"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa
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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Confessions of a Neophyte Electric Shopping Cart Driver


 My right knee has been bothering me for three weeks, interfering with my ability to walk.   I finally cried "uncle" and stumbled into an urgent care facility in Anchorage.   The diagnosis was a bone chip in my knee that was aggravating everything around it.  

NO weight on the knee for ten days, the doctor ordered.

I dreaded hobbling around stores in pain before I left for home, so the first electric cart I used was at Costco. The carts are parked in the unheated entry with the regular carts, so it was cold as heck to sit on.

I found one that was fully charged, maneuvered my way between carts parked closely on either side, worked my way back to unplug it, and sat down. After fumbling around for a minute, I spotted the directions, read them, and took off.

These are fast take -off little critters! Once inside, I discovered a truth about people driving electric shopping carts: you are totally invisible to other shoppers! Completely invisible. You do not appear in their vision or consideration. This is true with both adults and young people ( who universally never see anyone with gray hair no matter where they are).

You Costco shoppers have no idea how close you came to being mowed down!

You can’t take the cart to your car to unload your purchases. Hence, once you’re back in that freezing cart alley, you have to put your stuff in a regular cart, park the electric cart, fumble your way behind it to plug it in, and wrestle your way free. It’s a bit of a chore for a healthy person And much more for someone who is having trouble walking.

Now you have a cart to hang onto to get to your vehicle, but Hey! A nice man offers to help, and after first declining, I accepted his offer. He pulled the cart through the snow and ice and boulders they call sand while I held onto the handle in the back.

Next stop: Fred Meyer’s.

Once again, the carts are parked close together in a way that requires a) you must seek help to get one unplugged and out where you can get into the seat, or, b) you have to defy your doctor’s orders to keep the weight off your knee.

The baskets are wider than the cart itself and when parked side by side? Impossible! Add to this, the person who parked the cart next to mine blocked the rear wheel of my cart with its rear wheel. After my struggle to get to the inside cart and unplug it, I was not about to change carts. And I’m not going to tell you how I got my cart free, either.

The carts at Freddie’s seem to be faster than those at Costco, but they are the same type vehicle and, boy, they can spin circles like crazy! Which I did a number of times.

By now, I was used to the jump-starts and no Freddie’s shoppers were harmed. However, with all the intersections in the aisles, I gained a new appreciation for the way Costco is laid out, i.e., basically, two main N/S aisles and two E/W crossing aisles. Far fewer chances to mow someone down at an intersection.

Again, however, with unloading into a regular cart to go outside. A nice lady asked if I needed help, but I had already transferred my groceries to a regular cart.

Finally, Carr’s/Safeway.

I lucked out. One cart in the middle of four was gone and I could unplug and start one with ease.
Safeway’s carts are noisy and feel like rattletraps. Maybe the noise warns ambulatory shoppers because there were no near collisions. When I was done, that middle cart was still gone, so parking and plugging was a snap.

All of this has given me insight into the difficulties of people with disabilities. Henceforth, I will yield the right of way and offer to help when I see a need.

About a month ago, I saw a woman in a cart struggling to unload her items from the cart onto the checker stand belt, and offered my help. She accepted, and I got a hug in return.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Cold, Bone-Chilling Cold

It's been cold here for more than a week.   Like 20 below zero cold.

I caught a couple corvids with frosty mascara yesterday.



Steller's Jay


Black-billed magpie





The big surprise is that the downy woodpecker stopped pounding on the suet block and went right for the shelled peanuts and sunflower seeds.   It's the first time I've seen it on the deck rail.






Finally, today, the temperature went from 20 below to 20 above in 12 hours and it is a welcome relief from the cold.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Birding and Peanut Butter

It's cold.    At or near 20 below zero for a week or so.  The birds that come to the feeders are gobbling up everything in sight.

They especially love the peanuts (non salted) that I put out for them.   I read once that a chickadee needs the equivalent of three peanuts to survive in cold weather.

