Sunday, February 22, 2009

News, Trivia, and other Observations

I haven't been hiking much lately as successive bouts of the flu and a cold seem to have left me permanently congested but when I headed out for an errand yesterday I was overcome by the need to walk. I thought of taking the Lakewalk downtown, but for me the only reasons to go downtown are the library, restaurants, peregrine falcons, and to watch a ship go through the canal. I didn't feel like eating, and shipping season won't start again for about a month (more about the falcons and library later) so I decided to follow the Lakewalk in the other direction.

As I headed down a ramp toward the Lake, I slipped on some snow-covered ice but my Catholic boyhood came in handy and I genuflected for a foot or two with no serious damage. Probably an appropriate maneuver as I remembered Bart Sutter's contention that Lake Superior is God in his wonderful book about life in Duluth, Cold Comfort.

Over the past couple weeks the Lake has moved from ice supporting fishing shacks to open water to its current mix of thin snow-covered ice and open water. I didn't have my binoculars with me so I can't be certain which duck species I saw, but someone told me a few days earlier there were goldeneyes there and the coloring looked right.

A couple small recent snowfalls made tracking the highlight of my walk though the tracks were mostly on the other side of a chain link fence paralleling my trail--snowshoe hare was obvious, and based on size, distance, and straightness, I was fairly confident at guessing at a trotting fox. One interesting trail featured tracks and drag marks to one side of the fence and only tracks on the other side. An otter? Someone forced to give up their prey? Many tracks led to tunnels beneath the adjacent railroad tracks or the paved trail I was walking. These first snows in over a month have also confirmed by a lack of tracks my suspicion that my rabbit neighbor is gone.

The same person who mentioned the goldeneyes asked about signs of spring and I thought of the return of the male peregrine falcon we watch downtown. The female spends the winter here and one day last week I saw her at the end of the perch in front of the nest box. The fledging of the nestlings usually happens at the end of June which is when I expect to move, so I'm disappointed that I'll probably miss it.

One reason I want to get my legs back in shape now is that I've had some thoughts about some local hikes I want to do before leaving, such as completing the parts of the Superior Hiking Trail in town which I haven't done yet and maybe even some of the trail north of town. I see the organization has a hike planned for National Trails Day which will cover one of those in-town sections. There are also plans to make all of this part of the North Country Trail.

But now, much to my surprise, I've gotten a perhaps yearlong temporary job which I'll know almost nothing about until the end of the week, and which while it won't come close to covering my expenses, may lead me to try to find a second part time job so I can squeeze one more year out of living here. Though I still expect that I'll leave this summer, thoughts and plans are mostly on hold for the moment.

Have you heard of the BBC's Ethical Man? I was looking at the Carfree USA blog which led me to him. Apparently he and his family did a reality show about cutting their carbon emissions and have now come to travel around the US by public transportation, for some reason starting in Michigan. But he reports that on his first night he rented a car and had a steak for dinner, so maybe this is a comedy series.

As for local tv, CBS didn't disappear along with ABC and NBC as I thought it was going to (Fox dropped its signal a couple weeks ago). Knowing that it will soon, I admit to watching a few shows this week I'd never seen before and concluding that I hadn't missed much.

I'm planning on soon renting the dvds of the Whale Wars series about Sea Shepherd's attempts to interfere with Japan's illegal whaling, and now comes news that Australia has taken all of the the film for the next season's shows. There was a lot of physical conflict between the ships during the recent whaling season, and the film taken includes a very graphic and lengthy scene of the killing of a whale which Japan certainly doesn't want broadcast.

Library employees and hours were severely reduced here last fall, and for the past few months I've been volunteering reshelving books. I've seen how busy the place is as described in this recent article. The unemployed are using computers to jobhunt and checking out more material for free entertainment.

The newspaper also recently had a poll asking whether you'd visited a library in the past year. 57% said yes--my first thought was that I didn't want to meet the other 43%. (There are often newspaper comments from people who think libraries are a waste of their tax dollars--usually it's clear from reading them that public education was a waste of their parents' tax dollars as well.) But thinking back to when I was making more money than I needed, a large percentage of it got spent on any book which appealed to me and I wasn't visiting libraries at that time either.

For those who are visiting a library, as you're browsing through books on cooking or art or wiring, you might think it really doesn't matter where you randomly put a book back on the shelf--you're wrong. Every book belongs in a specific place. Browse away, but other people are looking for a specific book and they shouldn't have to hunt for it because of your browsing. If you can't figure out the library's system or don't care, just leave the book on a table or cart--don't put it back in the wrong place! I realize of course that no one reading this blog would ever do such a thing, but I just needed to vent.

The only interest I had in tracking visits to this blog was to see what searches brought people here. Over time, I've seen that there are five searches which are much more frequent than any others. Three of them (Lorri Bauston, Sea Shepherd book, and various combinations of Isle Royale wolves and moose) will lead people to a post they'll probably be interested in. The fourth, Zulu rituals, leads to a post which only mentions this as the final entry in an encyclopedia I reviewed. The fifth search, hungry cougars, gives results which are split pretty evenly between 1) the local incident I used as a chance to insult hunters and 2) porn. So far no one has left a comment indicating which they were looking for.

No comments: