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September 21, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Nats close in on Braves, then choke

It's too late in the season to really matter, but it was heartening nonetheless that the Washington Nationals bounced back from the loss on Friday with two wins against the Braves in Atlanta. In the Saturday game, Juan Soto was the star, as he went one for two, took three walks, scored two runs, and became the first teenager ever to steal three bases in one game; see MLB.com. The Nats won that one, 7-1. And on Sunday, it was a close, hard-fought match as Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon both homered, and the Nats won it, 6-4.

The Nats thus closed the gap from 8 1/2 games to 7 1/2 games, postponing the all-but-inevitable elimination in the NL East race. (To my surprise, the weather wasn't much of a factor in that series, as Tropcial Storm Florence veered northward and barely affected the Atlanta area.)

In Miami on Monday evening, Eric Fedde started off well enough as starting pitcher for the Nats, but had to be pulled in the fifth inning. The Nats took an early lead, puncuated by Victor Robles' first career home run, but Miami came back with multiple rallies and won it, 8-5. The Nats bounced back the next day at least, as Anthony Rendon put on another display of clutch hitting with a home run. Bryce Harper drew five walks, while Stephen Strasburg threw eleven strikeouts. Final score: Nats 4, Marlins 2.

After a day of rest (and travel), Max Scherzer took the mound and was near the top of his game, throwing a total of 13 strikeouts. That put him at 290 for the year, all but guaranteeing that he will reach the 300-K milestone in his next two scheduled appearances this season. But the Mets took advantage of his tendency to challenge batters with predictable fast balls, and hit two home runs off him in the third inning. The Nats tied it 4-4 in the eighth inning thanks to an RBI double by Juan Soto, but the Nats wasted run-scoring opportunities again. In the 11th inning, Ryan Zimmerman hit a lead-off double but the Nats just couldn't get him home. That was sadly typical of this year. In the 12th inning, Jefrey Rodriguez gave up a single and two walks to load the bases, and former National Jose Lobaton hit a sac fly to center field, scoring what turned out to be the winning run. Mets 5, Nats 4.

For the first time this year, I'll be attending a Nationals game later today, and I don't think I have ever done so under such bleak circumstances. The Nationals could get eliminated tonight, and this might be the last time I see Bryce Harper in a Nationals uniform. Just wait till next year?

Mariners extend Safeco lease

I was informed by Mike Zurawski that the Seattle Mariners have agreed to a 25-year extension of their lease on Safeco Field, where they have played since 1999. The city will provide $135 million in subsidies for renovations instead of the $180 million the team asked for. See ballparkdigest.com. That's good news for anyone who opposes the stadium rip-offs of which the "Atlanta" Braves are the most recent example. Safeco Field is unfortunately one of the oversized stadiums of the early Neoclassical ballpark era, others being Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Coors Field, Chase Field, Globe Life Park (or whatever they are calling it at the moment), and of course Turner Field.



September 16, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Field trip to Dowell's Draft

"It was a dark and stormy morning..." Such a description could apply to almost any day this month, as birding activities have been curtailed by persistent rainy weather. But on Saturday September 8, I managed to lead an Augusta Bird Club field trip to Dowell's Draft during a relative brief respite from the rains. I first "discovered" Dowell's Draft, located near Braley Pond in western Augusta County, on June 30 while working on the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas project; see my July 15 blog post. The skies were mostly cloudy except for a few interludes of sunlight, so it was hard to get good photos. We spent about ten minutes along the road by the trail head looking westward toward where the gas pipeline will be built, and saw a few birds at the tops of dead trees. Some people thought they were Eastern Wood Pewees, but I'm inclined to think they were Eastern Phoebes. To my surprise, a Red-eyed Vireo landed there briefly.

As we started hiking, I mentioned that I had previously seen a variety of birds just a short distance ahead, and very soon one popped into view. I'm certain that it was one of the "Empidomax" flycatchers, probably a Least Flycatcher, but it was too elusive for me to get a good photo. After that encouraging start, there wasn't much to see or hear for a while other than a Pileated Woodpecker flying overhead. The trail (actually a fire road) was in pretty good condition considering all the rainfall, except for a short section crossing a stream where we had to avoid big puddles. Shortly thereafter, we saw one or two small yellow birds in a tall tree about 75 yards away, uphill. At first I thought it might be a female oriole or Scarlet Tanager, but after looking at the photos, I think it was probably a Prairie Warbler, or perhaps a Pine Warbler. It was the same location that I saw some Prairie Warblers earlier this summer. Then we continued on, and turned left along an abandoned fire road which I had not explored before. After about 100 yards we turned back, and then did likewise along the main fire road, stopping as it approached a very wet stream crossing. We heard a few birds in that area and glimpsed some, but the only clear sighting was a pair of Eastern Wood Pewees. It was disappointing that this "hot spot" from my previous visits turned out so empty. We had better luck with mushrooms, however; see below.

Afterwards, we went over to Braley Pond, which is less than a half mile away from the trailhead. On the way, there were a dozen or so American Goldfinches along the road. The lake was unusually brown, fill of silt runoff from all the recent rain. We didn't see any birds around the lake, and the only notable sightings were a Ruby-throated Hummingbird flitting about the meadow flowers and a few Worm-eating Warblers in the trees above the parking area.

The following list is NOT complete, but merely shows the highlights of what we saw at the two locations:

Montage 08 Sep 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Wood Pewee, Eastern Phoebe (juv.) (prob.), American Goldfinch (F), Least Flycatcher (prob.), and Prairie Warbler (prob.). (September 8, 2018)

Braley Pond 08 Sep 2018

Cloud-covered Braley Pond, brown with silt from all the runoff from the recent heavy rains. (September 8, 2018)

Given the wet conditions, it was no surprise that we saw many mushrooms along the way. One of those in attendance, Diane Holsinger, identified some of the mushrooms, including this attractive one below. We also saw a wildflower which Diane identified as "Ladies' tresses."

Chanterelle

Chanterelle mushroom, which is supposed to be edible.

Ladies' tresses

Ladies' tresses, a kind of wild orchid.

Red caterpillar

Red caterpillar, species unknown.

On the way back to town, we stopped for a nice lunch at White's Wayside restaurant, which features locally-produced food. It was delicious! There is a nice, homey atmosphere inside and the owner is a big advocate of environamental causes. Their electricity runs on a big solar panel out back.

Recent visits to Bell's Lane, etc.

In the morning on August 28 I went to Bell's Lane, and noticed on the blackboard that Penny Warren had seen a Blue Grosbeak in that area. (I had spotted one there exactly one month earlier.) Sure enough, I heard the distinctive song at the Ford farm entrance, spotted the male at a distance, and lured him closer with my iPhone. I thought I saw a juvenile of that species on the driveway, but it was probably a young or female House Finch. I also saw some Warbling Vireos in that same big tree, but the photos were only so-so. Earlier I had seen many Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher by the lowland stream crossing, as well as 6-7 Killdeers flying overhead.

