My Fine Feathered Friends

I remember a long time ago, I got a book from the Audubon Society about birds when I was in grade school. For some reason birds and I really took. I really liked reading about them and looking at all the different species. I took it the next step by trying to identify all the birds we had locally in my town of Willamette, Oregon. I got pretty good at it too. I was able to identify gold finches, wrens, and all the birds now that I don’t remember any more! Ha!  Well, now I have moved up into the mountains near Mt. Hood. We have a few different types of birds up here mainly raptors. I don’t see many red-tailed hawks up here but there’s another species that slips my memory at the present.

It’s also heartening to see these birds as tame s they are. Not so as you can walk up to them, but they will sit on top of a telephone pole and watch you walk up to the base of it without flying off. I guess this is because we don’t have any morons shooting at them up here.

I also like crows. Yes, crows. They are intelligent, pretty and comical. They are the good time crew of the bird families. Ravens are my all time favorite bird, but alas we don’t have any on this side of the mountain. Ravens are quite different from crows. Larger physically, wider wing spans. The entire root chord of the wings are thicker on ravens. Ravens have thicker and longer beaks than crows. They also have a curious set of feathers that join the beak with the side of the head. I don’t know what this is all about either. The reason I know these things is because I used to have a pet raven. He was a marvelous bird and smart beyond all measure. Suffice to say I had to get rid of him because some short thinking neighbors didn’t think it was proper for me to have a raven in town. I’d love to have one up here, but I’ve almost done the same thing. Indeed, I have a regular crow airforce that taxi and do touch and goes in my lawn.  I decided to start feeding them. So I put out a heaping bowl of dry cat food. They love it. I’ll have to research their diet a bit and see if cat food is not good for them. I have anywhere from 4 to 6 and  sometimes even 8 crows strutting and hopping around in my yard much to my delight. They are so much fun to watch. Natural avian comedians too. I have lots of pictures of them. They are pretty shy however and will fly off at the first sign of either me or my dog. They can even catch sight of my movements thru the window in my house. I hope someday they will calm down a little bit around me at least. I’d like nothing better than to hand feed them as I used to do with my raven. I doubt that will happen but one can hope.

I was watching some interesting interactions between the Crows and the Starlings. I’ll admit I’m not much of a Starling fan. They are messy birds and seem to delight in messing on anything they are perched on or fly over. There were about half a dozen starlings running into each other at the Crow’s feed dish. The Crows were nonchalantly watching them atop of a light pole, and another big Crow was sitting atop my power pole, looking straight down on these dumpy ding bats knocking food out of the bowl. He swooped down towards the bowl and the Starlings were not having any part of him so they all flew off like overweight balloons with wings back into the woods around my house. Then the rest of the Crow Airforce came down from the light pole and hopped around the base of the stool that supports their food dish. The clumsy-assed Starlings naturally knocked a percentage of food out of the bowl and down onto the ground. The Crows were cleaning that up and I think they were also laughing about running the Starlings off. They sure seemed to be in a good mood. It looked to me like a couple of them were smiling. Yeah I know birds can’t smile but I got the distinct impression they were pleased with themselves. Crows and Ravens are like that you know. They like who they are and will tell you too.Racous birds these dark avians but then that’s ok I find them amusing. I have also found them no trouble what-so-ever. Maybe if I were growing a garden they might get in there and help themselves to some berries maybe? Hell I don’t know, I know my Raven liked all sorts of berries.  But my Crows are just fine. They make no messes around my house, they just mind their own business and keep the Starlings in line. That makes them my friends if nothing else!

Crows and Ravens are supposed to have some sort of magical connotations to them I understand. That’s fine I kinda like all that dark sort of stuff anyway. Lord knows I’ve written enough poetry in that venue anyway.

I was watching one female today, at least I think it was. She was hunting for worms. Crows hunt worms just like Robins do. They walk along and listen. It amazes me that a bird can hear a worm crawling along in the ground! I didn’t think their hearing was that acute but it must be. Anyway she was walking along under my maples and some insect must have flown over her, but she didn’t miss it and spun her head up and backward and she must have caught the insect because she seemed to be grinding him up. Scratch up another point in the Crows favor, getting rid of bugs. We have had so much rain this winter and into the summer that the mosquitos are terrible up here. So my avian friends can gobble up all the skeeters they want and any other cheesy bugs in the process.

