Superman Addendum

A quick note: At work this week they've been selling some leftover books to raise funds for the United Way. Today I was looking through them and found a graphic novel collecting old Superman comics. One of them was written by Alvin Schwartz! It's funny how those things happen.

I bought the book, of course.

An Unlikely Prophet

Lately I've been reading books about comic books. I started with Mutants and Mystics by Jeffrey Kripal, which was a fascinating history of comics books and science fiction, showing how authors have incorporated their paranormal experiences into their stories. It was so good that part of me wants to re-read it and take copious notes.

But before doing that, I decided to read a book discussed in Mutants and Mystics, called An Unlikely Prophet by Alvin Schwartz:

Schwartz wrote Superman and Batman comics in the 1940s and '50s. Decades later, in his eighties, he had a kind of awakening, where he realized how often Superman and the paranormal intertwined during his life. The book describes how he came to that realization. It's marketed as an autobiography, but it very effectively weaves in his imagination. So much so that it's hard to tell which parts are real and which aren't, and that's probably the whole point. For me, this was the most profound, reality-shattering book I've ever read. I immediately read it again, taking lots of notes the second time.

Schwartz says that late in his life he was contacted by a man claiming to be a tulpa: a living person created entirely out of pure thought by someone else. In other words, a fully materialized thought form. The tulpa says he's there to help Schwartz finish creating his own Superman tulpa, a process he unknowingly started while writing Superman comics early in his life, but never finished.

This is crazy, right? Schwartz agreed, telling the man such things aren't possible. People in the twentieth century know better (the book was published in 1997). The tulpa says:

"But what you call the twentieth century, Mr. Schwartz, is only an atmosphere--or a climate. It does not reach everywhere. The forces that make up each climate are never quite the same."
Schwartz writes:

After that he talked about how complex reality is. He used the word as though it had quotation marks around it. He said reality had many levels of which we in the West knew only a single one.
What other levels of reality are there?

... Thongden's response was that the body itself is a composite and has no essential reality. A so-called out-of-body state, he said, is no different from any kind of in-body state that incorporates flying or any other unusual abilities. Thongden insisted that one such state is no more likely than another except that there seems to be, in our Western culture at this particular time, a consensus that the nonflying state is the "real" state.
All of this causes Schwartz to remember paranormal events in his life, often when he was writing Superman comics. He starts to take the tulpa seriously, telling his wife:

"I'm beginning to realize we live in a very strange world, Kay. We pass our everyday lives as though it simply weren't so."

The tulpa keeps pushing Schwartz:

"Mr. Schwartz, have you ever wondered why one cannot see from the inside? Is there a law that keeps you bound to the outside--to the external? Is there a law that says you are fixed in just one moment of time, at one moment of your age, at one place only? Your purpose in being here today is to abandon that prejudice by entering the Path without Form."

I'm still not quite certain what the Path without Form is, but under the tulpa's direction, Schwartz learns to transfer his consciousness into animals, other people, and even his younger self, by making a concentrated leap of the mind.

Of all the quotes in the book, there was one that, for me, towered over all the others. One of the memories Schwartz recalled is a conversation he had (or imagined he had?) with a Hawaiian shaman during a trip to Hawaii in the 1960s. The shaman, foreshadowing the tulpa's appearance a few decades later, said this:
"One day," he said, "you'll find out for yourself what thinking can do. The power of thought is sometimes more than the thinker. Lucky most people don't understand that. They think so many different thoughts that nothing much happens, which is probably a good thing. But lately a lot of angels are being created. That's right. Angels. Where do you think all the books and stories about angels come from? Out of thin air? No. Because people need help and don't know where to turn, so they look for guardian angels, and the power gets formed, and the angels are there. And sometimes they can help. Up to a point. Then there are the people who create space aliens. But mostly they're very confused about what they want from aliens, you know?
That may be the single best explanation of the UFO phenomenon I have ever read.

So how does it end? Does Schwartz fully manifest Superman into a tulpa? The answer is maybe. Or maybe not. But what he realizes is that Superman represents the highest possible state of human consciousness. Superman exists for the rescue: for that single moment in time when all of his power and strength is concentrated in the now, to save someone in peril. That's a state humans can achieve, such as in times of extreme personal danger. Schwartz then realizes that no one can live their life in that state; they would burn out in a matter of minutes or hours, and that's why Clark Kent has to exist. Even Superman can't be Superman all the time. He has to return to an ordinary, average, everyday existence to balance out his superpowers.

And for us, we can, temporarily, move beyond our everyday Clark Kent existence and make use of our own superhuman selves. How do we do that? The tulpa not only has the answer, but is the answer:
"The key is thought."
This was easily one of the best books I've ever read. Even reading it again, knowing what was going to happen, I was still riveted and sometimes even shocked for a second time at how profound it was. I'm happy to report that Schwartz wrote a sequel (published when he was 89!), called A Gathering of Selves, about Batman. I look forward to reading that next.

