February 20

Tuesday I did odd jobs around the house until the afternoon, when I drove down to St. Louis.  Naturally, it started snowing just before I left.  It stopped about halfway down.  I went to the Missouri Nature and Environmental Photographers meeting.  The speaker was a great photographer of wildflowers.  In the “Show and Share” portion I showed 5 images from the Galapagos.  There were a lot of eagle pics from other people. 

Coincidentally, Stacey was in St. Louis for a meeting of Christian Board of Publication, where she is on the Governing Board.  We couldn’t meet, though, as she was tied up.  By the time I got back to Canton, the snow had stopped, but I guess it had caused a lot of accidents in Quincy.   It was another late night for me.  Savannah had been cheering at an away basketball game.  It went into triple overtime, so she was home late as well. 
Common Goldeneyes are back on the river.  Note they are in the groups called ice ducks and divers.

Wednesday it was back to school.  I delayed an exam because half the students weren’t ready.  In the afternoon we went to another city park to look at trees.  I had a key to the trees, but they weren’t numbered, and the map was a bit dated.  We thought the eagle scout who made it should have his rank reduced.  Temperatures were in the single digits.  We did half the park and went into a coffee shop to warm up.  After a hot chocolate we went back out and finished it up.  Cold day!

This eagle isn’t sleeping, just grooming.  I stopped in La Grange on the way to work to shoot the mist rising off the river, but this landscape turned out better.

Wednesday night there was a lunar eclipse.  I didn’t even have to get up in the middle of the night, as it was 9 pm our time.  It was not quite in totality, which made a much better photo than last time I tried it.

Saturday morning I went to judge the Science Fair at Culver-Stockton.  I had the junior high zoology division.  When I was done I went up to see Savannah’s display and her competitors in the senior high zoology division.  I quickly found that one of the projects was exactly the same as a junior high one I had just judged.  I went back to the judges’ room and made the appropriate disqualifications.  That left only three in Savannah’s division.  She was assured of third place, which is what she got.  It was clear that the judge didn’t understand her project.  I had a free lunch in their cafeteria.  I sat by a couple of friends and said, “Hey, it’s just like old times–except I don’t actually work here!”

Later, Lowell and I went to the QU basketball games.  We won both, which was nice.  Near the end, Savannah and Dustin showed up.  Her soccer game had been forfeited, so her team finally won one.  They were going to go to the movies, but they had a couple of hours to burn.  They were wondering if we would take them out to dinner.  Lowell suggested Chinese, so we went to the big buffet and pigged out.  Lowell and I stopped at Staples on our way home. 

Sunday morning I went back to the brush dump and picked up another truckload of wood.  My back had already been hurting from sitting through two basketball games the day before, and after cutting, splitting and moving the wood, it was screaming.  After lunch I went to Russ Heindselman’s place.  He’s a retired guy that’s into lots of different things.  He’s the self-described hillbilly poet of Missouri, collects arrowhead and fishing reels, makes wine, and is crazy about bluebirds.  After I’d seen all his artifacts and operations, he gave me six bluebird houses of his latest design.  I’ll have my class put them out at Lowell’s.  On my way home I stopped to photograph an American Kestrel on a power line and a raccoon in a corn field.  Both were relatively rare catches.  You don’t see ‘coons in the daytime much.

Best kestrel shot yet.  Too bad it was overcast.  Darn corn stalks obscured the masked devil on every shot.

This missive should have gone out on Monday night, but we were a bit distracted.  It was a dark and stormy night.  Savannah had taken Dustin home in the Tracker and went off the road into a corn field.  Neither was hurt.  Perhaps the worst part was that they had gotten out and accidentally locked the doors with the engine running.  As they were closer to Dustin’s house, his family and half the Williamstown fire department was employed in unlocking the car and driving it out of the field.  Stacey and I stayed home and made frequent phone calls for updates.  I haven’t seen it yet, but it appears the vehicle suffered no major harm.  Perhaps it’s time I gave her some foul weather driving tips.  She’s at the district basketball championships tonight in her usual role as cheerleader. 

Today I met with a representative of TIAA-CREF, our retirement company.  I learned that I had been allocating my contributions in a manner opposite of my goals.  Oops!  Now I have a basic strategy to apply toward my goal of retirement at 62. 

