branches last weekend!
So it appears that “clean up storm debris” has been added to this weekend’s list of chores.

Endangered Species

The North American letterbox once ranged across the continent in herds so large as to darken the plains from horizon to horizon. These gentle beasts had no fear of humans and would frequently wander into population centers. It was once common to find clusters of letterboxes on street corners in urban areas.
By the beginning of the 21st century, overgrazing and invasion of their habitats by other communication media had resulted in a massive decline of the wild letterbox population. Today the largest populations of North American letterboxes are found in zoos such as the one below.
A small herd of North American letterboxes behind a fence.
The letterboxes shown here are part of a herd being kept at a postal center in Rockville where scientists are attempting to repopulate the species through a captive breeding program.

A Change of Perspective

Rachel and Evangeline seem to have chosen as their favorite “Uncle Blair story” the tale of the time back in college when I was trying to get some peace and quiet so I could study. In an effort to get away from their father and their Uncle Steve, I finally ended up going out on the porch roof at which point they locked the window behind me. This didn’t bother me over much, but when they kept annoying me by banging on the window, I finally lost my temper and banged my elbow against the window. An important lesson my nieces have hopefully taken away from this story is that tempered glass doesn’t hold up very well against elbows.
I needed to do some home maintenance this afternoon, cutting back some branches that were brushing up against the roof. Although this post was written from the comfort of my home office, I’d like to think that Rachel and Evangeline will appreciate the fact that I sent their father a copy of the photo below while sitting in the exact spot where I’d taken it just a few moments earlier.
The view from my roof.

Decoupling

I just watched the final episode of Coupling and it’s easily one of the best series finales I’ve seen. (And I’ve still got the theme song stuck in my head – it’s very similar to the version Doris Day recorded.)
Katie was right. The show is definitely racier than most shows you’ll see on American TV. But it’s much more clever than vulgar. The two main characters are based on the show’s creators and the rest are archetypes based on people they’d each had failed relationships with.
Definitely worth a watch.

Decision Making

This is happily nothing to do with anything going on in my life, just a general observation I can’t get out my head.
In the corporate world, before scolding a subordinate for making a decision they don’t agree with, most senior managers prefer to increase the level of irony by first giving a speech about how important it that everyone be empowered to make decisions.

Caution

Things have been a bit stressful at work lately. Not quite six weeks ago, I completed a very high profile project. There were a few minor glitches, but things overall went fairly well.
Before that project was even complete, I was already being pulled onto another project, also very important, and also with a very high profile. We’re evaluating several complex software packages to replace a highly customized mission critical application, we’re doing it on a very short schedule, and it turns out that there were some bad assumptions early on about the level of effort required for the evaluations.
This past week, the inevitable happened.
An office with caution tape across the doorway and what appears to be a chalk outline on the floor.
No, no, no. Nobody died. Just a case of a sense of humor coming into play.
Friday a week ago, I was intensely working on the project and to minimize distractions had kept the office door closed most of the day. (Interestingly, most people assumed it was my officemate who didn’t want to be disturbed. Either way, the effect was the same.) Around 5:30, I noticed the silhouette of someone standing outside my office door and upon opening it, discovered my boss taping a piece of yellow Caution tape across the doorway.
I laughed and even obliged by collapsing on the floor. As my boss snapped a photo, a passerby commented on my performance, “He dies well.”
The caution tape stayed up over the weekend confusing both the cleaning staff and several co-workers. By the end of the day Monday though, the boss hadn’t done anything with the photos and then sent out an email saying he would be out for the next few days.
When he returned on Thursday morning, he laughed to find the caution tape across his door. When he found the “chalk” outline (actually done with masking tape) he needed several minutes to stop laughing. His favorite part was a touch an accomplice had added (it’s difficult to mark an outline of yourself) where the outline ran over (and fastened to the floor) an envelope which had been slipped under the door. He even laid down on the floor for a photo of himself in the outline.
My boss, surrounded by a chalk outline.
Inevitably, somebody who hears this story will comment that I have too much spare time. To me, this seems like a fairly reasonable use of five minutes. It certainly beats letting the stress get to the point where someone in a more “official” role is drawing outlines.

Shell Games

No luck getting any photos of the empty goose nest yesterday, so I went back again today. You can see chunks of the hatched eggs laying around the sides of the nest.
Empty goose nest, lined with feathers, surrounded by hatched shells.
No sign of Mama Goose and kids today either, I think they’ve moved off to be closer to water. The facilities people must think so too as the traffic cones have been removed from the adjoining spaces.
For the longest time, I could never understand what the appeal was to putting a low-quality camera in a cell phone. It hit me a year or two back — the camera may not be very good, but it works well for casual shots, such as these, which might not have been taken otherwise. (Thankfully they’re starting to use slightly better cameras.)

Empty Nest Syndrome

When I went into the office this morning, Mama Goose was still sitting on the nest. It looks like last week’s goose photos were “just in time,” because when I went to get something from the car in the late afternoon, I found a few of these signs in the parking lot.
Sign: Slow! Please Be Careful! Baby geese are here!
I tried to get a couple shots of the nest, but they didn’t come out right. No sign of Mama Goose and the kids though. They either waddled off to the stormwater pond out behind the building, or else she was already busy teaching them to poop on cars.

Church of the Terminator

When I first spotted this card, I noticed a model sailing ship, a stack of books, and a computer keyboard. What really got my attention though was the metallic-looking skull, like something from The Terminator movies. Add in the bit at the bottom where it mentions a theater and I thought for sure it was a promotion for the new Terminator film which opens next weekend.
Card featuring books, a model boat, and a metallic skull.
Looking at the back of the card, it turns out to be a promotion for a new ministry of a local Mega-Church. Along with their multiple locations and frequent radio ads, it turns out they’re also branching out into holding services in area movie theaters.
It’s entirely possible that they’re making a subtle tie to the new movie, Terminator Salvation. Unfortunately, once I figured out what the card was about, the message which crossed my mind was, “Give your life to Christ, or else he’s going to send a killer robot after you.”