I had two Stellar Jays visit the feed dish today too. Seems this is more of a communal bird feeder than anything. I dig the blue jays too. They are also members of the Crow family. Lots of folks don’t know that but they are.  The Jays up here are aggressive and not afraid of the cat from hell that lurks on the back porch.  My cat reminds me of some of the monsters from HP Lovecraft’s novels. You know, The Old Ones?  Strange names for these creatures, there’s Nyarlathotep, the crawling chaos, Shub Niggurath, Yog Sototh to name a few. My cat is probably a cross between Nyarlathotep, and Yog Sototh. She is the worst looking thing you can imagine, and won’t clean herself up. I’ve tried to do that for her but it’s a waste of time. So I’ve given up. The Jays know she’s no threat to them. I saw one the other day  eating out of her bowl and she was only about 4 feet from him. How the birds know this is beyond me. Just more of a wonderment if you look hard enough.

I’m glad I don’t have any idiot kids with pellet guns up here deciding that they should be the great white hunters and shoot up my birds.  I’d have to take their guns away from them and make fashionable head-gear for them out of their guns.  That’s ok too because they couldn’t file a complaint with the police about me because they couldn’t write their own names on the police department forms, thanks to their 21 century educations.

I installed a humming-bird feeder on the corner of my porch roof the other day. I was wondering how long it would take the hummers to find the feeder. I saw a humming-bird using it today! That’s cool, I’m looking forward to taking some pictures of those little guys. I guess when the word gets out in Hummerville that Dave’s Hummingbird Restaurant is open for business, I’ll probably be seeing more of them. I hope so. I really like birds. Can ya tell?



I Flunked Spelling and Grammar

I didn’t really flunk either one actually. But I have noticed an alarming number of posts on sites such as YouTube and Facebook by people I think are young. They can’t spell! Some of it is so bad I don’t recognize the word without a little study!  All this techo-spawned short hand , lmao, lol, brb, IMO, BTW, etc, shows up in Facebook chat windows and elsewhere. I’m afraid it will overflow into everyday conversation. Imagine talking on the phone with your friend and telling him, “Hey Ron I’ll brrrb (phonetic for brb), I have to go la’mo (lmao). ”  I think some folks think it’s ok to write out sentences with lower case and in this lame shorthand. They also think it’s no big deal to misspell words. To me it just shows how ignorant you really are. Most are lazy to the point of not even using a spell check program even if it’s available!

All this disrespect for the written language makes me wonder what the hell is going on in our school systems? Let’s not hold Trevor back even if he can’t spell dog and cat. Let’s just let him proceed and enter a world where he can barely write and spell? Yeah you guys are doing him a real favor instead of hurting his feelings a bit by holding him back. The purpose of an education system is to TEACH people how to do things like spell, use our grammar correctly, speak the language correctly, be able to read books! What a concept!  Instead we put more emphasis on making sure the individuals are passed along with all their friends, so no one’s feelings are hurt instead of teaching them essentials they should have learned in middle school or grade schools.

I am sixty-four years old. I can spell most words, and I think I use  grammar correctly most of the time. Most of my classmates my age can too. It’s just the way the educational system worked in those days.  High tech jobs are no guarantee of good spelling either. I belong to a rocketry club. The majority of members are all from high-tech electrical engineering jobs. Lots of the members work for Intel, Tektronix, etc. I came across a post from one of the guys , an electrical engineer for Intel. He was talking about a rocket motor he was experimenting with . He spelled motor “moeder”.  I couldn’t believe what I saw here. It wasn’t just a typo either as I continued to see the same spelling throughout the rest of the post he had made. I guess if you can wrestle with math formulas that spelling doesn’t matter?  Most engineers I know have to regularly write out some of what they are doing. I don’t know where this information goes but if I were a department head for Intel and I got a memo from one of my employees spelling motor “moeder” I would have to have a talk with him.  How embarrassing for a company the size of Intel to have employees there that spell like fourth graders.

