Quote of the Year

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006
Truthiness is tearing apart our country, and I don’t mean the argument over who came up with the word. I don’t know whether it’s a new thing, but it’s certainly a current thing, in that it doesn’t seem to matter what facts are. It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that’s not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It’s certainty. People love the president because he’s certain of his choices as a leader, even if the facts that back him up don’t seem to exist. It’s the fact that he’s certain that is very appealing to a certain section of the country. I really feel a dichotomy in the American populace. What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?

–Stephen Colbert

Read the rest in Stephen Colbert | The A.V. Club

Banded Goose

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

As well as adding Cackling Goose to my life list, and my first ever four goose day, today stands out as the first time I’ve read a band in the field. Of course when they’re this close and obvious it’s no great achievement:

H7H6 Orange Band Canada Goose Prospect Park 2006-01-29
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A Four Goose Day

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

I wasn’t planning on going birding today since I’ve got a deadline rolling up on me in just two days, but what can you do when a potential life bird shows up almost in your back yard? You chase it, of course. However today was unusual not just for the life bird. This is my first ever four goose day, and possibly the second ever four goose day in Prospect Park (the first being yesterday).

You see, there’s only one species of goose that’s regular in the park, Canada Goose. That’s an easy bird. There are over hundred, sometimes over 200, here year round; but there’s no other goose you can count on, not even for the year, much less the day. Two other species are not surprising, Snow Goose and Brant. However both are just occasional. Neither is a guaranteed bird for the year in the park. For instance, we missed Snow Goose in 2004. (That still galls me. It would have been our 200th bird for the year. I am sure there was at least one snow geese flock flying over the park sometime in 2004, and just nobody was looking up at the right time.)

But today the stars (or at least the geese) aligned. Simultaneously on the lake we had not one, not two, not three, but four separate species of geese at the same time! This is more than we get most years. The usual Canadas were out in the hundreds. The Snow Goose that was found on the Christmas Count last year was still hanging around. (This bird’s unusually unafraid of people for its species. Most Snow Geese are much more skittish.) A flock of 26 or so Brant that flew in on Friday was still on the lake, and the piece de resistance: a Cackling Goose! Possibly the first ever in the Park.

#328 Cackling Goose

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Yesterday my wife came home from her exercise in the park, and told me she’d seen a really small goose. She thought it might be a juvenile. It was the wrong time of year for a juvenile Canada Goose, the only goose that breeds in the park. I briefly considered the possibility of a Cackling Goose; but a small flock of Brant has been hanging out recently, so I told her she probably saw a Brant.

Six hours later about half an hour after sunset, I get an e-mail from Rob Jett. Apparently Peter Dorosh has found a Cackling Goose in the lake, and about eight people have seen it. I immediately starting kicking myself for not running right out to look for my wife’s “baby goose” earlier.
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The Monkees: Most Complex Music Ever?

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

I am not a musician or a composer. I can’t personally hear or judge the complexity of different songs and records. However I recently noticed that maybe I don’t have to. I’ve been reencoding most of my CD library using Lame. Lame uses variable bit rate encoding. I’m sure audiophiles will correct this simplistic explanation, but in brief Lame samples different pieces of a song with more or less frequency as necessary to match the music. A pure tone could probably be reproduced using very limited sampling, whereas a dissonant cacophony of white noise with no predictability would require a very high sampling rate. Lame also takes into count the nature of the human ear. Frequencies humans can’t hear can be thrown away, and frequencies we hear preferentially need to be sampled more frequently.
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Unusual Goose

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

The Brooklyn Bird Club found this goose at Rye Playland this past weekend on a trip led by Peter Dorosh:

Hybrid Goose at Rye Playland

We couldn’t agree on what it was. Some argued for a Canada-Barnacle or Canada-Greater White-fronted hybrid, but to me the size (noticeably bigger than a Canada Goose) means this has to have some domestic Greylag in it; possibly a hybrid between a domestic goose and a Canada Goose. Any other ideas or thoughts?