Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mexico here I come!!

Not sure how I occasionally stumble into awesome things, but I did this week.  I was at a meeting and a friend of mine jokingly asked if I could fill in for Ana (a student at the Univ of Yucatan) at bird banding stations south of Cancun.  I was immediately like, um, yeah right! 
Then after some thinking and talking, I will be getting a basically free trip to Mexico to train a student from the Univ Yucatan and other field technicians in banding birds.  In return they will teach me a lot of Spanish.  The guy I need to train speaks no English, so it'll be pretty hard. 

Unfortunately, Ana the gal I'm filling in for, got pretty sick in May (when she was here in TN working and learning field techniques) and flew home for surgery and to be with family. Complications continue and she's not allowed to work.  Ana is a really sweet gal and she'll be ok.

Sadly I won't get to work the banding stations that are at the resorts in Cancun, where I'd get to stay in an apartment with internet and AC.  They catch very few birds at those sites and need me to train them where they catch a lot of birds.  So they'll pick me up from the airport and take me to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve south of Cancun.  There are 4 study sites in and around the reserve and they catch a lot of birds.  More than I'm used to handling in a day, even in my heyday!  The main goal is to teach them about our birds that are migrating through the Yucatan.  So the migrant birds in your yards right now may get caught by me in Sept in Mexico. I don't know what any of their Mexican birds are, but they know them.  Will interesting to catch some species I've never seen before!!

This is no fancy vacation.  It's going to be a lot of long days, hot and humid weather, trees that are more poisonous than poison ivy, vampire bats, more venomous snakes than here, and camping for essentially the entire time I'm there, but camping on the beach.  One of the "field stations," which I use loosely, has running water (for rinsing clothes).  I think one of the sites has some shelters for getting away from the rain, which falls daily.  I'll take bucket sponge baths daily to keep the funk to a minimum and swim in the ocean to try to keep from getting to infected with stuff.  Snorkeling is going to happen since the reserve is adjacent to the second or third largest barrier reef in the Caribbean or world, can't remember.  It stretches into Belize.

In the end, it'll be 5 days of banding birds in a row with 2 days "off" to go to a town and get food and water for the week, hopefully clean some clothes, and do some birding, sleeping, and site seeing.  I've met a couple of the folks down there already as this project is coordinated through the Univ of Tennessee and my agency contributes $$ to it annually.  They promised me they'd put English speaking techs on my team, otherwise it'll be a LONG trip.

Final details are being worked out, but I will fly out on Monday, Sept 8 and spend at least 2 weeks there.  I'd like to do a third week since I have the chance and Bec's approval as this is a chance I'll never get again.  Although after 2 weeks of camping in hot conditions, no real shower, squatting in the woods, and probably getting the Chachen (spelling?, but it is the poisonous tree) all over me, I may really want to leave.  The sites they work are just off the beach and in protected forests, so I'll be on the beach daily and falling asleep to the ocean.  I've seen pictures and the sites are incredible.  Just a chance I can't pass up.  It'll be an eye opener and life changer probably, assuming I don't get malaria.  Yes, I'm getting a billion shots and pills on Monday.  Hope for no hurricanes or I may be swimming back to the states!

Best part is my boss said if I had a chance to go to the Yucatan for this project (or any reason) to go.  hence he is rescheduling a meeting or 2 for me so I can attend them later!  To boot, all I will have to pay for is food while there.  I have comp time built up from all my travel this spring, so I won't have to use my annual leave.  Sweet!

I may need to take Bec to either Alaska or the French Riviera to make up for this:)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New addition to the family

So today we got a new member to what is now the Somershoe clan.  To avoid minds from wondering what we've been hiding for the last 9 months, it is a 9 month old golden retriever.  Goldie (real original name, I know) was the one puppy our neighbors kept from the litter their golden had 9 months ago.  The neighbors said they were going to get rid of her since their teenage son doesn't give her any attention as he said he would.  So after much discussion and me saying no more dogs, I changed my mind (on my own, really!) and said let's get her.

We went over this afternoon and fairly easily got a leash on her.  She's never been walked, so she just wrapped herself around us, making moving her through 2 gates a chore.  I ended up just picking her up.

It's a good thing we got her because poor Goldie stunk like I don't know what.  We got her a new collar, food bowl, puppy food (I think she's only been fed adult food) and 2 baths.  In the washing process we got a few hundred fleas off her.  She is kind of skittish, mostly because she wasn't well taken care of, but she just sat patiently as we washed her, all over, twice!  She must have known we were going to take good care of her.  I'm sure it felt good to have all those fleas die!! We applied flea and tick stuff to the cats and Nick, and will get her treated ASAP.  

In the meantime, she has been inside a house for the first time, which took ~5 min of coaxing and 2 treats.  She just stood in the doorway and would take one step forward and 2 back.  We only let her in the utility room since she is still has some fleas and, of course, is not house broken.  In 2 weeks, we'll be back in Vicksburg for Labor day and we'll get Nick's old crate.  After that we'll let her stay inside over night.  Much work to do with Goldie, but she is really sweet and Nick and her play very well together.

