It’s been a crazy past couple of days

July 26th, 2006, 9:13 am PDT by Kat

Keith got back from the field today. I was expecting a gaggle of field assistants to be back with him, but I guess they all went to their respective homes for a break after a summer of tenting it in Colorado. Keith brought back about 60 Lincoln Sparrows: ~20 adults, ~20 first years that can feed themselves and ~20 young first years that Adam is currently feeding every 2 hours. So glad I’m not a tech or a grad student. Keith seems to think that kind of work doesn’t fall into the realm of what a post-doc should have to do (at least one that’s not going to be working on the LISPs anyways, so I don’t have to do it! Yippee! They’re pretty cute (kinda small and round and fat). I’ll get pictures up of them being fed soon.

So to prep for the arrival of these new birds, I had to move my birds inside and clean/disinfect the aviary cages. I thought that would be a 1-day job: move birds in the morning, clean flight cages in the afternoon. Nope, it took 1 whole day to move the birds. Mostly because I didn’t want to net them as they were probably already stressed from being in captivity, and I didn’t want any more to develop the eye-swelling thing that HOFIs are prone to. So, instead we set the traps that we usually catch with inside the cages, and when the birds decided they wanted to eat, they got caught and the moved. Well, apparently some of them weren’t really hungry, and didn’t go into the traps until after 4:00. So it was a whole day of checking the aviary every 15 minutes.

The next day (yesterday) was spent cleaning out the aviary cages. It had rained heavily the night before and earlier that morning, so everything was damp. I know the last couple of days it’s been scorching in Vancouver. Picture that, plus torrential rain on top of it and humidity like you’ve never felt before, and that was what Adam and I got to work in. But, we were able to get everything washed out, scrubbed, and disinfected by noon. Luckily there was a break in the rain during the time we were actually out there or else we’ve have been soaked though. As it was, everything from the kneed down was soaked, and the water wasn’t too clean. This is the life I chose.

A couple highlights from the day:

1. Greg picked me up from work because it was POURING down rain around the time I wanted to go home, and I had already gotten soaked on my walk in to school that morning by passing cars. This may not seem like much, but Greg doesn’t really like to pick me up from work when I can just as easily walk.

2. On our way out to the old place to pick up the last of our stuff and pack up some of the old tenants stuff for her movers, we drove by what apparently was a low-lying area. There were firemen off to one side clearing out what looked to be a clogged drainage pond. But then I saw a news van and thought, hmmm… this place isn’t that starved for news that this would be a big deal. Then I looked across the street from where the firemen were, and in a parking lot, there were 5-6 cars submerged in flood water with only about the top 6″ poking up out of the muddy water. I guess it really did rain hard!

3. Greg and I went to this Mexican restaurant that he had wanted to try. This place is right behind where day laborers congregate in the mornings to get picked up for work. People drive up in their trucks or vans, call out how many workers they want and what the job is, and guys pile in, do the job, and then get dropped back off at the end of the job/day. At least this is how it works in Los Angeles. I’m pretty sure it’s about the same here. Anyways, Greg figured that it was probably a good place to eat because I guess he saw some of the day laborers go in or come out of this restaurant. If it’s good enough for them, it’s probably authentic! So, we decided to get take-out. We walked in, and it was more of a diner/small convenience store/meat counter (I think – that part was empty). The menu was all in Spanish, and the people didn’t seem to speak English. So, with a bit of broken Spanish (I know stuff like “apple” and “Pedro has a dog. The dog’s name is Spot” from elementary school Spanish!), some pointing, and giggles from both us and the woman helping us, we ended up with 3 chicken tacos, a special platter (fixin’s for 5 tacos: chicken, beef, shrimp, rice, beans, lettuce, tomato, jalapeno peppers), a bag of sweet bread, and a bag of chicharone (fried pork skins – Mexican as well as Filipino delicacy!). Forgot to take a picture, but it was REALLY good. I think we may try to go back and mime ourselves more good food. In any case, we got a good meal, and the woman helping us has a good story!

Kat Salvante, turtle saver

July 25th, 2006, 5:29 am PDT by Kat

Yup! I saved a turtle this past weekend! We were on our way out to the SuperWalmart in Hillsborough when we came across a small turtle on the road. I was worried that the little thing would get run over. So, Greg turned around and pulled off to the side of the road, and I hopped out scooped up the turtle, who tried to make a break for it, and put it in the grass at the side of the road. I don’t think it was actually trying to cross the road. I think it was just sunning itself on the asphalt. Not sure what kind of turtle it was, and unfortunately we didn’t have our camera. It was a little reddish all over. We then proceded to Taco Bell for a good hand-washing and then lunch!

Move #3 Completed

July 24th, 2006, 9:59 am PDT by Greg

We have now moved into our third new place this summer.

