Dear 100 Hour Board,
Now that Alumni Week is almost over, what do you wish someone had asked you, and what's your answer?
Can you tell me more about the birds you've been watching?
-imaginary question asker
Dear imaginary question asker,
Gladly! My wife and I put up a feeder a couple months ago outside the front window and it's been one of the best investments we've made since moving here.
The most frequent visitors to our feeder are house sparrows. They're very social birds and we can usually hear them arguing just out of sight in the neighbor's tree. Here's a flock:
We also see house finches, individually or in small groups.
Lately, we've also been getting oak titmice, which typically show up alone, dig through the feeder for sunflower seeds, and then carry them up to the fence and hammer on them until they pop open. They're incredibly flighty birds and I only have my phone's camera, so the few pictures I have are absolutely awful.
We also get Eurasian collared doves, almost always in pairs. They're too big to land on the feeder, so they have to pick through the debris scattered on the ground. They are one of the most successful invasive bird species in recorded history, spreading through most of the US in just ten years. I did finally see a mourning dove at work last week, so it looks like they haven’t been displaced entirely.
I see tons of dark-eyed juncos around the city, but never at the feeder. It turns out their diet is mostly insects, especially during the summer, but Wikipedia also tells me they're common feeder birds during the winter.
Black phoebes prefer to live near water, so I haven't seen as many since moving but I know they're around somewhere. Here's a picture of an utterly fearless one that I saw on my lunch break a year ago, hunting bees just a few feet away from me.
I've already talked about how much I love California scrub jays. I know they live in the area, but we've hardly seen any since moving. Supposedly they love peanuts, so that might be the next feeder we get. I don't have any good new pictures, so Board Question #89542 from last year will have to do.
There are crows everywhere here. Since I eat a sandwich for breakfast on the way to work every morning, I've started giving bits of bread to them and it's definitely made a good impression.
Other birds which I've seen, in no particular order, include woodpeckers (I can never get a close enough view to tell what species for certain), gulls (the California gull and western gull both live here and are nearly identical), whimbrels, snowy egrets, one solitary black-necked stilt, and dozens of turkey vultures every time I leave the city.
My most spectacular find, though, was a black-crowned night heron that I spotted in a park while walking home from work which I photographed HUNTING AND EATING A MOUSE.
Thank you for indulging my love of birds!
"Dear Humble Master
Any random story you learned about that you want to share?
Dear that guy,
Pull up a chair, I want to tell you about the founding of Rice University is crazy
William Marsh Rice (racist millionaire working in real estate, railway, and cotton)
Charles F. Jones (Rice's valet)
Albert T. Patrick (Rice's lawyer)
Rice was worth what today would be hundreds of millions of dollars. Completely loaded. Wanting to give back to the world, or at least a selected part of the world, Rice put into his will that after his passing his fortune would be used to found a university. A whites-only university.
When Rice is 84, his valet Charles F. Jones finds him dead in his sleep. At this time, a very large check made out by Rice to his lawyer Albert T. Patrick is identified as suspicious because of a misspelling. Also, Patrick announces that shortly before his death, Rice changed his will so that, rather than funding a university, Rice wanted Patrick to inherit his fortune. The combination of the error on the check and the sudden change in the will leads to an investigation. It's determined that Patrick and Jones conspired to kill Rice and forge the documents. Jones chloroformed Rice in his sleep, BUT GETS OFF WITH NO CHARGES because he cooperated with the District Attorney. Patrick is convicted of murder and conspiracy to steal Rice's money.
Oh, and in 1963 Rice began to allow students of any race to enter the school.
Dear [Uffish Thought],
Will you tell me about a probably-true factoid you learned in your PD class today?
Yeah, okay, if you really want to know. (I definitely haven't forced my roommate to listen to this once today already and would have pushed the info on anyone else I came into contact with but mostly I just saw her after class, today.)
First, the backstory. "Sounds," in a linguistics-for-amateurs sense, are distinct individual pieces of noise that make up larger units like syllables. They can be categorized and taught through facts about their production, like which parts of the mouth or mouth-adjacent parts are involved in which configuration (often including tongue shape), posture of lips, use of vocal cords, possible persistence of the sound, etc. Even very short words and syllables can have many sounds in them.
Now the factoid: when people (usually but probably not always children) misspell words like "tree" as "chree" or "dress" as "jress," those errors are actually quite logical! They have heard those words enunciated poorly, and they are pretty-accurately reproducing the commonly-used-but-technically-incorrectly-pronounced words that fluent/natives speakers don't really recognize they're slurring their way through!
I am here for learning about so-ubiquitous-most-people-don't-even-know-they're-following-complicated-systems-of-rules facts (like the rankings of coordinate and non-coordinate adjectives which most people can't articulate and don't realize they know but order perfectly most of the time anyway), and also facts about how the habits society tends to make fun of are actually often pretty sophisticated, to people who have more specialized knowledge in the subject (like when "hilariously unpredictable" kid-spelling errors are actually them applying their honestly-gained misinformation logically, so take that, condescendingly-amused adults).
(Also I'm probably wrong on parts or generalizing so much I've made the whole inaccurate, so, uh, sorry future-me, if you learn more later and regret the inaccuracies I don't know about yet.)
Dear 100 Hour Board,
I recently heard about a thing called a presentation party where everyone prepares and shares a 3 minute powerpoint about anything they want, and they have to drink a certain quantity of (usually alcoholic) beverage for every 30 seconds they go over. Could you have such a party and share your presentations with us?
Owlet and I did this with some friends, and it was so much fun! I learned about everything from bears to memes. I gave a presentation on the book of Johah. And I only had to eat one marshmallow!
Dear a ~
No one asked me a scriptural question.
I was also out of town for most of Alumni week, so that's probably ok.
But it was still sad.
~ Dragon Lady