Much to my chagrin, as soon as we gave her her first puppy treat she ran into my garden and tried to bury it.  I chased her out and later started my "training" on staying out of the garden (which involves the hose at full blast).  Later she started eating the treats right away.

At dinner time, Nick remembered from experiences with Kudzu and Ivy that he must eat really fast when other dogs are around.  They both ate well and played the game nicely.  Goldie does drool like a waterfall when drinking (if not sticking a paw in the water bowl), so we've moved the food and water to the utility room (not just case we are only letting her in there for a while).

In the end, she has warmed up to use very quickly and hopefully she won't dig my garden too much or do #1 or #2 inside!!

So after they went to sleep and I busted them for sleeping in the garden, a little later we could see both of them sleeping next to one another in the yard.

You're getting me a what??? A little sister??

Goldie in the new yard.

Inseparable.  Goldie's only about 40 lbs or so.

I love you too sweetie!

Pooped from playing.

Too cute.

In other news, I did my first bike race of the year on Wednesday.  My good bike is in the shop (and has been), so I rode my old steel bike that was my first bike I bought 6 years ago.  It is heavy, but treated me well.  I did way better than I expected (in terms of speed and not getting lapped 3 times).  So all was well.

I may have been at the back a lot, but I held my own.  It was a little scary going around a corner at 25mph with someone on your elbows, especially since I haven't done it in a year!

Just some other nice shots.  Our mockingbirds finally fledged babies on Friday.  This was their 5th nest, 3 in our yard and 2 in the neighbors bushes.  Hope the mockers don't hate us when we cut down the holly bushes they've nested in the last 2 years.  Yup those big holly's in the front are going this fall.   
Baby bird, barely out of the nest.

Immature male Ruby-throated Hummingbird coming to the feeder.  One of at least 3 different individuals visiting frequently.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

No more veggies!!

So our CSA veggie thing we do apparently ended Monday.  The lady sent an email Wed night telling everyone she has to have surgery (to fuse her neck) now, not later in Sept after the program ended.  So she gave us ~12 min notice to make plans to return the basket we loaded up with veggies and meet her for their Thursday pick up (didn't know they had a thursday pick up). She will write a check to reimburse us for the remaining weeks we aren't getting veggies.  It was out our way to go to the 'boro every Monday, but when we picked it, we thought it would be easy for R to pick them up after class on Mondays.  However, she started late and ended early, so we never actually picked up vegetables during the school year! The veggies were good; this lady just wasn't very organized in all respects, not just the bailing out because of surgery. We'll try another place next year.

Sad day, but the Olympics start tomorrow!!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

New Computer!!

So we have finally replaced Bec's 23 year old desktop.  Ok, it was only 8 yrs old, had about 6 Gb hard drive space, and was pretty slow.  I mean, it took 5 min to boot up and get online!  With tax free weekend (for clothes, school supplies, and computers) we decided it was time to bite the bullet and buy a sweet new computer.   

The other impetus was the laptop the state issued me died, more or less.  The monitor part was opened and closed/moved so many times that the connection went bad and thus the screen was toast!  I got our IT people to help me salvage stuff off it (plugged in a monitor), but I had backed up most stuff anyway since I knew the screen was going.  In the end, I will not be getting a state computer for home, but a docking station thingee.  

This docking station thing is essentially a laptop that hooks into a big monitor and keyboard, etc at the office and then I just shut it down, unplug 2 wires and take it home.  That is exactly what I don't want to do, take something else home a lot.  What a pain in the rear end.  I know we are under budget constraints and they don't want people having 2 computers, but it is so much easier.  I gave the purchasing lady the story about how the docking station is a pain and I'll ultimately destroy the new laptop since I have to take it everywhere.  She offered me a hard case for it.  Nice.  I gave her some grief and told her the system is stupid vs. having 2 computers and a travel drive I can stick in my pocket.  There are advantages of the docking station, but they don't outweigh the annoyances in my mind.  I might just have the laptop die in a year just to prove a point.  I think I'm a real pain to those folks, but who cares.  They are dumb.

So in the end, we bought ourselves a sweet iMac.  Yup, an Apple.  It has a billion Gb hard drive and 20 inch monitor that can been seen from any direction in the room.  Plus there is no tower, meaning all the memory is in the monitor.  We can run everything Windows on it, but all the other features it has and things it does FAR surpasses any Microsoft product out there.  It is so user friendly. I knew it would be, Apple's have always been easier to use than Windows.  This machine is awesome!  David says we're yuppies, but he just doesn't understand the beauty of this machine.  It can't run his engineering software, but it does everything else, including makes mac and cheese.  Specifically the photo software is way better than windows junk.

In the end, we got a free iTouch 8Gb iPod, free printer, paid no tax, and got Bec's Vanderbilt discount.  We also bought the Microsoft office for $15 so we can run Word, Excel, and all at home when I want to work on a paper or Powerpoint presentation.  Flawless going back and forth.

Drooling may begin:

Yes, that is a super thin keyboard.

In the end, I have my bosses old laptop, which is pretty new, that I'm keeping at home.  Take that purchasing lady!!