It’s a nice one-bedroom. Maybe a little tight with both Kat and I here, but it will be nice when Kat is here alone. We took some pics when viewing the place. We will take some more once we’re settled a little more.

As you can see, it’s kind of log-cabiney. I thought the all-wood interior would be a bit much, but it’s actually not bad with some furniture to break it up. It’s about 3 blocks from Kat’s office, which is also nice.

Thus ends the summer-of-many-moves.

Uggh! Bugs!

July 18th, 2006, 1:51 pm PDT by Kat

There are bugs everywhere.

Firstly, there always seems to be at least one or two mosquitoes buzzing around the lab or my office. I think the last three bites I’ve received have actually been while I was sitting at my desk! How sad is that. Summer bite count: 53 (including 1 on my forehead).
Secondly, I signed for a package today for a neighboring lab. Apparently that is common here, so I figured I should. Next time I should just keep my door closed. It was a box of crickets for the reptile lab (another reason I will never work with reptiles – they eat bugs, so you have to also care for bugs!). Well, there was a small hole in the box. There are probably about 20 crickets loose in my office. I’ve left the door open, so hopefully they will go out into the hall and away from me. At least they’re not chirping!

Finally, while we were out trying to catch birds today (didn’t catch anything, but I think it’s just a lull between broods) my little foldable camping stool broke. I don’t think it’s supposed to be used on a daily basis. Anyways, there’s a ledge that Adam sometimes sits on where you can still see the traps. I sat up there. We had previously noticed spiderwebs in the corners of the ledge but have never actually seen a spider. Adam said that he thought they were black widow webs because they were kinda messy. Well, today I saw the spider. Luckily I noticed the LARGE legs first, and then the spider slowly crawled out from the crevice in the corner to sit on its web. It was a FREAKIN’ HUGE BLACK WIDOW. So, naturally I jumped down off of the ledge as fast as I could. Needless to say, I stood for the rest of my trap-watching shift. Must go and buy a new stool or chair tomorrow because there’s no way either of us is sitting up on the ledge ever again.

So, for someone who absolutely hates bugs, I’m sure being inundated with them.

Heh heh

July 17th, 2006, 8:56 am PDT by Greg

That’s it… I’m moving to England. And buying a bat. “Lecturers allowed to use force on … students


July 16th, 2006, 5:37 pm PDT by Greg

As frequent readers know, we, with some pain, bought a car shortly after we got here. This car is a piece of shit. But we knew that—we are just hoping it’s a POS that will get us groceries for two years. On that front, so far so good. There are apparently several patron saints of automobies—any Catholics, I’m just that desperate.

Anyway, recently the trunk latch stopped working. The trunk key has never worked: all we got with the car was a valet key, but at least the little lever opened the trunk. Eventually, I figured out that I could put down the back seat, crawl in, jam a screwdriver in just the right place and pry to release the latch.

Since that hardly qualifies as “working”, I decided to fix it.

Now, I’m well aware I’m unqualified to fix, say, the transmission: I think I know what a transmission does, but I have no idea how. But, I figured a trunk latch was within my skill level. How hard could it be? When there is a little piece of metal in front of the other, it’s locked; move one of the little metal pieces and it opens.

Long story short: After I fixed what I thought was wrong, crawled into the trunk, and unlocked it the hard way a few times, I started to wonder if I was retarded. Once again: two pieces of metal; one has to move out of the way.

On about the fifth try, I realised that the bar that is supposed to go to the key thing (that doesn’t work anyway) has fallen off, and was eventually giggling to the “lever locked out” position. It turns out the trunk latch is a relatively subtle mechanism. When one little piece slides an eighth of an inch to one side, the latch won’t work.

Solution: a zip tie to hold that piece to the left. If anybody else ever takes that trunk latch off, they’re going to think I am retarded. But, my trunk works, dammit.

So hot you could cook a Kat

July 14th, 2006, 12:50 pm PDT by Kat

As I sit here eating a bowl of less-than-tasty teriyaki chicken from the cafeteria, I’m noticing that I am sitting in a small pool of sweat. I’ve marvelled lately about this phenomenon. Everytime I go outside for more than a minute and then come back inside (or even stand in the shade), I’m soaked. But I don’t really sweat while I’m walking around outside. Just right after I come inside. Now, this is not a “glowing” type of sweat. It’s a pour-out-of-your-pores-in-streams, no, -rivers kind of sweat. It’s pretty gross and a little annoying because I have to walk outside and come back inside about 10 times a day. I think I have to bring a towel to school.