Montage 28 Aug 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: House Finch (F/J), Ruby-throated Hummingbird (JM), Blue Grosbeak (M), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Warbling Vireo, and Killdeer. (August 28, 2018)

My next visit to Bell's Lane was in the afternoon of September 6 (quite hot), and the highlights included two House Wrens (one being a juvenile), a Common Yellowthroat or two (mere glimpses), a Great Blue Heron, and two Green Herons (one being a juvenile). I also saw a flock of Canada Geese, an indication that fall migration is underway. I photographed a couple Common Nighthawks on the evening of September 2, but didn't seen any more after that.

Montage 06 Sep 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Great Blue Heron, Northern Mockingbird, Ruby-throated Hummingbird (juv. male, in "our" back yard), House Wren (juv.), Canada Goose, Downy Woodpecker (F), Green Heron (juv.), and in center, Green Heron (adult). (September 6, 2018)

On the morning of September 12, there was a Waterthrush out back, but I couldn't get a good photo, so I'm not sure whether it was a Louisiana or a Northern; we have had both species here before. Jo King thinks it was a Northern Waterthrush, based on the photo below. In the afternoon I went to Bell's Lane and saw the usuals plus a Killdeer and a probable Spotted Sandpiper or two at a distance.

Montage 12 Sep 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Green Heron (adult), Wood Ducks (F), Gray Catbird (juv.), Eastern Phoebe, Northern (or Louisiana?) Waterthrush, and Blue Jay (juv. or molting adult?). (September 12, 2018)

A brief visit to Bell's Lane as it started to rain on Friday September 14 yield a nice surprise: a Great Egret in the beaver pond! I also saw Killdeer, a Wood Duck, two Green Herons, and an Eastern Meadowlark in the distance.

Great Egret

Great Egret, at the Bell's Lane beaver pond, September 14.

Finally, on Saturday September 15 Jacqueline and I went for a drive in the country, hoping to beat the impending rain, but we faced intermittent drizzle almost the whole way. The big find was a Northern Harrier swooping low over a field along Cattleman's Road in the Swoope area. That species breeds north of Virginia, so this was certainly an early migrant returning south. I backed up and tried to get a photo, but it got away. Perhaps it decided to leave after seeing the Red-tailed Hawk in the photo below. At the Smith pond* there was a lone Great Blue Heron, but nothing else. There were many swallows (Tree, N. Rough-winged, and Barn) and Mourning Doves in various locations, but little else until we returned to the Bell's Lane beaver pond, where there were several Killdeers and a Solitary Sandpiper plus many more swallows.

Montage 15 Sep 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Solitary Sandpiper, and Great Blue Heron. (September 15, 2018)
Other recent photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.

* That pond is near the recently-fallen tree where the resident pair Bald Eagles have nested for the past several years. Allen Larner shared the sad news with the local birding community a few days ago. Hopefully the Bald Eagles will find another suitable (and visible!) nesting location next year.



September 15, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Utter "chaos" at Bedlam Brewing!

In preparing for my latest gig at Bedlam Brewing [a little over two weeks ago (August 31)], it dawned on me that their "embrace the chaos" theme was particularly appropriate for me, so I put an updated version of my "word cloud" on a Mandelbrot Set background. (See my Chaos page for an explanation.) That theme had added meaning, as the show came soon after the 50th anniversary of the the violence in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. Chaos in the streets!

Word cloud Mandelbrot

The "psychedelic" Mandelbrot Set, as an illustration of Chaos Theory.

Indeed, the first four songs I played had a direct connection to the social and political tumult of the late 1960s. "Revolution" and "[Chicago]" both sounded very good, I thought, especially considering I hadn't played either one in public before. "Gimme Shelter" fell short, however, partly because I really didn't practice it enough and partly because I had my songbook binder turned to the wrong page. Likewise, U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" refers in part to [the assassination of] Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968. I started that one a little bit sloppy and then got better. The next three songs were not political but rather had a common theme of loneliness and alienation stemming from the rapid social change of that era. I was really getting into the spirit of things, and they sounded fine.

I was eager to play the tenth song, Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath," which I had done very effectively at a Queen City Brewing open mic event earlier in the summer. But somehow I got started in the wrong key (C minor played as A minor with the capo on the third fret), whereas it is supposed to be F minor played as D minor. I fumbled around for almost 30 seconds before I got it right, which spoiled the building tension that the intro of that song is supposed to yield. The rest of the song was fine, but it could have been better. Next came a CCR tune I have played before and Supertramp's "The Logical Song," which I only learned recently. I closed the first half of the show with three songs by Paul McCartney or the Beatles, and I was pretty happy with how they went. The audience was appreciative and friendly, but there weren't as many folks as I had hoped.

After a ten-minute break, I shifted gears and played three relatively "recent" songs, i.e., ones that have come out since the 1990s. The song "Iris" is familiar to most people, but amazingly enough, until this year I was barely even aware of who the Goo Goo Dolls were! "Rhythm of Love" got hearty applause, as did the next two songs when I went back to the early 1970s. Then came more songs from that period, including BTO's "Let It Ride," which is not the sort of song one expects of a solo acoustic guitarist. I had fun with that one, and did pretty well on Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" as well. The intro part wasn't 100% clean, but it was close.

For the final portion of the show, I shifted gears once again, with somewhat more serious song themes. The Moody Blues' "The Voice" sounded fine, but the only Ozark Mountain Daredevils song I played ("It's How You Think") didn't elicit as much audience response as I had hoped. You never know. The late Tom Petty's "Here Comes My Girl" and Sheryl Crow's "My Favorite Mistake" went without a hitch, as did the Eagles' "Lyin' Eyes," which marked the grand finale. Was it the best choice for a last song? I'm not sure. Anyway, I felt good as I thanked the crowd for being there and being good listeners. Then I relaxed with a tasty IPA and chatted with friends for a while before unplugging, packing up, and heading home. In sum, it was a very satisfying night.

Seq.GroupTitleHarmonica?
1BeatlesRevolution
2Bob DylanThe Times They Are A-Changin'G
3Rolling StonesGimme ShelterA
4Graham NashChicago
5U 2Pride (In the Name of Love)
6Simon & GarfunkleAmerica
7Bee GeesLonely Days
8AmericaLonely PeopleD
9Jethro TullLocomotive Breath
10Creedence Clearwater RevivalI Heard It Through the GrapevineC
11SupertrampThe Logical SongBb
12Paul McCartneyUncle Albert / Admiral HalseyG
13BeatlesA Day In the Life
14BeatlesCome TogetherC
15Goo Goo DollsIrisG
16Gin BlossomsFollow You DownG
17Plain White T'sRhythm of Love
18Doobie BrothersListen To The Music
19EaglesTake It To the Limit
20KansasDust In The WindG
21Fleetwood MacBlue Letter
22Bachman Turner OverdriveLet It Ride
23Pink FloydWish You Were Here
24Moody BluesThe VoiceG
25Ozark Mountain DaredevilsIt's How You Think
26Tom PettyHere Comes My Girl
27Sheryl CrowMy Favorite Mistake
28EaglesLyin' EyesG

Some of my friends at the show complimented me on the song selection, which I appreciated. I always put a lot of effort into choosing songs and putting them together in an appropriate way. I was conscious of the need not to waste time between songs, and played for a little over two hours altogether: I started five minutes late, took a ten minute break, and finished about 20 minutes after 10:00 PM. I only left out one song from my planned set list: "Invisible Sun" by The Police. The above set list will eventually be incorporated into the recently-compiled "public repertoire" table on my Music page.

