Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Great Granola!

This is a recipe for a rich, tasty granola that sets me up for the whole day. Late lunch? No problem if you got a bellyfull of this stuff, loaded with nuts, seeds and fruit.


1/2 cup olive oil

4 cups quick oats ("quick" refers to the cut of the oats, not instant oats!!)
1 cup walnut pieces or crumbs
1 cup, some combination of all or any of
sunflower seeds
pumpkin seeds
pecan pieces
your favourite nut or seed
1/8 to 1/4 cup half and half ground flax and sesame seeds
toss in some ground hazelnuts if you have them

1 cup raisins
1 cup other dried fruit

Generally I use mostly dried cranberries for the second cup of fruit, with the addition of dried papaya, mango, and apricots, chopped up. But again, chuck in your favourites, or just use two cups of raisins.

Preheat oven to 300 F
Put the oil in a 9x14 glass baking dish and into the oven for 10 minutes. Add oats, stir in until oil is evenly absorbed. Return to the oven for 25 minutes. Then stir in the nuts and seeds and back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Remove and stir in the dried fruit.

Some like the first bowl warm--I usually wait until it's almost cold before eating, it's crisper that way. To keep it crisp, let cool completely before storing.

Serve with milk and maybe a little brown sugar (some say the dried fruit makes it sweet enough). Can also be eaten dry like an oaty trail mix, or with yogurt, or...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Know thyself!

Came across this at Snail's Tales, a quick test at bookblog to reassure you, or correct your false assumption, about your gender (or sex, "gender" is so often misused that the difference between the two is fading away) based on your writing.

I submitted four posts (Hand spam?, Snowy Owls--Already?, The Chickaree and the Juniper Berries and Midsummer). Based on the best three out of four, turns out I have been labouring under a false assumption--I am not female after all, but the other one. Here are the results for Midsummer, the only post over 500 words I submitted:

Words: 1375
(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

Female Score: 1210
Male Score: 2204

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

Not sure what to do now....change my name? There is a link to an article in Nature on the test's page about the basis of the algorithm that checks your text, but unfortunately it's only available to subscribers.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hand spam?

This morning I found 4 comments on a post from June 2006 (Timing: A tale of two trees), apparently designed to entice readers to visit 4 different off-topic websites. Here's one of the comments:
Health is the functional and/or metabolic efficiency of an organism,
at any moment in time, at both the cellular and global levels.
All individual organisms, from the simplest to the most complex,
vary between optimum health and zero health
I've taken them down.

I checked the my site stats to see if I could figure out where they came from and it looks like they probably came from India, and are the work of someone who found the archive page where the post lives through a search for "flower blogosphere." I checked the post to make sure the spam guard was still operational. It was. And the comments were posted a couple of minutes apart. So I can only conclude that this was done by hand. Meantime, I am getting increasing numbers of spam emails on email accounts that have until the last couple of weeks been relatively spam-free, suggesting that techniques for mining email addresses are becoming more sophisticated. A two-front spam attack seems to be going on--sneakier technology on one, more labour-intensive activities on the other. If people are willing to spam blogs by hand, the only way to deal with it will be to moderate comments by hand. Not terribly onerous at my moderate comment rate, but what a drag for higher profile blogs!

Image created with the help of the Warning Sign Generator.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Snowy Owls--Already?

Last December snowy owls were all over the place, everywhere but here, as I wrote in Whither Snowys? Snowy owls came south in near record numbers (see this report from the GBBC). I've never seen one, so I published photos of a nice location for one to visit, but either not good enough, or they don't read blogs.

This fall Dave of Bird TLC was fortunate enough to have a snowy come to live with him (an owl from the rehab centre where he volunteers that cannot be returned to the wild). Today I read that one had been spotted yesterday (check out the wonderful photos) in Prescott-Russell (at Les Oiseaux de Prescott-Russell et d'ailleurs). That's not terribly far away, a couple hundred kilometres to the northeast of Thomasburg. A quick blog search revealed another snowy spotted in the the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, in Massachusetts, last weekend. That's southeast of me. Clearly I've got to move east!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hear thyself

I came across a link to this quiz at Pharyngula that identifes American accents by region (also picked up by John at A DC Birding blog). So I went and took it.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.


The West


The Northeast

The Inland North

North Central

The South

What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

This is not an unreasonable result for a Canadian, many of us do find our way into the United States as broadcasters, though according to commenters at Pharyngula, Canadians ended up with a variety of results. And not surprisingly, the few questions that make up the quiz fail to distinguish all the regional sounds, even in broad strokes. Apparently southern American accents just slip on by.