I’m not used to being this kind of hot. I grew up in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, which was often the hottest part of LA, so I’m not afraid of the heat. But that was dry heat. The humidity is killing me. When I leave the house before 7, the humidity is already stifling. I think it’s the humidity that’s preventing me from sweating while I’m out in the sun, and then once I get into the shade (most recently, the covered part of our aviary) or inside where there’s air conditioning, something like condensation occurs and all of the sweat comes out all at once. People who have grown up in humid places – is this normal, or do I have a sweat gland problem that I should see someone about?

Almost a snack

July 12th, 2006, 11:07 am PDT by Kat

After catching a record 9 juvies on Sunday with Greg and his parents (his dad was thrilled!), Adam and I went out to see whether we could do the same on Monday. Not only did we not catch anything, but the birds that were around my traps almost became lunch to a passing hawk. There I was, watching as the one finch that showed any interest in my traps the whole morning was about to hop into a trap, and then whoosh, birds flying everywhere. I looked up from my binoculars, and a small- to medium-sized hawk landed near my traps scaring everything off, and then immediately took off. I’m pretty sure nothing was actually caught – there were a bunch of sparrows around where the hawk landed. I think it may have been a Merlin. It was bigger than a kestral and had blue on its wings (Oli, help!) Anyways, it couldn’t have waited the 2 seconds my finch needed to convince itself that it really wanted to go into the trap. No…. it HAD to attack just in time for my bird to turn around and fly out. Dammit! Anyways, it was pretty cool to see a predation attempt.

Monday was not a good bird day at all. When I got home, Adam called from school and said that some of the juvies that we had previously caught had conjunctivitis. Apparently House Finches are prone to getting this eye infection because they get these external parasites that make their eyes swell up. I ended up going back to school and catching all of the ones with puffy eyes (5 of them), and isolating them so we can treat and monitor them. Crappiness. Anyways, they seem to be doing better (I hope it’s not just my imagination). Luckily it seems to have only struck in one of the large flight cages, but we’re keeping a close eye on everyone.

Caught 2 more birds today though. Yay!

Over the last week I’ve received another 7 bug bites (including 1 on my face!). Total bite count: 50.

Parental Visit

July 9th, 2006, 8:02 pm PDT by Greg

My parents were in town for this (artificially-long) weekend. That was nice, with the usual stress of a parental visit: they are nice people that I’m glad I don’t live with anymore. But, I don’t want to talk about that…

On Saturday, we went to Greensboro. We went to Stamey’s BBQ for lunch. Kat and I are now officially proponents of the western-North-Carolina-style BBQ. After lunch, we went, somewhat randomly, to a local museum. My parents were very alarmed that the museum wasn’t in the AAA Guide—they also marvelled that there was a hotel near their’s that wasn’t in the Guide.

The museum primarily commemorated some battle in the Revolutionary War. Here’s what I learned about that battle:

The Americans outnumbered the British. The Americans were led by a brilliant tactician who arranged the troops in three lines. The British broke through the first line. The British broke through the second line. The third line was made up of the most experienced and skilled fighters. They bravely retreated and lived to fight another day (except the ones that died before they retreated, presumably).

So, the British technically won, and captured the courthouse, or whatever. But they suffered heavy casulaties and some had to go back towards the coast for supplies. Pussies.

There are, like, three local museums to this battle. They named the town after the brilliant tactician who lost despite having greater numbers and the home-field advantage. Sigh.

That aside, the highlight of the museum was probably the coolest exhibit I have ever seen. It was a collection of US Bicentenial (1976) memorabilia that this museum took because nobody else wanted it. The brilliant part was that the descriptions of the “artifacts” were openly mocking of the cultural significance of the pieces. I snapped some pictures of the descriptions to give you an idea.

I talked to the guy working there. He said he has to fight with the manager to continue the exhibit as-is: “You can’t write that!” “Don’t worry, nobody reads them.” “So, why do we have this exhibit?” “For me!”

Bottom line: when you’re in Greensboro, go to the “Colonial Heritage Center”.

Greg’s first Independence Day

July 5th, 2006, 12:47 pm PDT by Kat

Yesterday was July 4th, American Independence Day. It was the first one Greg has celebrated while in the states. We started off the day working (yes I put him to work) cutting pine branches for my birds to perch on. But then we went to the July 4th celebration in the Carrboro Town Commons. Carrboro is a pretty small town, a suburb of Chapel Hill, which itself is pretty small. So the “celebration” included 1) lots of kids stuff (a bouncy room, a ball room, some kids’ arts and crafts tables, sack races, balloon tosses, etc.), which we didn’t participate in because we don’t have a kid, 2) a stage where there was local music (think old people local music, not good local music), and 3) a row of concession tables/trailers selling carnival food. So, the celebration for us consisted of eating corn dogs, a deep fried Snickers bar, and a funnel cake. I love carnival food. Then we went home and had naps. The end.

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