As for future shows at Bedlam Brewing, it will probably be at least three months hence because of the modest turnout that evening. I really need to promote my shows more actively if I'm going to get music gigs on a regular basis.

Recent open mic events

I couldn't even remember for sure if I had been to the open mic event on August 1, but after looking at my Facebook archives, I saw that Fritz Horisk tagged me as one of the performers that night, so I must have been [there]. smile After looking through my repertoire spreadsheet and song lyric documents (dated by when I saved them, implying that's when I learned them), I figured out with reasonable certainty what I played that night. As I recall, I did OK for the most part, but missed some of the words on the last song, which I was just learning. As usual, the hashtag symbols ( # ) refer to my use of the harmonica (along with the guitar), and the asterisks indicate songs that I played for the first time in public.

On August 8 there was a virtually full slate of performers, including John Dull, who has become a regular at the QCB open mic nights, specializing in Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, one of my favorite groups. For the first time, I heard Sissy Hutching and Travis Weaver, the new proprietors of Fretwell Bass, the music store that I frequent in downtown Staunton. They sounded great together. Of the two "new" songs I played, "It's Too Late" was the more technically challenging, and I was happy I did pretty well on it. "Daniel" could have been a little better; it's one of those songs that is hard for me to sing in the original key. As usual, the hashtag symbol ( # ) refers to my use of the harmonica, along with guitar.

After missing the next week, on August 22 I called attention to the anniversary of the solar eclipse in the first song, and also the appearance of three planets in the southern skies: Venus, Mars, and Saturn. (I'm not aware of any song about the Ringed Planet.) "Venus and Mars" led logically to two other Paul McCartney tunes, which sounded pretty darned good if I do say so myself. The encore ("Us and Them") was not quite as good as I would have liked, somewhat annoying since I have practiced it so much.

I was unable to play on August 29 because of a hospital visit, which fortunately did not impinge upon my big show on August 31. At my next open mic appearance on September 5 I played some of the same songs I had done at Bedlam on the Friday before (see above), noting the 50th anniversary of the the violence in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. All the songs went very well, except that I switched octaves while singing "Chicago," and that probably sounded a little off. Getting the guitar riff and vocals on "The Logical Song" was a minor triumph, and it got some nice applause. For the "encore" song I picked a standard Eagles tune that I had only done there once before, and it was also very well received.

And this past Wednesday night (September 12), I followed up with more Eagles songs, since people really liked "Take It To the Limit" the week before. Percussionist Craig Austin joined me on "Witchy Woman" and "Strange Way," which helped a lot. I had a hard time singing two of my "new" songs ("Hollywood Waltz" and "Madman Across the Water") in a consistent octave, so I'll have to work on that. Attendance by musicians and regular patrons was down compared to recent weeks, so we each had more time to play songs. The first two ["encore" songs] went well, as did the third, [a first-time public song for me,] "Tin Man." If I recall correctly, it was only the second song by America that I have played in public.

The hashtag symbols ( # ) refer to my use of the harmonica (along with the guitar), and the asterisks indicate songs that I played for the first time in public.



September 14, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Ebbets Field BIG update!

I took a brief diversion from my planned diagram updates to do Ebbets Field Ebbets Field, legendary former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I paid a visit to that location two years ago, and included some of the photos I took on that page. For the first time, there are diagrams of the upper and lower decks, showing where the support beams, grandstand "creases," and entry portals were. As with other stadiums, those architectural "benchmarks" proved very useful in getting other parts of the diagram just right. The ramps are shown in the new lower-deck diagram (note in particular the ones in the northwest and northeast corners), the press box behind home plate is shown in the new second-deck diagram, and the light towers are shown for the first time in the later (1938 and 1948) diagram variants. Believe it or not, this is the first Ebbets Field update since 2006!

Perhaps the most notable change was the slight widening (about one degree) of the overall grandstand angle compared to my earlier diagrams. That resulted in a slight counter-clockwise rotation of the other two sides (left field and right field) relative to the diamond. I used the exterior dimensions along each street that were shown in an old street map/diagram, and applied trigonometry to determine the main grandstand angle, which is (or was) almost exactly 70 degrees.

There are many small changes as well, mostly stemming from "discoveries" I made while peering at photos in the various books I have, as well as some photos available online. Often, such discoveries ended up forcing me to make some rather significant changes. For example, I realized that there were about two exposed rows of seats along the left field side from 1932 to 1947, contrary to my earlier estimation that the outfield wall was perfectly aligned with the front edge of the upper deck and the roof all the way from the left field corner to the right side of center field. It was in fact that way (zero exposed rows of seats) in center field, but not to the left of the bend. The big clue which led to that discovery was that, prior to the addition of new seating rows in 1948, the bend in the outfield wall did not align with the "crease" in the grandstand when viewed from a low angle behind home plate. From 1948 on, they did align, which means that they must have added about three more rows of seats in the center field area than they did in the left field area. That in turn accounts for some of the apparent inconsistencies in dimensions to various parts of the outfield between the 1932-1947 period and the 1948-1957 period.

Another discovery was that the crease in the lower deck near the left field foul pole was about 20 feet closer the home plate than was the crease in the upper deck. For a long time I simply assumed that the upper and lower decks coincided vertically, not having seen any clear photos of that area indicating otherwise, and then I noticed in the detailed seating diagram showing that there were several more rows of seats in the portion of the grandstand wrapping around the left field corner. Another detail is only hinted at in the diagrams: about ten feet above the concourse in back of the lower deck there was an elevated concourse to which the ramps led, and from which the catwalks to the upper deck originated. (Wrigley Field has a similar arrangement.) I have seen old photos with "standing room only" fans crammed onto that elevated concourse.

As I was making what I thought would be the finishing touches on those diagrams, I made yet another discovery. For example, an excellent color photo that appears on page 195 of the excellent book The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 (edited by John Thorn, 2007) reveals that (for the last decade of its history) there were two sets of lateral walkways exposed to the sunlight, with three rows and five rows in front, respectively. To avoid undue clutter, I only included the forward such walkway (located where the front of the grandstand had been until 1947) in the 1948 diagram; all three such walkways are properly depicted on the lower-deck diagram.

There are probably a few other juicy details and discoveries that I have neglected, in which case I will mention them in a later blog post. Finally, I added football diagram since Ebbets Field was the home of a pro football team called the Brooklyn Dodgers, and added it to the Football use page.

Nats sweep the Phillies

The Nationals kept up the momentum after that encouraging come-from-behind win against the Phillies on Tuesday, with a convincing 5-1 win on Wednesday. Stephen Strasburg had a superb seven-inning outing, backed up by home runs by Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Juan Soto. The Phillies ace Aaron Nola, who is in contention for the NL Cy Young Award, was roughed up early by the Nats. It was the Nationals' sixth series sweep (3 or 4 games) of the season, but the first one since May. That right there says a lot about how this season has gone for the Nats. They were briefly only a half game behind the Phillies in the NL East race, but what happened next spoiled their hopes of moving into second place.

