Summer Tanager

April 20th, I heard the first Summer Tanager of 2011.  With a very unique song or call there is no mistaking it for any other.  Even though I did not see the Summer Tanager, I was delighted to know it has returned to the woods next door.  It may have actually arrived last week when we were in Nebraska.

The Cornell Bird site All About Birds includes a photo taken by Kevin T. Karlson.  Visit the site and listen to the Summer Tanager’s unique song.  The Cornell site states, “the only entirely red bird in North America, the Summer Tanager is a bird of southern forests. It specializes in eating bees and wasps, both in the summer and on its wintering grounds in Central and South America.”

Categories: Nature

Robin sited today

While eating breakfast this morning I glanced out the window and spotted a robin hopping along the edge of the flower bed right near the living room window. We listened and sure enough it was singing too. It was so exciting seeing this first Robin spotted in East Texas this year.

Categories: Nature Tags: ,

How apps are changing our smart phones and us

On March 13, Daniel Sieberg presented a segment on the CBS Sunday Morning Show on the expanding universe of applications for smart phones and how they are is transforming our lives and our relationship with these devices.


Categories: Tech Gadgets

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring are appearing. In spite of the unusually cold freezing weather in February, a lone purple martin arrived on February 19th. While mid February is their usual arrival time, we feared the cold weather might delay the martin’s return. The lone martin was apparently the scout, as a week passed before others joined him.  There are still many vacancies in our three martin houses though, so more will come.

The cluster of 100 bright yellow daffodil blossoms near the still leafless vitex bush brings a splash of color and life to the dull winter garden adjacent to the house. Daily they dance in the wind resting only in the evening calm.  The hickory trees and oaks began budding out recently too, as have several low to the ground yard plants. Most of these are weeds and will disappear soon as the grass gets going.

Daffodils near the house

The variety and number of birds in our yard has greatly increased, too. Yesterday we heard and spotted a Mocking bird for the first time this year.  Soon many others will return from their winter home to the south.  I so enjoy hearing them all sing.

We planted the hardy garden plants at the end of February.  These included onions, broccoli, kale and other hardy greens. A raised bed built four years ago had to be rebuilt as the 2X’s were deteriorated and had to be replaced. This was a chore as the contents had to be totally removed. Before setting the new cedar boards in place, we laid down metal hardware cloth creating a barrier to keep the gophers out of the beds.  On top of that we laid a heavy duty ground cover to block out the grass and weeds. This is a black heavy woven fabric which you may have seen at a nursery and garden center.  Once these were in place, we set up the timbers and secured them with corner brackets, then made sure they were square and level. The next step which required the most effort was filling the new box with the planting medium (soil).  The new 12 foot box is 4 feet longer than the 8 foot box it replaced.

The next day, Sherry planted the new bed with a variety of seeds including carrots, lettuces and others.

On a drive to Tyler March 3rd, we saw redbuds in bloom. More plentiful were the small white blossoms of wild plum’s and pear’s.  Blotches of wild daffodils dotted yards, fields and ditches.  Soon the dogwoods will add their stunning white blossoms to the wooded landscape.

The weatherman predicts another cold front this weekend which may send temperatures below freezing again. This maybe winter’s final gasp or just another round with others to follow. Either way the end of winter is near.  We can soon welcome the full measure of Spring.

Categories: Rural Living

Gotta get A Globally Recognized Avatar

November 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Gravatar = an image that you create to follow you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things like post a comment on a blog.  Avatars help identify your posts on blogs and web forums, so why not on any site?  This becomes your personal Icon or brand image.   Choose one well.  (Of course you can change your Gravatar at any time. )

Small Piper Cub Lands in Hay Field Next Door

October 27, 2010 4 comments

With a hay field on the north and east side of my three acres and woods on the west, our view most of the year is of green grass and trees with a frequent spotting of deer, birds and other wildlife.  A few days ago my wife looked out a north window though and spotted a bright yellow airplane sitting in the field about 100 feet away.  This seemed odd since the field has never been used for an airstrip before and we rarely even see tractors or other farm equipment out there.

Being curious and concerned that they had trouble and needed help, I bounded out to investigate. A tall stout man saw me and we met at the fence line. Turns out he was the pilot and said he had run into some fog.  When he saw the grassy field he decided to set it down and allow the fog to disperse.  This also gave his four year old grandson an opportunity for a nature break.

After a nice little chat about his yellow airplane, I announced I had to get back to work and he decided the conditions were favorable enough to continue their journey.  As I walked back in the house I noticed they were boarding the plane so I grabbed my Nikon and fired off a few frames. In just a few moments he had taxied down wind to the north end of the field, turned back into the wind and full throttled the Bright Yellow Little Piper back into the air.  What a thrill!  Wish I could have joined them.

