Politics as Culture

Monday, March 26th, 2007

There’s a fascinating article in the L.A. Times today about Why the right goes nuclear over global warming. It’s not your typical piece about global warming so much as it is about the irrational beliefs and attitudes behind the debate. You get the feeling it’s more like high school debate than any sort of rational discourse: the opposing team says “white” so therefore we must say “black”, regardless of what’s true. You contort your beliefs to fit your chosen side rather than the other way around. If you want to support the issue without changing teams, you have to figure out a way to rationalize white as black.

Apple TV: Why?

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Can someone please explain to me just what the excitement about the Apple TV is all about? Personally this seems like such a crippled useless, product I can’t believe any sane individual would pay $99 for it, much less $299. Is this just the famous Steve Jobs reality distortion field at work or is there something I’m missing?

Near as I can tell the AppleTV does nothing but beam videos from my Mac to my TV, except it doesn’t work with any video I actually have on my computer. It only works with videos I purchase from the iTunes music store. Possibly it also works with QuickTime videos from other publishers (I’m not sure about that) but all the AVI files I’ve downloaded? It won’t play a one of them unless maybe I’m willing to crack open the box, void my warranty, and hack it. And even if it would play all the videos I actually own, I still don’t think I could talk myself into paying more than about $49 for it. It’s just a funky network adapter when you get down to it.

If you threw in a DVD player, a TV tuner, and/or a DVR it would get a little better. I’d love an Apple designed settop box that could replace the hideous Scientific Atlanta boxes I have now, but the AppleTV just isn’t that. It’s just one more box next to my TV to do something I don’t have any particualr reason to do. As is, this is like paying $299 for a cable box that plays nothing but pay-per-view. What exactly is the point here?

Banded Gull at Santa Cruz Municipal Pier

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Besides the two lifers, one of the most interesting birds I saw at the Santa Cruz Municipal Pier this past Tuesday (March 20) was a banded Western Gull, #2406.

Silver leg band 2406

What’s especially interesting is that this is a very old style leg band. Four digit bands like this one haven’t been used for over 25 years. That makes this a very old bird. I’ll have to get the original banding data back, but it seems to be at the outer limits of what’s been recorded for this species’ longevity in the wild.

Oregon Junco

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

Dark-eyed Junco perched in tree

Alum Rock Park, 2007-03-19

#373: Burrowing Owl

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

I had a tip that Burrowing Owls were relatively common at San Jose Mineta International Airport, so last night at sunset before dropping off my rental car and catching the red eye home, I stopped in the long term parking lot to scan the runways. I parked roughly in the middle of the lot (section 101) and walked south toward the tower as far as I could. I saw a Red-tailed Hawk, one Northern Mockingbird, and one owl burrow but no owls.

I turned back around and walked north. I saw one American Crow and had a breif flurry of excitement that turned out to just be a Mourning Dove. About three quarters of the way toward the north end of the lot, I saw something fly from the fence into the grass. It was getting dark, but not so dark that my binoculars couldn’t clearly pick it out as a Burrowing Owl! It perched in the grass, flew to a new perch in the grass, then flew back to the fence. If it hadn’t been flying and perching on the fence, I would never have spotted it in the grass. Possibly there were multiple owls in the grass that I walked right by.

Burrowing Owl perched on barbed wire fence

It was a little bigger than I was expecting. Somehow I was thinking it was the size of a Sawwhet, but in fact it was a little bigger than a Screech Owl.

Birding BoF 2007

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Thursday morning was the second SD Birding BoF. If I do it once more, it becomes a tradition. Due to the daylight savings time change, we only had about an hour and fifteen minutes of actual birding, but we tried to make the most of it. Nine hardy souls joined me at 6:30 A.M. to ride over to the Donald M. Somers Water Pollution Control Plant. (It’s more interesting than it sounds.)