Monthly Archives: May 2020

And then there were three

Picture of the Moment

Sixteen days ago, I got up with the sun (5:30 a.m.) and pulled a ton of weeds along the fence between my property and the open space preserve. I left a huge pile of weeds, figuring I would haul them to the trash later. I took a shower and a nap.

When I went out to the gardens to get my daily snapshots of flowers, I leaned in close near a hanging basket and something hit me in the head and flew away. I didn’t see what it was, but I did see this in the hanging basket:

mourning dove eggs

That was not there six hours earlier. Mommy, presumably with help from daddy, found my pile of weeds, built a nest a few feet away, and deposited two eggs in only four or five hours. Fortunately, after me disturbing mommy (presumably), she came back to take care of those eggs:

momma mourning dove on nest

Research indicates that it takes about 14 days for mourning dove eggs to hatch and another 15 days for the little ones to leave the nest and go exploring the world.

I got a picture of a little bird on Day 13.

Mourning dove

And on Day 14, today!, I got a picture of two little birds!

Mourning doves

And then there were three. I’m so happy! Now our goal is to help mommy protect these two little ones for the next couple of weeks so they can fly away, fly away.

Quarantine Weight Loss Tip (5/23/20)

Dr. Russel

QUARANTINE WEIGHT LOSS TIP

Fine, furry, four-legged friends (dogs!)Get a dog or 2, or more. The bigger the better.

Dogs will eat anything.

When you have that plate of food in front of you, thinking about the weight you’ll gain by eating it, just call the dog(s) over and feed those poor, starving furry ones.

Dogs will be happy and will love you forever, and you’ll lose weight.

Problem solved!

You’re welcome!
—Dr. Russel

Introducing Dr. Russel!

Dr. Russel

Dr. John, Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, Dr. Oz, Dr. Ruth….

I have decided to be Dr. Russel.

I shall be sharing tips & tricks to make life easier.

What may I help you with today?

Audience member: Hello, Dr. Russel! Do you have any tips for losing weight in quarantine?

Dr. Russel: Of course. Here are some of the best.

    1. Don’t eat!
    2. Unplug the microwave.
    3. Do not use the oven or cooktop. A side benefit of not using the oven or cooktop is that the smoke alarm never will go off!
    4. Believe me!Run up and down the hallway while making as much noise as possible. Particularly effective at 4:00 a.m. Also should be effective after quarantine since it was effective before quarantine.

You’re welcome!
—Dr. Russel

Hoping I can’t go into one of my gardens for about a month

Picture of the Moment

I got up at 5:30 this morning to go pull weeds and clear dead brush along the fence. Nothing unusual about that.

I just went out to take pictures of the cactus flowers that are blooming. I leaned in close with my 90mm macro lens and suddenly something hit me in the head and went flying away.

The last time I was hit in the head by something flying was 1968 under the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin. That time was a flying bat (if you’ve never seen the bats take to the skies at dusk at the Congress Avenue bridge, go!).

This time, it was a momma mourning dove. Interestingly, she and her nest were not there at 6:00 this morning. In a mere six hours she (and daddy?) built a nest out of brush laying in a pile nearby, and she laid two eggs in it.

mourning dove eggs

I’m so happy because the last time I had baby birds was annually from 1968-1973 in my wise old grandmother’s yard. I had built a bird house using a Boy Scout handbook and attached it high in our ash tree. A family of screech owls moved in. They are known to use the same nesting site annually, and they did.

Research indicates that it takes 14 days for mourning dove eggs to hatch and another 15 days for the little ones to take off on their own.

Fortunately, I have most of the weeds pulled in this area, and the rest can wait for a month. The presence of momma and, hopefully, two little ones means that any future pictures from my retaining wall gardens will have to be taken through the window in my home office using my 600mm lens. Can’t wait to see how those turn out.

It takes me 4 minutes to walk from the sunny retaining wall gardens back to the home office. By the time I got back inside and looked out the window, momma bird was back on the nest.

momma mourning dove on nest

Music on Mondays—He accepted my offer and conditions

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Over on Facebook, people are doing all sorts of things to stay connected but without all the political negativity and dystopian COVID-19 news.