Cubs edge the Nats

Interrupting the road trip to finish the four-game series against the Cubs last weekend (which had been rudely interrupted more than once by inclement weather), the Nats played a hard-fought duel on Thursday afternoon, and came up just a little short. In his first outing in more than a year (after recovering from arm surgery), Joe Ross did just fine on the mound, giving up two runs over five innings. The Nats tied it 3-3 in the eighth inning, and could have won it in the ninth if Bryce Harper had gotten a hit. "Doctor" Sean Doolittle pitched in the ninth and tenth innings, which was probably a mistake since he only recently returned from the disabled list. His command wasn't what it usually is, and in the top of the tenth, he gave up what turned out to be the game-winning RBI hit (a weird bunt that got past Ryan Zimmerman), and the Cubs won it, 4-3.

Clash of (rookie) titans in Atlanta!

Notwithstanding the approach of Hurricane Florence, the Braves welcomed the Nats to Atlanta tonight, and the showdown between rival Rookie of the Year contenders Juan Soto and Ronaldo Acuña more than lived up to expectations. The Nats took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second, sparked by a double hit by Ryan Zimmerman. But the Braves came right back to tie it, thanks to a two-run "Texas League" bloop single by Ronaldo Acuña. Juan Soto homered while Ronaldo Acuña hit a triple, a double, and two singles. Wilmer Difo got two RBIs, on a double and a sac fly, but Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper failed to get hits in clutch situations late in the game. The Braves tacked three more runs on in the eighth, two charged to Jimmy Cordero and one to the often-shaky Sammy Solis. That 10-5 loss put the Nationals 9 1/2 games behind the Braves, back down to .500 (74-74), essentially ending their last faint hopes of making it to the postseason.

Max Scherzer almost got out of the second-inning jam, but that showdown with pitcher Kevin Gausman, who kept fouling off pitches and finally drew a walk to load the bases before Acuña's RBI single, started to wear him down early. Scherzer only lasted four innings, giving up six runs, the worst outing of the year for him. He did get six strikeouts at least, bringing his season total up to 277. It seems more than likely that his previous game (see below) undermined his readiness to pitch well tonight. With three more probable starts, he is still in position to reach 300.

Nats' complete-game shutouts

In his previous outing (September 8, against the Cubs), Max Scherzer pitched a full nine innings for the second time this year (the only National pitcher to do so), even though there was no shutout or no-hitter on the line. The Nats had a 10-1 lead after seven, so the decision to leave him in was probably to give him a chance to ramp up his strikeout total in the quest for the magic 300 number. (The closest he has come in his career was 284 in 2016.) He did get 11 K's that night, reaching 271 for the year, but at a cost of two extra runs by the Cubs, thus raising his ERA just a tad. Max had a complete-game shutout this year, on April 9 (Nats 2, Braves 0), reminding me of my August 15, 2013 blog post that tabulated Nats' complete-game shutouts, and my long-deferred plans to put a more complete such table on the Washington Nationals page. Well, I finally did it! Two pitchers have thrown four complete-game shutouts while with the Nats: Max Scherzer (with two no-hitters) and Jordan Zimmermann (with one no-hitter). Nats pitchers threw three complete-game shutouts in each of three consecutive years: 2013, 2014, and 2015, but only two since then, oddly. They threw exactly one such game in six of their first eight years (2005-2012), the exceptions being 2007 and 2008. It's odd that they didn't achieve any such games in 2016, one of their best years otherwise.

Jayson Werth gets due honor

Between the two games with the Cubs in Nationals Park last Saturday (September 8), the Nationals honored their former star slugger Jayson Werth, who announced his retirement in midseason after a stint in the minors with the Seattle Mariners organization. His name was the first of a Nationals player (as opposed to Senators or Expos) to be added to the Nationals Park "Ring of Honor," the de facto Hall of Fame for former Washington and Montreal baseball players. I would have loved to have been there, but the rainy forecast made that too much of a risky proposition. But I paid rapt attention to the ceremony and to the video replays of Jayson's biggest moments with the Nats.

It was in early December 2010 that the Nationals acquired free agent Jayson Werth, who had played a few years with the Phillies after beginning his career with the L.A. Dodgers. It was one of General Manager Mike Rizzo's biggest roster coups up to that point, and it signified a big turning point in the franchise's history. The Nats made a huge leap from 69-93 (.426) in 2010 to 80-81 (.497) in 2011, and of course one year later came their breakout year when they first won the NL East division title with a 98-64 (.605) record. Without a doubt, the biggest triumph in his career with the Nats came on October 11, 2012, when he hit a ninth-inning walk-off home run to save the Nats and send the NLDS to Game 5. (Let's ignore that for the moment.) I happened to be present for a similar game-changing home run by Jayson about a month earlier, on September 8, 2012:

Jayson Werth home run 8 Sep 2012

Jayson Werth launches a game-tying home run (diagonal streak in upper right), to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, after a long rain delay had emptied the stands of all but a small cadre of hard-core Nats fans. The Nats went on to beat the Marlins in the tenth inning.

In one of his interviews, I was pleasantly surprised when Jayson said his second proudest moment was when he hit a double in the bottom of the 12th inning to beat the Cubs and win the series June 15, 2016. That series was a big showdown with Cubs, who were likewise serious postseason contenders that year. Perhaps as memorable as the double itself was when he blurted out "Holy $#!+" in the postgame interview with Dan Kolko, who was often the butt of Jayson's gibes. He had been getting lots of criticism for underperforming and for getting too old, and his exultation is easily understandable. Jayson is perhaps not the best role model for young kids, and he showed off his roguish impulses when he was arrested for driving over 100 MPH on the Capital Beltway in August 2014. (He actually spent a few days in jail in early 2015.) But sometimes those qualities are needed in sports, where leadership plays a big role in inspiring players to do their best.

Thank you, Jayson!
You will NOT be forgotten in Nats Town!!!

Jayson Werth

Jayson Werth in a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in March 2017.



September 11, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Insane rain delays help Nats win

As Hurricane Florence approaches, the ground along the eastern seaboard is already soaked from the on-and-off rainfall over the past week, and from the wet summer before that. The Nationals welcomed the Chicago to Our Nation's Capital last Thursday, for what was supposed to be a four-game series. The Cubs won 6-4 in ten innings, taking the lead on an RBI single by pinch hitter David Bote, the same guy who hit a walk-off grand slam against the Nats as a pinch hitter last month. That brought the Nats down to 69-72, three games below .500. On Friday the rains came, and for some reason they started the game in a drizzle in spite of a bleak forecast. The game was called after two innings, nullifying everything that had happened, and so they played a traditional (non-split) double-header on Saturday.

