Friday, March 15, 2019

Feeling out of sorts

I'm still fighting the second - and worst - cold of the season and it's a nasty tenacious mofo.

I've been hacking and wheezing for more than two weeks and, of course, Maria caught it from me and is suffering too.

We've both been taking Mucinex and elderberry syrup and Maria is now on heavy-duty antibiotics trying to walk the delicate line between pneumonia/bronchitis and C-Diff. She tells me most of the people she sees on a daily basis have this or a similar bug, so our misery has lots of company.

The temperature got up to 72 yesterday - the warmest so far this year - but a rainy cold front has the temperatures back down to the mid-30s today. The Groundhog's prediction notwithstanding, this will be a late spring. (The Vernal Equinox is about 5:20 p.m. next Wednesday.)

They're back!

The turkey vultures are back, soaring through March Indiana skies, as they have for millennia.

I saw the first of them on March 8, which has been the return date for these harbingers of spring for as long as we've lived in our Thorntown house. They typically return to Indiana a few days before the Vernal Equinox – some returning to longtime roosts and others stopping in transit to roosts farther north.

Gazing out my office window on this chilly windy afternoon, I can see a couple of them soaring lazy circles over the houses a block to the west.

The turkey vulture is second in size only to condors and eagles in the ranking of North America's birds and is a common sight in Indiana.

Neil Sabine, associate professor of biology at Indiana University East at Richmond, has been studying turkey vultures since the mid-1990s. He's trapped more than 200 birds and marked them and collaborated with the U.S. Air Force on a study on turkey vulture strikes on jet aircraft.

Turkey vultures don’t kill anything. They won’t touch anything that isn’t dead. Besides that, they will pass on dead carnivores like dogs, cats and coyotes, preferring to dine on dead herbivores like sheep, goats and cattle.

The Cherokees called the turkey vulture the “peace eagle” because it soars like the predatory bird, but does not kill.

They are about 25 inches from end to end with a six-foot wingspan. The average adult turkey vulture weighs in at 6 pounds.

The annual return of turkey vultures to Indiana, Sabine said, is temperature-dependent.

“If we have a hard winter they'll stay south longer,” he said. “This year we had a colder winter so the birds will come late because they move based on availability of food.”

If their food sources are frozen, they can't, get at the interior of a dead animal because they have weak bills. They need a food source that is soft and available to them, he explained.

After wintering in South or Central America, they return to northern nesting areas in two waves – transitory birds that may stop over in Indiana for perhaps two or three weeks before moving on – and permanent residents that will nest and remain in one particular area throughout the warm weather months, leaving as winter approaches in November or December.

“Some resident turkey vultures will stay all winter and go just far enough south where warmer weather is accessible, just kind of shifting with the weather,” Sabine said.

“Others will go all the way across the Caribbean to South America. Most of the birds we're seeing are from southern Mexico. The turkey vulture has the largest distribution of any bird in the world,” he said, noting that the birds are still expanding their range northward, moving into Canada.

In connection with the Air Force study, Sabine said turkey vultures can attain an altitude of nearly 1,000 feet if thermal updrafts are sufficient.

Bill Kohlmoos, president of the Turkey Vulture Society, wrote on his web site ( that they have a rich social life, like to play aerial tag, and will invite other roosts to join them if they find a particularly large meal.

In California, he said, they’ve even been known to tell condors about major feasts and guide them to the scene.

“One lady wrote us that she has built a small wooden tower-like feeder in her back yard and puts out food for her friends each day. One day she noticed that after eating their breakfast, the vultures had gone down to the lawn in her yard and six of them were in a circle around a soccer-size ball left on the lawn by her grandchildren. The vultures were hitting the ball back and forth to each other by butting it with their head and beak. Each day thereafter they played this game. And although there were four balls of different colors, they always picked the orange one.”

He also learned that turkey vultures are affectionate and often make good pets. “When a bird is injured and taken into rehab he will become emotionally attached to his handler and follow him around and watch him, much like a pet dog. They love to bring an object to a person and then play tug-of-war.”

“A lady in Southern California wrote that she and her husband would drive their car five miles from town and take a daily walk in the country with their dog. A turkey vulture would join them, soaring above and watching them. And then one day at home she broke a leg and the walks were not possible for a while. One day she was in her back yard on crutches and there was her turkey vulture sitting on the fence, waiting to say hello. He had found her in a town of 12,000 people!”

Turkey vultures are covered by an international migratory bird treaty that makes it a federal crime to kill or injure them or to possess one without the appropriate permit as a wildlife rehabilitator.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Godspeed, Andy Clark

Indianapolis BMW Club member Andy Clark died yesterday morning in a fire at his home on the southwestside of Indianapolis.