Some of them are posting games requiring someone to tag you so that you can play. Then you have to tag someone else.

I have participated in some of them, but no one has tagged me for the one I really want to participate in: Post ten albums that influenced your life and your music interests, one per day. Just the album covers. Nothing else.

Well screw that.

I want to know what about the album influenced them!

Since I want more than just album covers, and I haven’t been invited to play with them in spite of all my friends knowing how much I am involved in music, well, I’ll play with myself.

Wait.

No.

I’ll play by myself.

Better.

So here they are, with explanatory material.

My wise old grandmother gave me a small, portable reel-to-reel tape recorder for Christmas 1968. That complemented the transister bedside AM/FM radio she had given me for my birthday in March 1968. It was hard for anything to drag me away from my radio and tape recorder, especially after I discovered KLOL FM in Houston. Lots of music, very little talk.

When friends would come over, we’d listen to my recordings. When I turned 18 in March 1973, all of those friends threw me a surprise birthday party. Since my wise old grandmother could not afford to buy me a senior ring, my friends presented me with one at my birthday party. Still have it. Although I wore it until I received my Texas A&M University ring in Fall 1976, it was not my favorite birthday present. Along with everyone contributing to the cost of my senior ring, each friend had bought me an album, so all ten of the albums listed here were given to me at my 18th birthday party, and they really have influenced my listening because some of these—Black Sabbath & Led Zeppelin—I never would have bought on my own.

It’s difficult for me to list albums according to which is my favorite, and after spending thirty minutes trying to do that with these ten, I gave up. Here they are in alphabetical order by title of album.

  1. Abbey Road by The BeatlesAbbey Road by The Beatles—Everyone knew that I was a huge Beatles fan. I knew the words to all their music and you could often find me singing Beatles songs on my walks between classes. “Come Together,” “Something,” “Here Comes The Sun”…. I was in heaven.
  2. All Things Must Pass by George Harrison—This was an expensive triple album given to me by Larry All Things Must Pass by George Harrisonand Sharon. Larry probably was my best friend then and is the one who got me interested in motorcycles. He had a paper route in the rural areas between Corpus Christi and Kingsville. One night I sneaked out my bedroom window and went with Larry on his motorcycle to Corpus Christi to get the papers. I threw papers left and right on the 45 miles home. Since we finished early, we went out to the caliche pits to do donuts on his bike. Caliche is gravel; we hit a soft spot and laid that bike down. My whole right side was bloody and full of gravel. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. Until I got home. I was grounded until high school graduation a few weeks later.
  3. Best of the Beach Boys Vol. III by The Beach BoysBest of the Beach Boys Vol. III by The Beach Boys—The Beach Boys were right up there with The Beatles and The Who as my favorite singers. Every song was singable, and the harmonies were just gorgeous.
  4. Black Sabbath Vol. 4 by Black Sabbath—When I put Black Sabbath Vol. 4 by Black Sabbaththis on my little Sears stereo turntable, I was stunned. My wise old grandmother, on the other hand….. Well, she wasn’t thrilled with The Beatles, so you can imagine what she thought about black satanic death metal music. Steve gave me this album. Steve and I played violin in orchestra. I never would have thought he was into this kind of music, and I never would have thought that he would think that I was into this kind of music. Well, he was, and I was.
  5. Made In Japan by Deep PurpleMade In Japan by Deep Purple—Jaime’s family owned the local lumber store. They lived in a beautiful brick house (brick!), had awesome cars (Jaime had a Pontiac Trans Am) and awesome stereo systems (Jaime loved bass; he probably had the nation’s first boom boom boom bass stereo system in his car). In other words, his family was one of the richest in town, so he could afford to give me this double album all by himself.
  6. Led Zeppelin IV by Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin—This album made me a Zep fan for the ages. Physical Graffiti, however, is my favorite Zep album. This is #2.
  7. Paranoid by Black Sabbath—Ooopsy. Two black satanic death metal music albums. When “Iron Man,” came on, well, my wise old grandmother Paranoid by Black Sabbathcame storming into my room wanting to know what the hell I was listening to. At the time I did not know what black satanic death metal music was, but now I find it funny that she asked what the hell I was listening to. I told her, “I am Iron Man.” She did not think that was funny.
  8. Ram by Paul & Linda McCartneyRam by Paul & Linda McCartney—Paul McCartney was, and still is, my favorite Beatle. This album was released in May 1971 and had “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” on it. This was my favorite solo album by any of The Beatles until Wings released Band on the Run in December 1973.
  9. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles—What I thought then was The Beatles’ greatest album. Every. single. song. was immediately singable since the words were printed on the album cover, the first album in history to print the lyrics to all the songs.
  10. Who's Next? by The WhoWho’s Next? by The Who—I had been a fan of The Who since 1966 when they released “I’m A Boy.” When my birth mom enrolled me in first grade in Utah, in the gender section she checked the female box. I never forgot that, so when “I’m A Boy” was released, I picked right up on those lyrics—I’m a boy, I’m a boy, but my mom won’t admit it. By that time, though, I was living with my wise old grandmother in Kingsville, Texas, the city of my birth. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is on this album and is my favorite song by The Who, although just barely beating out “Love, Reign O’er Me” from Quadrophenia.