The afternoon game's start was delayed by over two hours due to rain, and Max Scherzer pitched a soggy complete game in the 10-3 victory, with two of those runs coming in the ninth inning. The Nats only had six hits, but took full advantage of the nine walks given up by the Cubs. In the nightcap, Nats' rookie starting pitcher Jefry Rodriguez was doing pretty well until the fifth inning, when virtual rookie catcher Victor Caratini hit a grand slam. It was yet another unexpected punch in the gut, but the Nats gradually came back thanks to a homer by Anthony Rendon, and a double and a triple by rookie Adrian Sanchez. Bryce Harper hit a clutch two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning, which put the Nats on top, 6-5. But then came another rain delay in the eighth inning, and frankly I got tired of waiting and fell asleep around midnight. The next morning I woke up to learn that play resumed after an hour and a half, and that the Nats held on to win, 6-5. Whew! But seriously, why play baseball after 1:00 in the morning? Why not just suspend play until the next day??

Well, maybe that wouldn't have worked either. It rained all Sunday afternoon, and around 4:00 they finally announced that the game would be postponed until this Thursday, when the Cubs and the Nats both had off days. Unfortunately, that's about when the hurricane might start having effects on weather in the mid-Atlantic states, so who knows? It has all been very surreal.

The Nats were supposed to begin a three-game series in Philadelphia yesterday, but the infield at Citizens Bank Park was a huge mud pit because they didn't want to keep the tarp on the field for too long. Stupid! So instead, they played another traditional double-header today, in which rookie catcher Spencer Kieboom had his first career home run to give the Nats the lead in the fifth inning. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each had an RBI single, and the Nats vaunted closing pitcher Sean Doolittle (who was recently reactivated after nearly two months on the DL) struggled in the ninth inning but finished the game successfully. Nats 3, Phillies 1. In the nightcap, Juan Soto hit an RBI double in the first inning and his 17th home run of the year three innings later. Starting pitcher Tanner Roark did OK until the fifth inning, when he just seemed to fall apart. The Phillies got hit after hit off him, and all of a sudden they were ahead, 5-3. In the eighth inning, aging veteran Jose Bautista homered, his first HR since being acquired by the Phillies in a trade with the Mets two weeks ago. (That was the first batter faced by rookie pitcher Kyle McGowin; in each of his two MLB outings he has given up a home run.) So, the Nats were behind 6-3 going into the ninth inning, and it didn't look too good. But the Phillies' relief pitcher Seranthony (!?) Dominguez gave up three walks and two hits, and the Nats had the game tied 6-6 with the bases loaded. Bryce Harper had a chance to give the Nats the lead, but he swung at a couple bad pitches to end the inning. In the top of the tenth inning, the amazing Juan Soto hit another home run (#18), getting his fourth RBI of the day, and aging veteran pitcher Greg Holland came in to save the game in the bottom of the inning. Nats 7, Phillies 6. Both of those were very satisfying wins, even though they don't mean much as far as the divisional race. The Nats can pull within a half game of the second-place Phillies in tomorrow's game. They've been stuck in third place since June 22.

Century race: Baltimore "beats" Boston

The big question in baseball last week was whether the Orioles or the Red Sox would reach the triple-digit level in the win-loss records this year, and thanks to a rare pair of losses by the team from Boston, that ironic "honor" went to Baltimore, which lost its 100th game of the year on Friday, losing to the Tampa Bay Rays, 14-2. After getting swept by the Rays in St. Petersburg over the weekend, the Orioles lost again tonight, this time to the Oakland A's. So with a record of 41-103 (.285), they need to win at least eight of their last 18 games to reach the .300 mark. The Red Sox won their 99th game of the year tonight (vs. only 46 losses, for a .683 percentage), welcoming the Blue Jays to Boston, and have clinched at least a wild card spot with 17 games left to play in the regular season. The Yankees (90-55, .621) are nine games back, and the Red Sox' magic number is likewise nine. Not much drama in the AL East.

How about those Athletics?

On the west coast, meanwhile, the Oakland Athletics (88-57, .607) have surged into contention for the postseason, coming to within three games of the world champion Houston Astros (91-54, .628). (It's worth noting that none of the the National League teams have win-loss records over .600; the Cubs come closest, with .583 at present.) The Athletics' offensive leader is Khris Davis, who has 41 homers and 109 RBIs but only has a .250 batting average. The A's rank third in the majors in home runs, with 199 total. (The Yankees lead in homers and the Dodgers are in second.) Otherwise, neither the batting statistics nor pitching statistics are especially noteworthy for the A's, so it must be an extraordinarily efficient use of their resources to win games by a close margin.



September 5, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Are you ready for some football?

Well, here we are in the month of September, that exciting time of the year when fans of postseason-contending baseball teams ramp up their enthusiasm for the big battles to come! This year, however, fans of the Washington Nationals are -- barring a miracle -- left out of that elite club. That leads many such fans to pursue other interests and passions, which in my case means putting in long hours on diagram revisions (stay tuned!!!) and paying a bit more attention to other sports.

This fall the Washington Redskins have a "new" starting quarterback, veteran Alex Smith (formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs), as well as a "new" running back, Adrian Peterson (formerly of the Minnesota Vikings). Will those acquisitions lead to an upturn in the team's (mis-)fortunes? Not according to the Washington Post, which in a special section today forecast that the Redskins will come up short in eight out of their 16 games this season. Yikes. Personally, I think the Redskins would have been better off giving their former quarterback, Kirk Cousins, a multi-year contract. But Redskins owner Dan Snyder essentially slammed the door in his face, and Kirk will be playing for the Vikings this year. He just turned 30, and is in the prime of his career.

Well, given those somber prospects and all the divisive nonsense over players kneeling in protest while the National Anthem is being played, maybe I should pay more attention to college football rather than the NFL. That means enduring the laughably unbalanced matchups of Week 1, when most big colleges pick some hapless underdog as an opponent. But there were a few upsets: For example, in Tallahassee, Virginia Tech got the last laugh, beating Florida State.

It so happens that while in Annapolis a couple weeks ago, I paid a brief visit to the home field of one of the most legendary teams in college football history: Navy! Unfortunately, the University of Hawaii beat Navy 59-41 in the opening game last Saturday; see dailymail.co.uk.

USNA Navy-Marine Corps Stadium

USNA Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. (August 19)

Football in (former) Turner Field

In Atlanta last Thursday (August 30), the Georgia State hosted Kennesaw State, winning in a game that went down to the final minute. (See georgiastatesports.com.) For the second year, they played at Georgia State Stadium, which is the newest incarnation of what baseball fans used to know as "Turner Field," former home of the Atlanta Braves. Before that it was Olympic Stadium, for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. See

Marlins Park

A month or two ago, I came across some excellent photographs of the reconfigured Georgia State Stadium, and that was all I needed. Not surprisingly, I felt compelled to make drastic changes to the football-version diagram on the Turner Field page. Note that when I first posted a football diagram for Turner Field on January 19, 2016, I was under the assumption that the gridiron would run along the first base side, maximizing the number of seats with good sight lines for such an arrangement. Instead, as this image shows, it lies roughly parallel to the old third base line. I wonder if they contemplate demolishing the no-longer-used grandstand around what used to be the right-field corner?

WNBA final series!

Last night the visiting Washington Mystics beat the Atlanta Dream to win the fifth and deciding game of the Women's National Basketball Association Eastern Conference series. On Friday they will play against the Seattle Storm, who beat the Phoenix Mercury that same night. (May I interject my personal opinion that it's just dumb for teams to be named after collective phenomena -- such as "Miami Heat" -- rather than discrete entities?) Washington won the Eastern Conference in 2010, but they have never won the WNBA championship. Could this be the year that two Washington teams became champions? (The Washington Capitals won their first-ever Stanley Cup trophy in June.) The WNBA was launched in 1997, and there are currently six teams in each conference.