February 16

Wednesday afternoon I took my class to Madison Park, where there are a lot of different trees.  They were labeled with numbers, but there was no key to what each number represented.  We figured out a few of them, but it was really cold.  I kept the students there an hour and we got the heck out.  The next day I got the key at Park District Headquarters.  Next time we’ll be prepared.  I went to book club Wednesday night, and we had a good discussion.  I had another friend ask me to help with his web page. 

Thursday after my classes I went to Lori’s to help her with her web page.  We got through some basics.  She’ll be up and running soon.  Meanwhile, Wanaree’s web site is looking great.  Check out jade-orchid.com

Friday was meeting day.  First was School of Education, which is gearing up for the accreditation visit.  I found out mainly that I had to make a poster presentation for the Program Showcase.   I also learned that we just got a 24″ poster printer.  This will be fun!  We left Savannah the key to the truck, as she had no school that day, but needed to run an errand.  It was the first time we let her drive on her own. 

This is really what my gas gage read when I got back into Canton Friday afternoon. 

Friday night was homecoming at Canton R-V High School.  Our boys and girls teams both won their games, in come-from-behind efforts.  They were exciting.  I took lots of pictures of cheerleaders, many of which I have posted on Facebook.  Here are a few:
Pyramid thingy.                                                                    Whuh?

Air Jenna.

Saturday I met three of my students out at Lowell’s for the Great Backyard Bird Count.  We sat inside looking out the sliding glass doors at the feeders.  Lowell and I cannot remember a time when we’ve seen fewer birds, especially in winter.  Geez!  After an hour we took a walk.  We saw quite a few more, including robins and bluebirds.  I dismissed the students, and Lowell and I went to Ewing for lunch.  Upon our return, we loaded the truck with firewood.

On the way to Lowell’s I pulled over and shot this red-tailed hawk.

Sunday Stacey was in class all day.  Savannah went and got Dustin, and they both helped me unload the firewood.  We watched a movie and hung around the house. 

Monday I had no classes.  Actually, the entire family had the day off.  I took the ashes down to the brush dump and came back with a truckload of wood.  I unloaded those and went back for more.  Someone had taken down a huge old maple tree, and there were big slabs of wood lying about.  Most were 4-5 foot diameter trunk logs that were completely intractable.  There were a couple I was able to get into the back of the truck, at risk of life and limb.  After I got them home, I chainsawed the long stuff while Stacey and Savannah stacked.  Stacey operated the splitter for the first time, and reduced the big slab to two reasonable chunks.    Stacey and I went down to the fire department in the afternoon.  She put on all her gear and I photographed her with the new camera.

The firefighter/chaplain and her favorite truck.  There were a lot of ring-billed gulls wheeling around the river.  I took advantage of the opportunity to practice photographing BIFs (birds in flight).

Lowell came over and took us out to dinner in celebration of my tenure and promotion.  It was yummy.  Upon returning home I had an email indicating some of my images were accepted into the North Central Insect Photo Salon.

Mating stick insects.

Wandering glider.

Swift setwing.

February 6

Tuesday I gave the first exam in Bio II.  These kids keep surprising me.  There were so many A’s.  I ate in the cafeteria for the first time at lunch.  The food was good and plentiful. In the afternoon the environmental science class tested different kinds of insulation.  We used light bulbs for a heat source, and melted and scorched some of the materials (which smelled really bad).   Next time we use lower wattage bulbs. 

Wednesday in plant field biology I had them bring their digital cameras and manuals.  Some had never ever cracked their manuals.  We went over basic macro functions, which they will need to make their virtual wildflower collection.  We went outside and photographed various ice-covered and snow-dusted subjects.  Back at the computer lab we went over some post-processing techniques.  Many learned a lot just doing this.  One guy had sold Panasonic cameras and worked at Best Buy.  He was helping the other students with theirs, and clearly was far ahead in every aspect.  He is also a photographer for the student paper.
This is about the best I got.

I drove the truck to work today because we were supposed to get 5 inches of snow or more.  It did snow for awhile, but it didn’t stick to the streets.  I wasted $10 worth of gas on that bad forecast.