Dark Side of the Moon by Pink FloydIn the ensuing three months between my birthday and high school graduation, Jaime, Larry, Richard, and Steve introduced me to more Black Sabbath, more Led Zeppelin, more Deep Purple, and Pink Floyd.

After high school graduation, Jaime, Larry, and I went on a driving tour of every Lower 48 state west of the Mississippi River. Larry had bought himself a 1973 Buick Apollo with savings from his paper route, so we decided to put some miles on it…. as soon as he installed an 8-track tape player in it so we could have some listening music. We took off on June 1 and got back on August 15 after having visited every state, ever national park, every national monument, every national forest, and every city of more than 100,000 population.

And the music! THE MUSIC!

After 10 weeks on the road with no wise old grandmother to supervise my listening interests, I was into all sorts of deviant music.

We were in Yellowstone Park on the Fourth of July when it snowed on us. Throughout our journey, we were just stopping anywhere and setting up camp. We had a tent, but we rarely used it. We went to bed with starry skies and woke up covered in snow. After that, we decided to always set up the tent.

Who Do We Think We Are by Deep PurpleAs we were leaving Yellowstone through Gardiner, Montana, we stopped for gas. The gas station convenience store had a huge selection of 8-track tapes for sale. I bought “Who Do We Think We Are” by Deep Purple. When we got back to Texas, I gave the 8-track to Larry for his collection, providing that he took me to the record store so I could buy the vinyl. He accepted my offer and conditions.

I have a vast music collection of both classical and non-classical music, over 3,132 hours. All of the groups noted above are represented in my collection with their complete discographies.

Created by a 14-year-old boy trapped in a 64-year-old man’s body

Railroads & Trains logo

On this day last year, I was in Promontory, Utah, for the 150th anniversary celebration of the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad.

In May 1969, I was a lad of 14 living in Kingsville TX with my paternal grandparents. My dad (then deceased), granddad, and three uncles all were working for Missouri Pacific Railroad in Kingsville, Corpus Christi, Victoria, Taylor, and Palestine.

Sadly, no one was willing to take me to Promontory for the 100th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

I was a sad and depressed boy of 14.

I put the 150th anniversary celebration on my calendar, swearing that I would make it if I were alive in 2019.

I made it, spending May 9-12 all over northern Utah and western Wyoming, getting hundreds of pictures and dozens of videos.

My favorite video from that week in Utah shows the two largest operating steam locomotives and their passenger cars leaving the historic 25th Street Station in Ogden on May 12 heading back home to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

I followed them to Evanston, Wyoming, and then headed home to San Diego myself.

Here is my video, created by a 14-year-old boy trapped in a 64-year-old man’s body.