Details are sketchy as the local news media doesn't seem to be very interested in the case. I've asked an old colleague of mine from The Indianapolis News days, who has lots of firefighting contacts, to see what he can turn up.

Andy had a brush with death nearly four years ago when he was injured in a motorcycle accident on U.S. 67, north of Spencer on April 4, 2015 as he was returning home.

He was critically injured when he was hit in the head by a spare tire that flew off of an oncoming horse trailer.

He was flown by LifeLine helicopter to Eskenanzi Hospital in Indianapolis with a head injury and breathing problems. His daughter Piper was taken to Bloomington Hospital to be checked out due to knee pain and swelling. She was released to her grandparents.

Jonathon Fishburn and his passenger, Angela, narrowly missed being hit by the same tire.

Doctors worked to reduce the swelling on his brain and to clear his lungs. As of 3:30 a.m. the next day, Andy had started to come out of a coma.

He spent several months in the hospital and rehabilitation but eventually recovered and returned to motorcycling.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Who knew?

I take about a dozen pills during the course of an average day and swallowing them easily without choking is a problem sometimes.

Water doesn't work so well for me, so I tried milk and then kefir.

Then I tried tomato juice and discovered the pills go down easily and don't try to come back up.

I shared this discovery with my son Steve last week and he got good results with tomato juice and with V-8. He shared it with his doctor who said he'd pass it on.

Where I was last week

I got home Friday night from a delightful 7-day visit with Steve, Nicky and Lisa in Las Vegas.

They picked up the tab, including airfare, as a Christmas present to me and I'm deeply grateful.

Unfortunately, the weather was against us and it was warmer in Thorntown most of the week than it was in Vegas. Nevertheless, it was great fun.

One of the highlights of the visit was the Penn & Teller Show at the Rio Casino. Penn Jillette and Steve are friends. Penn is a pretty good jazz bass player and has taken a few lessons from Steve to improve his technique. He and a brilliant pianist named Mike Jones played the "show before the show."

Penn and Teller did a meet and greet in the lobby outside the theatre, which is where we shot this selfie.

Monday, January 28, 2019

46 years ago

I've made several scans of the Rolling Stones photos I shot on July 12, 1972 at the Indiana Convention Center, but never gave much attention to the handful of images I shot of the opening act - Stevie Wonder.

Here are a couple of the best shots.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

CS6 Master Collection for $99

I lost Photoshop when the Dell folks had to wipe my hard drive late last year. I've been limping along with Affinity, wishing I could afford a new copy of Photoshop.

Then, last night I saw an ad on Facebook for the Adobe Creative Suite 6 Master Collection, on sale for $99 instead of the regular $499.

Out came the credit card and now I have the latest version of Photoshop, Acrobat, Illustrator, and a bunch of other programs that I know nothing about.


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Back on the treadmill

I'm back in the gym, thanks for Humana Medicare Advantage and the Silver Sneakers program that gets me a free membership in the local YMCA.

I did 2 miles on the treadmill on Wednesday and would have done more after that if weather and freelance writing hadn't gotten in the way. Now we're in the middle of a winter storm with rain, freezing rain and snow that will curtail my travel for another day or two.

But it feels good to be in motion again.

Back on its track

This pocket door has been off its track and unusable for decades.

It was that way when we bought this house in 2000 and probably long before than because we found coal dust in and around the track from which it hangs. I tried to put it back on its track when we bought the house, but quit when I realized it would mean tearing into the woodwork - something I was not prepared to do.

Austin said fixing it has been his dream since we first moved in back in the spring of 2001 and he's fulfilling his dream. He tore off the woodwork on the other side of the door the other evening and figured out how to get the door back on its track, lubricating it with a dry lubricant made by the WD-40 folks.

The door dates from the original construction of the house in 1903 and separates the parlor from the dining room.

I cleaned off the dust and cobwebs this afternoon and went over it with a furniture cleaner/moisturizer bringing out some of the hidden beauty of his heavy oak door.

Excuse the hideous purple paint. That's what happens when renters are left to paint over wallpaper without asking the landlord.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Magazine pages for wallpaper

Our upstairs bathroom remodel is proceeding apace. We spent the last couple of evenings removing multiple layers of wallpaper and paint. Maria said the woman we bought the house from back in 2000 told her that many years ago she used magazine pages for wallpaper and here is an example that probably hasn't seen the light of day since the 1950s or earlier.

The walls are an odd mixture of plaster and drywall.

A journey of 1,000 miles...

I took the first step on my journey to fitness this afternoon.

The main reason why I signed up with Humana for their Medicare Advantage program was for the Silver Sneakers benefit that gets me free membership in the local YMCA.

I signed up at the Y last week and did my first treadmill mile this afternoon. I have an appointment with a trainer Wednesday morning to get checked out on the equipment and presumably to get a structured workout program.