Nats get revenge on Mets

In spite of their negligible post-season prospects, the Nationals still show competitive spunk from time to time. After getting shut out by the Mets twice (making it three straight shutout losses), the Nats roared back with a vengeance on August 26. A solo homer by Wilmer Difo broke the 30+ inning scoreless streak, and they piled on more runs in the last couple innings, including a grand slam by Mark Reynolds, his first as a Nat. Final score: 15-0. The Nats could have used some of those surplus runs in the three previous games, when their opponents scored a total of eight runs.

Nats beat Phillies twice

The Nats carried that momentum from Queens to south Philadelphia on the next two nights, beating the Phillies 5-3 and 5-4. The Phillies just didn't play with much enthusiasm, and the small crowd sizes (averaging about 22,000) may have been part of the reason. The Nats had hopes of a sweep, but Gio Gonzalez had an off day in the final game of the series, and they lost, 8-6.

Brewers prevail over Nats

Back home in Washington on the final night of August, the Nationals lost to the Milwaukee Brewers 4-1 even though they out-hit the visitors 9 to 6. As is typical of this year, the Nats were 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position. Tanner Roark gave up all four runs in the first three innings, and then pitched three more innings. And thus, the Nationals ended up with yet another losing record (14-15) in the fourth month out of five so far this season. The Washington Nationals page has been duly updated.

The first game of September wasn't looking good when rain interrupted play in the latter innings. But maybe that break was just what the Nats needed, as they staged a clutch rally in the bottom of the eighth, capped by a two-run single by Juan Soto. The Nats held on to win that one, 5-4, thus taking Steven Strasburg off the hook for what would have been a loss.

The rubber game game of that series was going well enough early on (especially given that rookie Jefry Rodriguez was pitching for the Nats), but things went south in a hurry in the fifth inning, when the Brewers scored seven runs. Keon Broxton's homer put the visitors ahead 5-4, and soon Tim Collins took the mound as a reliever. One walk later, the bases were loaded, and Christian Yelich hit the first grand slam of his career, giving the Brewers a 9-4 lead. Neither team scored after that.

Cardinals pound Nats

On Monday the St. Louis Cardinals came to town, and Max Scherzer once again rose to the challenge by striking out 11 batters over seven innings, while allowing just three runs. But the Nats were behind two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, when Bryce Harper smashed a home run to tie the game. In the tenth inning, he came to bat again, with runners at first and third, and he played the hero role again, with a long sacrifice fly to left field. Nats win, 4-3!

But after that momentum of exhiliration, the Nats had another relapse. In both the Tuesday night game and Wednesday night game, they showed a lot of spunk in spite of adverse circumstances. Erick Fedde did OK as starting pitcher, giving up four runs over five innings, but rookie reliever Austen Williams somehow gave up three home runs in the sixth inning, while Sammy Solis (just called back up from the minors once again) gave up a grand slam in the ninth inning, giving the visitors a six-run lead. The Nats tried their best in te bottom of the ninth, getting three runs and had the potential tying run in the batter's box, but a hard ground ball hit by Matt Wieters was snagged by the second baseman for the final out. Cardinals 11, Nationals 8.

Tonight (Wednesday), Tanner Roark started the game by giving up two singles and a home run -- by none other than Matt Adams, who was recently traded away by the Nats! Adams hit another homer in the fifth inning, giving his new team a 6-0 lead. Once again, the Nats showed spunk with a late rally, getting four runs in the seventh inning thanks mainly to a bases-clearing double by Ryan Zimmerman. The Nats outhit the Cards 16-15, but wasted a huge opportunity in the ninth inning (runners on first and second with nobody out), and fell agonizingly short in the 7-6 loss.

But the Braves lost to the Red Sox in Atlanta this afternoon, as the visiting team scored twice in the top of the ninth to win, 9-8, so the Nationals remain 7 1/2 games behind the Braves in the NL East race. Ironically, they have a better chance at the division title than the New York Yankees, who are now nine games behind the Red Sox, but a virtually cinch to be a wild card team -- unlike the Nationals.

Goodbye to Gio Gonzalez

The series against the Brewers was marked by a awkward transaction: Gio Gonzalez was traded to the opposing team just before the trade deadline on August 31. So the next day he appeared in the other dugout, wearing a Brewers uniform, and waving wistfully to the crowd. The trade was no surprise, since he was in the final year of his contract and as an aging veteran, there wasn't much chance the Nats would sign him again. Gio has caught some flak in recent years for flinching in high-pressure situations such as last year's NLDS Game 5. For the most part, however, he was a rock-solid, durable pitcher who made a big difference in the Nationals' rising fortunes from 2012 (when he was acquired) until this year.

Goodbye and good luck in Milwaukee, Gio!
Thanks for helping make the Nats a winning team!

GioGonzalez

Gio Gonzalez in Citizens Bank Park on August 31, 2016, when the Nats edged the Phillies 2-1, thanks to a Jayson Werth solo homer and a Wilson Ramos RBI. (See September 7, 2016 blog post.)



August 25, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Beautiful days to enjoy nature

The weather for the last few days has been just perfect, almost making me wish I still rode a bicycle. (I certainly could use the exercise.) After attending to chores, late on Thursday morning I went for a brief but vigorous hike along the Falls Hollow trail, located a few miles east of Augusta Springs on Route 254. Birds were predictably scarce given the time of year, though I did glimpse a probable Worm-eating Warbler and a Broad-winged Hawk. The only other birds I saw were an Eastern Wood Pewee, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and some Tufted Titmice and Black-capped Chickadees. But the venture was worth it, as I saw in abundant assortment of mushrooms! That kept me busy with the camera.

Mushroom Montage 23 Aug 2018

Mushrooms: Species yet to be determined...

As I returned along the trail, I came across an older fellow with a big bag and plastic bucket full of reddish-brown fungi, which he called "Leatherback" mushrooms. He almost insisted that I take some home with me to try, and I obliged him. I did a quick Internet search (wikipedia), and confirmed that the Lactifluus volemus are not only edible but are a tasty species that can be used in casseroles. I fried a few, carefully tested a small amount one night, and then had a meal-sized portion this evening. No problem (so far)! smile

On Friday morning I went to Bell's Lane, which was pretty quiet at first, just a Brown Thrasher hiding in the bushes and a few Hummingbirds that I photographed. (The latter are not included in the montage below.) It seemed to get busier after about 11:00, however. A juvenile Goldfinch just north of the Ford farm entrance was making alarm calls as I approached (photo at lower right), and its father came to help. I also glimpsed a Yellow Warbler and saw a family of E. Phoebes nearby; I think the photo here (left) is of a juvenile. By the beaver pond I was startled to see a female Orchard Oriole close by. At first I wasn't sure what that bright yellow bird was! There were one or two Kingbirds mixed in with the hordes of swallows (Tree, N. Rough-winged, and Barn), as well as a Kingfisher and Green Heron in the distance. I also saw (and heard) two Red-tailed Hawks.