Several years ago I found a book written by an Englishman named Sir Alan Gardiner. It is printed by the Oxford University Press in London. It’s a beautiful book. Each page is eight and three eights inches in width by ten and three-quarters inches in length. A hard bound book two inches thick.  It’s called Egyptian Grammar. The inset page says ” Being an introduction to the study of hieroglyphs.” It is an introductory book on how to read and understand ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. I admit that when I first started with this book I had the idea that most of the hieroglyphs I’d seen were probably just words written in strange vertical orientation. After some work with the book I began to realize that the Egyptian language was every bit as complex as our English language  and in some instances more so. I quickly reached the end of my understanding of our language, which left me high and dry with any further hieroglyph studies. So I went back to my high school one afternoon. I was hoping to run into my senior English teacher Mrs. Swank. As I was coming up to the office I did just that. Here she came around the corner and I almost ran into her. She immediately recognized me!  An amazing thing with good teachers their everlasting memory for students. I told her why I was there and you should have seen the look on her face! She lit up like a Christmas Tree! She was so pleased that a former student of hers would be interested in a subject she taught. She gave me a couple of grammar books that were very helpful.

I continued to study the book of Sir Alan Gardiner along with a friend. We made pretty good progress. I also found out a lot about the Egyptian culture while doing this. Things that made me question some notions about the Egyptians as slave drivers and Biblical bad guys. Had I not done this I would have never come to this little bit of knowledge about an ancient race. Had I the education that some young people have today I wouldn’t have been able to get past the introduction in the book with my twenty-first century spelling and grammar skills. What a loss for me and what a loss for our young Americans.

How many potential authors, wash out due to an inadequate education in the use of our language? All in the name of being politically correct in our schools and not traumatizing little Johnny because he can barely spell his own name!  This is a giant load of horse crap in my opinion.  No I don’t have letters of merit after my name, I don’t have a complete college education, but I can spell most of the time and can write complete sentences and punctuate them correctly.

I have a friend that on occasion we intentionally misspell words during an email session, and I have to really work at it!  I have found the best way to do this is to spell them in phonetic fashion.  Eye kin spel reely guud most of the tyme, but woncyn in awhyle eye hav truble.  I wuz the tahp spelar in my klas of 2009.


I’ve Been There

I got a video link from a friend of mine today. It was showing all our military people in Afghanistan and other places of deployment. It started me thinking of my experience in the military and my deployment time.  It jogged my memory into those times of solitude and soul-searching, the times when we wonder why we are where we are, and times of reflection. These times to me have the function of clarifying past times, of having the effect of showing us exactly what is going on without any sort of emotional lensing. I remember sitting up on a Hawk Missile site in Korea, one summer evening. All by myself behind the A & S building. This building was located on the edge of the mountain the tac site was on. There was a long drop to the bottom. It eventually rolled down into an endless sea of rice paddies and mountains, as far as you could see actually. Watching the sun set behind a wall of mountains in absolute silence is really quite amazing. We don’t get to experience that here in the States because of the population densities. Korea actually means “Land Of The Morning Calm.” This is quite accurate. Every morning while I was on the tac site I would wake up and go outside. Outside the noise of the radars it was quite still. The noisiest radar on the hill was the pulse aq. A lot of the time if was shut down. If that was the case then you could hear the generators sometimes.  I was quite aways away from the generator section which was dug back into part of the hill. Most of the noise went out and away from the Assembly and Service (A & S) area I worked in.

I remember sitting there wondering about my girl friend and if she was going to still be there when I got home. It made me wonder about all the little things she did or said that made me question her true intentions. That old clarifying thing again, that being all by yourself up on top of a distant mountain in Korea makes you focus your thoughts thru. It’s an amazing tool really, it strips away all the b.s. all the lies, all the emotional windows we see people in our lives thru.

