Archive for January, 2012

Birding at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

We spent 3 and 1/2 hours along the trail this morning & afternoon.  It was chilly and partly cloudy, but overall a very nice day out.  Some pics (as always, click to enlarge):

Bald Eagle in flight

A majestic bird!

The eagles are nesting.  Here you can see (if you squint) one bird on the nest and the other keeping watch in the tree below.

Again, look hard and you can see an eagle in the nest.

Besides the eagles, we also saw plenty of gulls of various sorts, red winged blackbirds, cardinals, a red tailed hawk, a cooper’s hawk, lots of mallards, a great blue heron, tufted titmouse, Carolina wren, robins, sparrows (including a couple fox sparrows), as well as these two:

Brown Creeper

Golden Crowned Kinglet



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Life all around us

Yesterday, as a legend succumbed to death, we were out enjoying life.  Yesterday, before the disappointments came that must come to one side or the other in the contests we set for ourselves, we were out accepting the free gift of nature.  Some photos from the Tyler Arboretum:

Yellow Bellied Sapsucker (male)

Wheeee! A Tufted Titmouse in flight

Slate Colored Dark-Eyed Junco doing calisthenics

[as always, click photos to enlarge]

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Joe Paterno R.I.P.

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An apology for philosophy (and “slacking”)

DEAR FRIEND: Your letter gently but unmistakably intimates that I am a slacker, a slacker in peace as well as in war; that when the world war was raging bitterly I dawdled my time with subjects like symbolic logic, and that now when the issues of reconstructing a bleeding world demand the efforts of all who care for the future of the human race, I am shirking my responsibility and wasting my time with Plato and Cicero. Your sweetly veiled charge is true, but I do not feel ashamed of it.

Read more [.pdf], from December 3, 1919.

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Another Beautiful Morning Birding

This morning, Ridley Creek State Park was crisp, clean, and cool (okay, even cold).  A great morning for a hike and for communing with nature.  I got to see Red Tailed Hawks squabbling over luncheon of small mammal, a Pileated Woodpecker being choosy about which tree was worth a peck, and, among many other species, a fairly large number of Eastern Towhees.  Here are a couple pics:

Here’s the female Eastern Towhee. Note the brownish hood.

And here’s the male Eastern Towhee, with his black hood.

[click the pic to enlarge]



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In praise of imperfection

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

— G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong With the World

The relative perfection which we must attain to in this life if we are to live as [children] of God is not the twenty-four-hour-a-day production of perfect acts of virtue, but a life from which practically all the obstacles to God’s love have been removed or overcome.

One of the chief obstacles to this perfection of selfless charity is the selfish anxiety to get the most out of everything, to be a brilliant success in our own eyes and in the eyes of other men. We can only get rid of this anxiety by being content to miss something in almost everything we do. We cannot master everything, taste everything, understand everything, drain every experience to its last dregs. But if we have the courage to let almost everything else go, we will probably be able to retain the one thing necessary for us – whatever it may be. If we are too eager to have everything, we will almost certainly miss even the one thing we need.

Happiness consists in finding out precisely what the “one thing necessary” may be, in our lives, and in gladly relinquishing all the rest. For then, by a divine paradox, we find that everything else is given us together with the one thing we need.

–Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island


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Great Blue Heron

Here are some shots of a Great Blue Heron at Okehocking Preserve this morning.  Click to enlarge. Enjoy!

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Final Thoughts on Tebow

As his season comes to an end, here are a few parting thoughts about Tim Tebow:

1. He is young, and whether he can turn into a good quarterback is still to be seen.  But he is a gamer, and I give him credit.

2. I like to tease famous people as much as the next person.  Although religious (in some important sense) myself, I don’t mind religious teasing at all.  One must keep one’s sense of humor, especially about the most important things.  Jimmy Fallon’s “Tebowie” is funny. Dropping into a “tebowing” position at key moments throughout the day is funny.  Funny is good.  But reading the tweets last night, there are some tightly wound Tebow-haters out there – usually as a species of religion-haters generally.  I find their comments distinctly unfunny.  “Where’s your god, now, Tebow?” one asks. Really?  Do you think Tebow believes he just has pray and god’ll give him the win?  Do you really think he thinks that? Of course, if he does think that he’s a nut.  I just don’t think he’s a nut, and I wonder where the evidence is that he is.  “Tebow has that thousand yard stare like religious fanatics do.” Really?  No, not really.  And these are the mild comments that were floating around.  I don’t wonder what’s up with Tebow. I wonder what’s up with his mean-spirited critics.  Tebow is just a young guy with a deeply religious commitment in a harsh spotlight.  He’s not hurting you (unless of course your are the Steelers defense, in which case he inexplicably was hurting you very badly).

3.  Tebow is not the only religious guy playing professional sports. Why pick on Tebow so much? I am a fan of Troy Polamalu.  You do realize he makes the sign of the cross about a million times per game, right?  For what does Troy pray?  “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. O Lord, let me crush this receiver to dust. Amen.”?  Well, I don’t know what he prays for.  Yet I hear no wise cracks about Polamalu, except perhaps about his goofy hair. And the examples of devout guys playing sports could be multiplied many times over.  I’m thinking that if I had to face the likes of Polamalu once a week I’d be praying like crazy at least not to be killed or crippled (and, oh yes, if we could get a win out of this I’d be much obliged, amen).  You would too – face it!

4.  Well, anyway, I wish him well – within reason.  Tebow’s not my QB and Denver is not my team.  I’m never going to be unhappy to see them lose. But that’s not because Tebow has a relationship with his personallordandsaviour. It’s because they are not the Steelers (or even the Eagles).  Plus, how happy could I possibly be to see Brady and the Patsies beat anyone?




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On Conservatism

Conservatism is the theoretical voice of […] animus against the agency of the subordinate classes. It provides the most consistent and profound argument for why the lower orders should not be allowed to exercise their independent will, to govern themselves or the polity. Submission is their first duty; agency, the prerogative of elites.

Read the rest of “The Conservative Reaction,” by Corey Robin, here.

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The Death of Honesty? More thoughts on lying

In former days, there was not much hesitancy in our society about using a moral language to teach children essential virtues such as honesty. For us today, it can be a culture shock to leaf through old editions of the McGuffey Readers, used in most American schools until the mid-twentieth century, to see how readily educators once dispensed unambiguous moral lessons to students. Nowadays, when cheating is considered by some teachers to be an excusable response to a difficult assignment, or even a form of pro-social activity, our society risks a future of moral numbness brought on by a decline of honesty and all the virtues that rely on it. As the Founders of our republic warned, the failure to cultivate virtue in citizens can be a lethal threat to any democracy.

Read all of William Damon’s essay here.


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