#384 and #385 in Oslo

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

One nice thing about going to far-away places like Scandinavia is that you don’t have to get up at 5:00 in the morning and drive to faraway swamps and garbage dumps to find life birds. Yesterday I found two right in the middle of town, one right outside the train station.

Beth and I arrived at the hotel a little before 4:00 P.M. local time and went on a short walk down to Akershus Festning and the harbor area. I thought we might be able to find some Common Gulls, but all the gulls we saw were Herrings. (Possibly one day the European and American Herring Gulls will be split into separate species, but until that happens I can’t count this one.) We saw a beautiful Magpie in a small park, Grev Wedels plass, and one ladybird beetle. Oh yes: lots and lots of Rock Pigeons. Nothing to blog about though.

Then as we were walking home through the fortress I hear a weird cawing. I looked up and quickly spotted, first with my naked eyes and then with my binoculars, an unmistakable Hooded Crow! I’ve looked for these in other European countries before, but have always been too far South, and only seen Carrion Crows. (They used to be considered different subspecies, but were recently split so, unlike the European Herring Gull, I can count this one.) It was only a quick look, but the bird’s unmistakable as this photo I got of another individual today shows, so I was confident in the ID.

Hooded Crow at Vigeland Park

Now any day you get a life bird is a good day, especially in the middle of a city, and we were almost back to the hotel; but that was not the last bird for the day.
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Going to Norway

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Nest week I’ll be in Oslo for JavaZone 2007. I’ve managed to schedule a few days for sightseeing, but unfortunately I’ve had very little time to prepare for it. This is actually normal for me: I usually don’t read up on a place until I’ve been there. Everything should be a surprise!

Any suggestions for what I should see? Are there any local parks or nature preserves that offer good birding? Is Fall migration still going on there, or is it too far north? I’m hoping it’s good for at least a few life birds. :-)

I’ll have my wife with me, so I won’t be able to spend my whole trip birding. :-) What else should we do? Are there museums, castles, neighborhoods, festivals, stores, etc. that I should see while I’m there? Any food I should eat? Any particular place that’s just interesting to walk around?

We’ll be staying in central Oslo, and probably won’t have time to get far outside the city this trip.

Also, what should we wear? I’m planning on bringing a jacket, and a sweater or two, but should I drag along my heavy winter coat? Just how cold or hot does it get at this time of year?

All suggestions appreciated.

Eudora 8 Goes Beta

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Qualcomm has posted the first beta of Eudora 8.0, a now open source e-mail program based on the Thunderbird back end. However the front end should be much more familiar to Eudora 6 users than the Thunderbird frontend.

Eudora was my primary e-mail program for about a decade, and my wife still uses it as hers. I switched to Thunderbird a couple of years ago shortly after I switched to Mac OS X. Eudora had fallen behind the curve, and could no longer reasonably display a lot of the messages I was receiving. The transition was painful. I never did get all my archived messages into Thunderbird, and still have to open up Eudora when I want to review a message more than a couple of years old.

Eudora used to be free-as-in-beer, and then eventually Qualcomm bought it from the University of Illinois and took it commercial. I never could figure out why Qualcomm of all companies did that. I guess they were a different company back then. In any case, they apparently noticed that Eudora wasn’t really part of their core business, and they’ve decided to spin it out to the open source community.

To me, Eudora 8 looks like a mixture of both Thunderbird and Eudora. I can clearly see the heritage of both. Indeed you can’t run Thunderbird and Eudora at the same time, because Thunderbird recognizes Eudora as another instance of itself, and apparently they share some preference and data files. However, the menu structure is very definitely Eudora. In particular it has an improved filing system (though I’m more focused on labels these days than folders).
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Macros and Diopters

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Closeup of zinnia

For my insect photography, I’ve been reading a lot of books and web pages about closeup photography. They usually suggest three things:

  • Diopters, a.k.a closeup lenses
  • Macro lenses
  • Extension tubes

I haven’t tried extension tubes yet, but I did buy myself a cheap set of macro and closeup lenses. However, I discovered that the directions were distinctly lacking. Furthermore, none of the books and web pages I consulted explained what these did or how to use them in words I could understand. So today I ran a few experiments to figure out just what they did and how to use them. Since flying insects in the park aren’t exactly a reproducible test case, I set up my tripod and took some pictures of a flower on my dining room table with different lenses. Here’s what I figured out:
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Honeybee

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Honeybee on white flowers
Common European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2007-09-01
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Leaffooted Bugs

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

True bugs on magnolia flower
Leaffooted Bug, Leptoglossus fulvicornis, formerly Leptoglossus magnoliae
Brooklyn Botanic garden, 2007-09-01