Birds Montage 24 Aug 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: House Finch (M), Orchard Oriole (F), American Goldfinch (juv.), Belted Kingfisher, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Phoebe (juv.), and Eastern Kingbird. (August 24, 2018) Several other photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.



August 25, 2018 [LINK / comment]

NEW: Periodic Table of the Stadiums!

For some time, I have been pondering a graphical-based way to navigate among stadium pages, as a quicker alternative to the text-based Stadium lists page. One possibility was utilizing a map of the United States with thumbnail diagrams somehow stacked in each respective urban area, but I just didn't get very far. Then I tried putting thumbnails in some logical sequence, and ended up creating a "Periodic Table of Stadiums," which will look familiar to anyone who has ever taken a chemistry course. To my amazement, the pieces of the proverbial puzzle all started to fit together.

The basic idea behind this table is that geographic space is represented by the columns (left is west, and right is east) and time is represented by the rows -- but in both cases, I had to make compromises for the sake of expedience. It bears some similarity in concept to the Stadiums by class, which is largely chronological but not geographical. To get the stadiums to fit the "template" of the Periodic Table of the Elements, I had to combine Boston with Canada, and had to put four stadiums in places where there are no corresponding elements: League Park, Fenway Park, Colt Stadium, and the Astrodome. To add to the "educational value," the color coding is based on the actual Periodic Table of the Elements: Light Metals, Transitional Metals, Misc. Non-metals, Halogens, and Noble Gases. Note that I put Hydrogen in the Halogen column (VIIA), rather than in the Light Metal column (IA), as is conventional; otherwise there would be no room for all six Pennsylvania stadiums. The use of Baker Bowl as the default diagram displayed in the middle is partly because it was the most compact and therefore has the least obstructive effect on the other parts of the table, and partly because it was built in the 19th Century and almost doesn't belong with the rest of them.

This is the culmination of many hours of coding effort, and I hope it was worth it. Here's a screen grab to show what it's supposed to look like, or will look like in the near future. For the time being, stadiums whose diagrams are in need of revision have a red border around them, but those red borders will disappear over the next couple months or so. If anyone has problems with it, please let me know. Otherwise, enjoy! smile

Periodic table of stadiums

Screen grab of the brand-new "Periodic Table of Stadiums." Click on it to go that page.

Nats lose three straight shutouts

Coming on the heels of an uplifting walk-off home run by Ryan Zimmerman (see below), the Washington Nationals had hopes for sweeping the It was an epic pitchers' duel in Washington on Thursday afternoon, after the Phillies' Aaron Nola narrowly prevailed over the Nats' Max Scherzer. The Nats' one big chance was in the second inning, when Spencer Kieboom hit a lead-off double. Max Scherzer laid down a fine sacrifice bunt that got him to third base, but then Adam Eaton struck out and Trea Turner lined out on the first pitch he saw. Max got ten more strikeouts, raising his season total to , but it was all for nought as one pitch he threw was just where Odubel Herrera was looking for it, and hit smacked that ball into the second deck in right field, scoring the only two runs in that game. What a shame. frown

Beginning a weekend series against the Mets in New York on Friday night, Gio Gonzalez bounced back from a poor start against the Marlins last week. I one of his best outings all year, he went seven full innings while only giving up one run. But that was all it took for the Mets to win, although they did tack on two insurance runs in the eighth inning. The Nats' one big chance was in the second inning, when Ryan Zimmerman and Juan Soto both singled, but then Matt Wieters flew out, Michael A. Taylor struck out, and Wilmer Difo popped out on a foul ball. And so, Gio's heroic effort was totally wasted; how pathetic. Final score: Mets 3, Nats 0. frown

And this afternoon, Tanner Roark put in yet another exceptional outing on the mound, striking out seven and only allowing one run and four hits over six innings. But the Mets' Zack Wheeler was slightly better, allowing six hits without any runs over seven innings. Time and time again the Nats had opportunities, and they just blew it. They had the bases loaded in the third inning with one out, but Anthony Rendon lined out and Juan Soto grounded out. They were one for eight with runners in scoring position. Juan Soto was tagged out twice at second base: once on a steal attempt and once when he tried to stretch a single into a double. That was in the eighth inning when they were behind 2-0, and one extra run didn't matter much. No excuse, even for a rookie. Same score as yesterday: 3-0. frown

And so, in spite of superb performances by starting pitchers in each game, the Nationals were shut out in three consecutive games for the first time in team (as opposed to franchise) history. According to the guys on MASN, that happened to the Montreal Expos in their final year, 2004. Tomorrow the Nats pin their hopes of avoiding being swept on starting pitcher Jefry Rodriguez, a rookie with a 1-1 record.

Walk-off home runs

When I noted on Wednesday night that the walk-off home run by Ryan Zimmerman ("Mr. Walk-off") was his first one in more than three years, I really should have mentioned that it was the eleventh walk-off home run of his career. That is especially noteworthy, because Ryan is now only two behind the all-time leader in that category, Jim Thome! Six men are tied in second place with twelve such homers: Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Albert Pujols, Frank Robinson, and Babe Ruth. Two others besides Ryan have hit eleven: Tony Perez and David Ortiz. For the entire list, see MLB.com

I noticed that all of those listed with at least eleven walk-off homers are either Hall of Famers or (in the cases of Pujols and Ortiz) a Hall of Famer to-be. So what does that say for Ryan's chances of being inducted into Cooperstown some day?

And a final note about walk-off home runs: Cubs rookie David Bote, who stuck a figurative knife into the hearts of Nats fans when his two-out, two-strike bottom-of-the-ninth bases-load four-bagger won the game on August 12, did it again yesterday afternoon, as the Cubs beat the Reds 3-2 in 10 innings. Worth mentioning is that Daniel Murphy hit his first home run since joining the Cubs on Tuesday, and it put the Cubs ahead 2-1 in the eighth inning of that game. See chicagotribune.com and MLB.com.



August 23, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Birding in (& en route to) Annapolis

Birding was not a priority during our weekend trip to Annapolis, but we did see some species that we would not see otherwise, and I got a few photos. On our way up there on Saturday afternoon, at the southern end of the Potomac River bridge on Route 301, we saw an Osprey nest, and I managed to get some quick photos. In the distance, there were a number of Double-crested Cormorants flying just above the water, but my photos of them were not very good.

In the water by the docks in downtown Annapolis there were many Mallards, and I photographed a female at close range. Once or twice I heard and saw what I believe were Boat-tailed Grackles, the range of which extends along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Just as we got started on a boat tour of the Annapolis harbor at noon on Sunday, a small grayish bird landed in our midst, causing a flurry of commotion. It turned out to be a recently-fledged Barn Swallow, and I took a photo of it. One of the crew members placed it on the roof of the boat, in hopes that it might recover and/or regain contact with its parents. On the roof of one of the Naval Academy buildings, I saw many gulls, including a Great Black-backed Gull. I saw a few Laughing Gulls, identified by their distinctive black heads, but only got mediocre photos of them. Then during the return leg of the boat excursion, there was another bird photo-op: we passed an Osprey nest that had been built on a small navigation tower. There were three juveniles (presumably already fledged) in the nest, and one adult Osprey perched alongside. The other gulls were probably Ring-billed Gulls. There were also a few Double-crested Cormorants.