Thursday I had only two students show up for environmental science.  One was out with a broken collar bone.  Another was traveling with the basketball team, and two were gone to see a newly hatched baby.  Rather than lecture, I showed the monolithic dome DVD.  They were fairly impressed.  I received in the mail a copy of the 2008 World of Insects Calendar.  When I paged through it, I was surprised to find two of my photos had made it in.  It was sold at the ESA meeting last November, and the guy never even told me any of mine had made the cut.  Still, it made my day.  How much better can this year get?  Here are the winning pics.  They may look familiar.
Bug eats damsel.  Carpenter bee on blackberry.

I had traded cars with Stacey for the day so that when I got home I could take Savannah to get her drivers license.  Against all predictions, she passed.  She took the driving test in Canton, using the Tracker, but we had to go to Monticello to get the actual license, which we did with haste.  There was much rejoicing.

Friday I met Lew Portnoy for coffee downtown.  I had met him last week at Eagle Day.  He is a world class sports photographer who recently retired to Canton. He has shot the Olympics, many World Series and Super Bowls.  He takes a lot of eagle pictures these days.  Go to LPphoto.com if you want to see his stuff.  It’s rare to talk to anyone who has been a true leader in their field.  I learned a lot. 

Our new garage door was installed today.  It’s very nice, and one of the best parts is that, unlike the old one,  I’ll never have to paint it.  I went to QU for a meeting, and the committee chair and I were the only ones to show up.  That made our business fairly short.  We hung around and talked a lot longer.  She’s one of the people I like and admire a lot at QU, so the time was very pleasant.  I stopped at the hospital to visit my friend Jay.  He woke up one morning and couldn’t breathe.  Turned out he had blood clots that had formed in his legs and gone to his lungs.  He looked pretty good for a guy in ICU, and all the signs were that he was on the mend.  When I got home a package was waiting for me: a new camera!  I got in a couple of shots right away, but I had to let the battery charge before I could do much more.  I need to read the manual and learn this camera.

Boots was readily available. This was the second photo I took; it’s not cropped or altered in any way except compressed to fit in this space.  For equal time, I went outside and took a picture of Kane.

I went to a HS basketball game, only to see our boys team fall to a far superior team.  Our guys never gave up though.  They worked hard until the end.  Savannah’s cheering squad was the highlight for me.

High kick during player introductions.

The pendulum stunt.

Savannah catches Jenna falling out of the pendulum stunt.

Saturday morning I took Savannah to the science fair.  There were actually a few good projects this year.  Interestingly, our friends’ children did very well, the Walshes, El-Bermawys and Pollets.  Savannah and her partner took first in their division and got the students’ choice award for best scientific thought among high school projects. 

Savannah and Ayah with their winning Science Fair project. 

Stacey was in Jefferson City all day, and Savannah went to Dustin’s for the afternoon.  I went to Quincy and jumped on a bus for the annual student ski trip.  A 2.5 hour ride later and we were at Snowstar.  By then the temperature had fallen into the single digits and it was blowing a gale.  The conditions were icy.  I hung with a group of students for most of the night, but I had to go into the lodge more frequently to warm up.  I had forgotten one thing I had intended to take: another layer.  I did more chaperoning on this trip than perhaps ever before.  I went in with one student who had crashed and hit her head.  She just had a little swelling on the cheekbone.  It was the same one who had gotten sun poisoning in the Galapagos.  I slept on the bus most of the way back to QU, had to be totally awake for the drive home, then try to fall asleep again.  12:30 is a late night for me. 

Sunday I slept in.  Stacey had to be at church all day.  I did odd jobs and experimented with the camera.  Savannah did chores.  We were supposed to go to her soccer game in the afternoon, but it was cancelled. 

Monday when I got home the wood furnace was brain dead.  A fuse had blown.  I changed the fuse three times, but it blew in less than a second each time.  I even ran to Farm and Home to get more.  I switched the heat and hot water over to gas power for the night.  In the morning I called our HVAC guy.  He didn’t get there until right when I had to leave for work, so our communication was minimal.  He changed the damper solenoid, which was what I suspected, and also the door gasket, which I knew was leaking.  I got to my class just in time to walk in the door and start lecturing.  Normally, I stop in my office first and drop off my coat and stuff.  When I got home, the wood furnace was working, but the fire was out.  I took care of that and got us back on wood power again.

I got our photo printer working with some new ink cartridges Stacey found lying about.  I’ve been printing 8x10s like mad.  It does fairly well for a relatively cheap printer.