I also put out a pint or so of Denali Premium Mix which is a combination of shelled sunflower seeds and peanuts chips.  That's favored by all the birds.

Today, I went into Seward and stopped by a place that has multiple bird feeders.   I saw the usual suspects and also two woodpeckers varieties.

The hairy woodpeckers are much larger than the downies I get at my house.   They like peanut butter.   This female has a mouthful of it.





Here's another photo of her after she left the feeder.





This robin was puffed up to the size of a softball, trapping warm air next to its body. 






Back at home, a full moon shines over my house.


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Birding at Twenty below Zero

The downy woodpecker is back at my feeders after a year and a half absence.  

They are such pretty, colorful birds.

I grabbed my ever-ready camera and aimed the big 500mm lens at it.






Cute little guy.   I can tell by the red on the back of its head.   The female lacks the bright color.

By the way, I took this shot through my front window.   I'm not going outside at twenty below!  That's right.   Birding at twenty below is best done from the warmth of your living room.





Saturday, January 4, 2020

Found in the Archives

Found this merlin, a small falcon, while searching the archives.









I was near a local creek when I heard a splash and looked back in time to see a merlin land on this rock after missing an American dipper that it was trying to catch.   It sat there long enough for me to get several frames.









And this past summer, in Cooper Landing, three juvenile merlins were observed trying to catch birds.

This one caught one.







They eat dragonflies, too.    Here's one ripping the wings off a hapless dragonfly:




Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Monday, December 30, 2019

Round Up: Africa

The weather has been nasty so I've been engaged in the long, long process of trying to organize a couple hundred thousand photos.   Or more.

It is not a task I'm good at and right now, it's in its very beginning.

But, I have come across a number of photos that I like and thought I'd post them here.  Year end.   What better time?

Today's photo were taken in Africa.

So, let's head out in the pre-dawn to see what we can find.








Four of us were in a hide in South Africa where we waited for the wild beasts of the African savannah to show up.    Other than some magnificent Cape buffalo that arrived in a small her early in the evening, this mouse was the only other nocturnal visitor.  

The Cape buffalo.    Pretty astonishing to be 15 feet away from these beasts and they didn't know we were across the pond from them.






The lions of Africa welcome you.





This is typical of the safari vehicles used in Africa, although many have three rows of seats for the tourists.   You are relatively safe from aggressive animals as long as you mind your manners and don't call attention to yourself.

As a matter of fact, I have seen the predator cats use these vehicles for shade and for sneaking up on prey.

I got quite a kick out of this photo.









Ah, Africa.   I miss your birds and animals.  Africa is the only place I've returned to in all my travels, and I will soon make my fourth visit.  The magic hasn't worn off.
''






A once-in-a-lifetime visit to Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya.   Next door is a facility that is trying ti reestablish the Rothschild giraffes, which are endangered.   At certain times of the day, the giraffes walk over to the manor for little biscuits made especially for them.  





 This pride was resting in the shade when I caught this tender moment between the lion Karibu and his cub.




Once again, we were in a blind when I got this shot of a tawny eagle.




No hide for this one.   We were about thirty feet away.




 This female leopard walked right past us.




 If you can catch a cheetah with the setting sunlight in its eyes, they seem to glow.




 Vervets.   The comics of the savannah.





 Lion cubs.   If you find them in their first few months, they are the cutest animals around.









The following shots were taken from a hide at water level.






Pied kingfisher about to throw its catch in the air, catch it, and swallow.






Blue waxbill










Blue cheek starling




Redbill oxpeckers.  They live all their lives on the grazing beasts, cleaning them of parasites.




Some birds not photographed from a hide:


The incredibly beautiful lilac-breasted roller.



Southern yellow hornbill

And not from a hide:


Little bee-eater


Of all the colorful, striking birds of Africa, would it surprise you to know that this plain brown bird is my favorite?   It's called a hamerkop because when its head feathers are raised, the head resembles a hammer.





Next post, we'll go somewhere else in the world.   Don't be surprised if we return to Africa some day, though.