Birds Montage 19 Aug 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Barn Swallow (juv.), Ospreys (juv.), Laughing Gull, Great Black-backed Gull (and other gulls), and Double-crested Cormorant. (August 19, 2018) Several other photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.



August 23, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Weekend trip to Annapolis

Jacqueline and I paid a visit to Annapolis on Saturday and Sunday, the first time we had been there in over 20 years. It was starting to rain as we left Staunton, but it stopped as soon as we crossed the Blue Ridge. Nevertheless, the skies remained overcast until about noon on Sunday. Not wanting to waste time, we resisted my temptation to stop at some of the Civil War battlefield sites along the way -- Wilderness, Chancellorsville, and Fredericksburg. The heavy traffic upon entering the latter city slowed us down, and I briefly got turned around while trying to make all the right turns on the east side of town. As we approached the town of Dahlgren (home of a U.S. Navy installation) we encountered a massive traffic jam, and it was agonizing stop-and-go pace for the four or so miles leading up to the Potomac River bridge on Route 301. Apparently, it was all because of an incident involving a car that had been stopped by police at the top of the bridge. There was no toll booth in the northbound direction, so that had no effect.

After crossing the bridge, we stopped at the Maryland welcome center, and got lots of good information. We passed through the towns of La Plata, Waldorf, Upper Marlboro, and then Bowie before turning east on Route 50. Soon we were in Annapolis, and drove straight to downtown where we became oriented and began looking for a place to eat dinner -- seafood, of course. There was a long line and waiting time of well over an hour at a restaurant in the Eastport area (across a bridge from central Annapolis), so we had to look elsewhere. Eventually, we ended up at Cantler's Riverside Inn, a big seafood establishment that lived up to its fine reputation. It's located in a nice riverside residential neighborhood east of the Severn River, isolated from other businesses. At least one hundred customers filled the inside and patio dining areas. We got a half dozen large steamed hard-shell crabs, a delicacy I had not savored for years. It was a bit pricey (thanks in part to a shortage of labor due to the Trump administration's tightened immigration policy, according to the Washington Post), but well worth it for a special occasion.

On Sunday morning, we had a hearty breakfast (waffle and French toast) at Grump's, a diner/bar with lots of "character," favored by local folks. It was friendly and much more enjoyable than a chain restaurant would have been. Then we headed downtown (which is extremely congested) and parked at a public lot, and started walking around. We headed north along some narrow streets lined with quaint houses built in the 19th Century, many with eccentric paint schemes. It's obviously highly coveted real estate. After a brief stop at the Maryland State House (i.e., the capitol building), we headed back south along a different street.

Next we decided to take a boat tour of the Annapolis harbor. (Two close encounters with birds occurred during that tour, described in a separate blog post.) Then we headed east along the south side of the U.S. Naval Academy campus, turning left at the corner and following the east side of the campus almost to the new (1996) bridge that crosses the Severn River. Then we passed some Navy facilities on the east bank of that river, turned east toward all the sailboat marinas in the Eastport area, where we had been late in the preceding afternoon. After about 45 minutes we completed the circuit and docked back in the harbor. It was very interesting and lots of fun.

After the boat ride, we walked northward once again, but this time along Main Street, which of course is where most of the businesses are located. We reached the State House, took a slight detour to nearby St. Anne's Church and the Government House (the historic residence of the governor), and I took some more photos of the State House as well. The sun had emerged by then, but conditions were still very hazy, making it hard to get good photos. The warming temperatures were an inducement for us to indulge in some ice cream. Finally, we went to the U.S. Naval Academy visitors center and saw a film about the life of cadets [midshipmen]* there. It was very inspiring, and a fitting end to our visit. On our way out of Annapolis I stopped to get a photo of the iconic Main Chapel and the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, home of the Navy football team. GO NAVY!

Annapolis montage

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The tower above the Maryland State House (south side), the Government House, U.S. Naval Academy Main Chapel, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, boats at dock, the Annapolis Federal House, and in center, quaint townhouses on Fleet Street.

It was a much shorter trip than our brief visit to see the solar eclipse in Tennessee last August, and to my surprise, we made it there and back on a single tank of gas! Full-size photos of the images seen above, and many more photos, are on the Chronological (2018) photo gallery. NOTE: I have recently upgraded that page, so that you can see full-size images of the standard landscape orientation by clicking on the photos, and then returning to small size by clicking again. Photos in a vertical ("portrait") orientation are now handled differently, hopefully making navigation and browsing easier.

* Thanks to Peter Van Acker for the correction.




 

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What's this about?

This blog features commentary and musings on a diverse but well-defined set of topics, from a critical-minded conservative point of view, featuring a veritable library of original graphics and statistical information. It is distinguished in many ways from the rest of the "blogosphere." My blog entries cover a rigidly defined set of topics, with varying degrees of intensity according to how much is going on in each area, and how much time I have. Being somewhat of a "do-it-yourselfer," I chose a "home-made" approach rather than conforming to the common blogging systems such as Blogger or WordPress. The blog entries and archives are arranged in a sort of "proprietary" scheme that I have gradually developed over time. Finally, being an old-fashioned, soft-spoken kind of guy, I avoid attention-grabbing sensationalism and strident rhetoric, and strive instead to maintain a reasonable, dignified, respectful tone.

"It's not just a blog, it's an adventure!"



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My blog practices

My general practice is to make no more than one blog post per day on any one category. For this reason, some blog posts may address more than one specific issue, as indicated by separate headings. If something important happens during the day after I make a blog post, I may add an updated paragraph or section to it, using the word "UPDATE" and sometimes a horizontal rule to distinguish the new material from the original material. For each successive day, blog posts are listed on the central blog page (which brings together all topics) from top to bottom in the following (reverse alphabetical) order, which may differ from the order in which the posts were originally made:

  1. Wild birds (LAST)
  2. War
  3. Science & Technology *
  4. Politics
  5. Latin America
  6. Culture & Travel *
  7. Canaries ("Home birds")
  8. Baseball (FIRST)

* part of "Macintosh & Miscellanous" until Feb. 2007

The date of each blog post refers to when the bulk of it was written, in the Eastern Time Zone. For each blog post, the time and date of the original posting (or the last update or comment thereupon) is displayed on the individual archival blog post page that appears (just before the comments section) when you click the [LINK / comments] link next to the date. Non-trivial corrections and clarifications to original blog entries are indicated by the use of [brackets] and/or strikethroughs, as appropriate so as to accurately convey both the factual truth and my original representation of it. Nobody's perfect, but I strive for continual improvement. That is also why some of the nature photos that appear on the archive pages may differ from the (inferior) ones that were originally posted.

The current "home made" blog organization system that I created, featuring real permalinks, was instituted on November 1, 2004. Prior to that date, blog posts were handled inconsistently, and for that reason the pre-2005 archives pages are something of a mess. Furthermore, my blogging prior to June 1, 2004 was often sporadic in terms of frequency.



 

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