I also remember wondering why I was up there. It sometimes seemed like a lot of wasted effort, or an exercise in futility. We could not shoot down any enemy aircraft without first clearing it with some other Army organization. By that time the aircraft would have been out of range of  our tac site.

One Christmas day I was down in the battery area, which was located in a large village called Tong Du Chon. It was near the DMZ up north. The main post was Camp Casey a US 7th Infantry Division  post. All of the sudden the battery area turned into a frenzy of soldiers and KATUSAs (Koreans Attached To The United States Army), running around. My section chief came into the maintenance barracks I was in (a quanson hut actually) and told me to get my butt on the chow truck up to the site that it was at battle stations. Me and all the rest of the maintenance folks, Radar people, fire control people (operators) and all of us piled onto the chow truck. Seems to me I even had my trusty steel pot and my combat stuff. I also had a Colt 1911 45 semi-auto pistols that was so worn out it would not hit the side of a barn from ten feet away.

We got up there and I immediately went into the BCC (Battery Control Central)  This is where the radars, missiles, and launchers are networked together. The fire control people control all this from the BCC. The targets are detected, ranging information is established, target speed, and tracking is initiated.  I’ll have to be a little techno so bear with me it’s not that bad. There are two FC (fire Control Consoles) that receive video information from the Pulse acquisition radar. It is a target acquisition radar. So the targets show up as a blip on the large circular radar consoles. I saw two blips on the North facing consoles.  I was told they were two North Korean MIG 17’s. Basically a flying kerosene lamp with wings. They were flying on the south side of the DMZ. So we brought the site up to battle stations which means arming the warheads in the missiles, installing the rocket motor initiators into the rocket motors, plugging in the umbilical connectors from the launchers into the missiles, getting them launch ready. The High Power Illuminator Radar (HIPIR) s are target tracking radars they are positioned on the targets off the FC consoles and put into a box search mode. When they lock onto the target the launchers are remoted into the BCC and track off the servos from the HIPIRs target data. All we needed to do was push the fire buttons. We called in to some net work I was never privy to and we were told NOT to fire on the MIGS. I watched them fly right over the top of the tac site. Why bother? I felt let down, I felt like all my training was a joke, I felt the entire existence for our tac site was a joke. In a few seconds I heard this high-pitched whine and I saw two F-100 Super Sabers come up out of the valley below us. It was the ROK (Republic Of Korea) Air Force jets on the tails of the MIGS. They did a barrel roll over the site and we hurried into the BCC. Now we had four blips on the radar. Pretty soon there were only two. You tell me what happened to the other two.  I don’t know, we never did find out. I think some farmer has a couple of MIG 17 as decorations in his rice paddie somewhere.  The ROK pilots are no one to fool around with, they don’t take prisoners, and don’t find the North Korean’s particularly funny or enjoyable. The ROK Marines are the same way. Sorta like an army of pit bulls just sorta turn them loose and get the hell outa the way.

So I went back down to Bravo section launchers and helped the launcher crewmen with removing the rocket motor initiators and war head S & A (Safe and Arm) devices. We were all moping around.

It’s times like these that make you reflect on your part as a soldier, your part as a defender of our country. It makes you think about more serious things than whether your girl friend is dating other guys back home. At least it did for me.

I remember going out to a huge statue of Buddha that was sitting all by itself out in this rice paddie. I saw it the second day I was in Korea when I was on the morning chow truck going up to the tac site. I was awe-struck!  I spent time the next weekend up close and personal looking at this thing which was even more mind boggling up close. Things like this you can’t experience over here.

Sometimes the days just drag on, nothing extraordinary happens, and you get lonesome for your friends and your family. You get tired of the military life which isn’t a lot of fun most of the time. You get tired of going down to the night clubs in the “Vill” as it’s called and seeing the same stuff over and over again.

Unless you have been in the military on deployment to a foreign country you can’t know all the feelings and the thoughts, the scenes, the times, the native people, that you are immersed in on a daily basis. It makes you a bit cynical, it makes you wiser, it gives you a better understanding of our own country, more appreciation of what most of us take for granted.  I’ve been there and I’ve done that.