Yellow Piper that landed north of our home in mid October.

Late in the day, 20 years ago,  a similar plane made a forced landing in a park along the bayou, two blocks from our Houston home.  Since it could not take off from the park, it was dismantled and taken away on a truck.  That story made the local 10 PM news.

How Effective Is Sharing via Email vs. Social Media?

October 21, 2010 Leave a comment

OCTOBER 21, 2010
High click rates for social media don’t tell the full story

Categories: InfoSec Tags: ,

My new used Ford F-150 Pick Up

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment

A couple of days ago my wife and I drove to Longview and purchased a very clean, gently used white, 2003 Ford F-150 Extended Cab Pick Up from Scott at Minze Motors.  Scott was great to work with.  He is down to earth, a Straight Shooter, NO BS or hype. He and his dad have a small used truck dealership specializing in nice clean used, you guessed it trucks.

Except for one year in college, I have lived in Texas all of my life.  This is my very first pick up.  It is a life altering experience for sure!  I had no idea I would feel different and I actually can not explain the sensation.  Suddenly, I feel as though I have joined an elite organization and I do not even know the name of the group.

Could it be I am now officially a RED NECK.  Oh NO, better get out and get some sun on my neck!

If  you need a good used truck, I highly recommend you check out Scott’s site at Minze Motors Inc. Longview, Texas and call Scott at 903-557-1262.

My new ride is also a Hauler. Has tow pkg.

Meditation Proven to Boost Brain Efficiency

September 28, 2010 Leave a comment

My first introduction to mediation was during college when a friend loaned me the Autobiography of a Yogi, which I excitedly read.  Since then I have practiced yoga and a few different forms of meditation.  A day is not complete without 20 to 30 minutes of uninterrupted meditation and contemplation.

During the past 35 years I have felt that my body and whole being benefited from the meditation experience.  I  recommend everyone give meditation a try.  There are many different techniques available.  Try a few until you find one that works for you.

Science is now validating what many have suspected for years.  Read the following article from the SMARTER Stratagies Web site and learn how science has demonstrated the benefits of meditation.

R. Colin Johnson | Date: 09-27-10 |

Meditation was once the domain of fringe groups bent on instilling life-changing attitudes into their inductees by getting them to slow down, take deep breaths and let the stress melt away. Unproven until now, Chinese and U.S. researchers claim to have scientific evidence that guided meditation introduces positive structural changes in the brain, which help people regulate goal-oriented behaviors without all the stress.

The research team led by professor Yi-Yuan Tang of Dalian University of Technology, working in collaboration with University of Oregon psychologist Michael I. Posner, found that just 11 hours of guided meditation is all you need to make positive structural changes in your brain. Their technique, called integrative body-mind training (IBMT), has been developed in China over the last two decades, but finally its positive benefits have been measured with the help of brain-imaging technology at the University of Oregon.

The research project, sanctioned by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, trained 45 University of Oregon students, half in IBMT and half in traditional stress-reducing “relaxation” training. Before and after each training session, the subjects’ brain functions were measured with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique called diffusion tensor imaging. By examining the fibers that connect neurons together in the brain, the researchers were able to observe positive changes in the portion of the brain that regulates emotions and behaviors, called the anterior cingulate cortex. Changes in connectivity were observed in the test group, but not in the control group, after just 6 hours of IBMT and became statistically significant after just 11 hours.

After just 11 hours of guided meditation, increases in fiber strength (colored) can be measured in the anterior cingulate cortex.

The researchers have done no invasive experiments to actually inspect brain matter, but speculate that the observed MRI changes are the result of reorganization of the white matter that interconnects neurons in the brain. By increasing the myelin that surrounds those connections, the researchers claim the changes make those pathways stronger and more efficient. According to Posner—last year’s recipient of the National Medal of Science—strengthening these particular pathways has already been shown to enable people to handle stress better, but this is the first time that meditation has been verified as a cause.

Previously, Posner and Tang had published results verifying a positive correlation between IBMT and stress. In 2007, they found a correlation between IBMT and lower levels of a stress hormone called cortisol.

Then, in 2009, with University of Oregon psychology professor Mary Rothbart, they showed that meditators had increased blood flow in the brain, lower heart rates, lower skin conductance and decreased respiration rates. However, the current study is the first to verify that enduring structural changes in the brain result from IBMT.

IBMT uses a coach to guide meditation by providing real-time breath-adjustment guidance, mental imagery and posture suggestions. Read more about it here.