Most interesting in the comments to this Canadian though was a link to a site about Canadian raising (Canadian raising and other oddities), a phenomenon that explains why Americans hear us saying "aboot" for "about," and we don't know what they're talking aboot. There a number of audio clips of the phenomenon--I'm still not sure what people in other English-speaking communities are hearing, but at least now I know that I don't know, eh. (Narrative use of "eh," also explained on the site, though the example there is a little off.)

I worked in a call centre for a few months a few years ago, ostensibly helping people with their internet connections--actually my job was to get people off the phone as soon as was contractually possible, which is one of the reasons I lasted only a few months. The callers were in the United States, and I was identified as a Canadian by almost one a day. Could it be because I was born and raised in Toronto? According to the website:
Canadian raising is especially rampant among natives of Toronto, who also have a unique way of pronouncing the name of their city.
One of my favourite sounds is the name of my native city pronounced by an American. All those beautiful round syllables.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Who's that on the kitchen floor?

I walked into the kitchen in the middle of the day to find this, more than 2 cm of beetle, in the middle of the floor. Well, you can't stay here, I said. But wait here while I get my camera. It did. So I did, and then lifted the critter up and carried it out to the front porch for a little photo session. Calm on the kitchen floor, it was perhaps feeling a little harassed from being carried, so started to leave immediately upon being set down.

Nicrophorus orbicollis
Heading for cover

I managed a shot anyway, and posted it to

Answers started coming in within hours. Apparently this is a carrion or burying beetle (Family, Silphidae; species, Nicrophorus orbicollis), a nocturnal beast, perhaps also a factor in its run for cover once it got outside. It lives by joining forces with its mate in burying small mammals to serve as food for their larvae. This is an unusual kind of family life for a beetle.

Given how it makes its living though, I got to wonder what else is in the kitchen that I haven't noticed yet.

If it's Friday, it's time to board the Friday Ark

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Noting Birds

I've been trying to watch for the last kinglet--so much more difficult than watching for the first. But maybe today? I was in Vanderwater Conservation Area (just east of the hamlet) for a walk (avoiding the deer hunters--the gun season opened here on Monday), and there they were, a small flock of kinglets, of which I could identify a couple of Golden-crowned, but didn't see them all well enough to be sure that there weren't a few Ruby-crowned among them. I'm learning to tell them apart by call, I think. The calls are very similar to my ear, but the Golden-crowned seems to be stronger, and wider (i.e., not so thready) than the Ruby. I'm so good that usually when I hear one, if I think, oh, that's a Golden, it turns out to be so. But not so good that I can say when hearing a bunch calling together that they are all one or the other or both. But Ruby or not, I'm marking this, November 9, as the current candidate for last kinglets.

But it's time for FeederWatch, so much easier than trying to mark lasts. I'll join John of A DC Birding Blog, and Mike of 10,000 Birds in recommending this bit of citizen science to anyone in North America with a bird feeder. The protocol is simple--the data collected by the feeder watchers is important. Go to FeederWatch at Cornell Ornithological in the US or Bird Studies Canada in Canada to sign up.

But before you do, be sure to visit the wonderful I and the Bird #36, hosted by Roger of Words and Pictures to read about other noteworthy birds and bird events from around the world.

I and the Bird

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Chickaree and the Juniper Berries

I was walking in the far field, and by the big red cedar near the apple tree I heard a red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, écureuil roux, chickaree) scold fiercely, once. I couldn't see it at that moment, and it didn't sound again, so I forgot about it and went back to peering into the now much more open shrubbery looking for kinglets (last seen October 30: ruby-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula, Roitelet à couronne rubis)), watching the robins, and listening to the chickadees. I then noticed an audible munching coming from the other side of the red cedar. I tried to peer through the branches, and could just make out a reddish shape. I'd forgotten about the squirrel, and was wondering if a robin could possibly be making that much noise eating (I think not). I walked carefully around to see this scene.

red squirrel eating red cedar berries
According to this article in the journal Ecology (full article only available through library subscriptions to the journal), the fruit of the common juniper (Juniperus communis) and red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) are important food sources for red squirrels, as well as a number of birds. The article is about seed dispersal: while the birds eat the fruit whole, and "disperse" the seeds later, the squirrels scrape off the fruit and just eat the seed inside--hence the noise of the operation.

I stayed for several minutes watching, and moving up slowly, a squirrel gobbling the seeds like there was no tomorrow. It would tear off a laden branch tip, hold it in its front paws and just demolish it, cast it aside and tear off another. I finally got close enough to shift it: it let loose one scold, and then just moved down into the tree a little and continued to dine.

Grapes were great this year too, and this squirrel was within paw's reach of a great many ripe, sweet (much sweeter now, after a few frosts) wild grapes, but ignored them in favour of the red cedar berries. Takes all kinds.

squirrel surrounded by red cedar berries and wild grapes
Lush grapes in easy reach, ignored

All aboard the Friday Ark!