After Life

At my day job, I deal with a lot of books. Last Friday, late in the afternoon, I stumbled across, purely by accident, a book called After Life: Ways We Think About Death. It was a short book, written for middle school students, and the description said it "examines the history, beliefs and customs surrounding death in cultures around the world". That sounded interesting, so I opened it up and started reading.

I was startled almost immediately when I saw the book was dedicated to 2 people: one named Wendy, and one named Joy! What a strange coincidence, I thought. I know people with those names. In the back of my mind, I hoped it wasn't some kind of ill omen, a sign that I should read it because of some impending death.

I put those thoughts aside and skimmed through the book. A note at the beginning said that not talking about death to kids can make it bigger and scarier for them, so the author hoped to open the door to discussing it, by looking at how science and culture look at death. I liked that the first chapter started by talking about how we are all made of stardust, and how the atoms of all living things get recycled into other living things over many years. Overall, it was an interesting read.

To be honest, though, I never got the idea of the ill omen out of my head. It gave me an ominous feeling for most of the weekend. That feeling was replaced with shock when the news broke on Sunday that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. After the initial shock wore off (and it took a while, because, boy, that was a big shock!), it occurred to me that maybe the strange coincidence and ominous feeling were really a kind of premonition. Who knows.

What I do know is that I became a Kobe Bryant fan by way of Coach Phil Jackson. Way back in the '90s, I was a big fan of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the Chicago Bulls. As I watched them win championship after championship, it dawned on me that it had to be more than Jordan and Pippen. They must have a really good coach, too. At some point while I was in college, I looked around to see what I could learn about their coach, Phil Jackson. I bought a copy of his autobiography, called Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior. In it, I learned that his lifelong quest was to merge basketball and spirituality. That was such a bizarre goal that I became an instant fan of him as a coach.

After the Bulls dynasty ended, Phil took a year off and then became head coach of the Lakers, with superstars Kobe and Shaq on the team. Thus, I became a big Lakers fan, and from 1999 - 2011 (I can't believe it was that long!) I cheered for Phil, Kobe, Shaq, and everyone else on the team as they won championship after championship, but also as they endured drama after drama (and boy, was there a lot of it!).

In hindsight, no wonder I was so shocked at Kobe's death. I spent an entire decade reading and watching and rooting for all things Lakers.

To come full circle, here are some random, interesting things I learned from the After Life book:

  • During the plague, "doctors wore masks with birdlike beaks filled with dried flowers, herbs and spices, which they thought would protect them from the disease". I've seen drawings of plague doctors wearing those masks, but I never knew why they wore them.
  • At a nursing home in Rhode Island, a cat named Oscar always knew when people were about to die. Ever since he was young, he would jump on a bed and cuddle with someone, who then died a few hours later. It got to the point that the nursing home staff would call family members as soon as Oscar jumped on someone's bed. A doctor wrote about Oscar in a medical journal.
  • When talking about cremation, the book noted creative things people have done with cremated remains, like turn them into fireworks, artificial diamonds, and even underwater reefs. I'm reminded of my previous blog post, where a comic book writer requested his remains be turned into a comic book.
  • The book ended with a section on grief. It mentioned the five stages of grief, but said the problem with it is that it implies a linear approach, where you come out the other end suddenly feeling better. The book suggested a different idea, the shape of the number 8, where grief is more like a cycle. The positive feelings are on top and the negative on the bottom, and you can move around in any order, at any time.

The book was an interesting, but rather somber, read.

Mark Gruenwald

When it comes to comics, I love cosmic stories and cosmic characters. My favorite superhero is the Silver Surfer, who roams through space on a surfboard:

And my favorite comic book story is the 6-issue limited series The Infinity Gauntlet, in which Thanos the Mad Titan uses the Infinity gems to gain control over the entire universe.

(The plot of this series inspired the recent Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame movies.)

Back when I collected comics, there was another cosmic superhero who had his own series: Quasar, wielder of the quantum bands.

I would have loved to read more Quasar way back then (the early '90s), but I didn't have the funds to do so. After my deep dive into Darkhawk a few years ago (which I wrote about here), I started thinking about doing the same with Quasar. I went to ebay and found someone selling the entire 60-issue run of Quasar comics. The price was a bit too steep, though, and I didn't even know if the series was any good. All I knew was that I liked cosmic characters, and Quasar was one. So I didn't buy it.

Months later, I discovered the comic-book writer J.M. DeMatteis and went down a deep rabbit hole of reading his works (see this post, this post, and this one too). At some point during all of that, I came across a comment he made about Quasar. I can't find the exact quote, but it was something like this:

"Quasar was the best writing of Mark Gruenwald's career."

I nearly fell out of my chair when I read that. Here I was, uncertain whether to buy the Quasar series, and all of a sudden I see my favorite comic-book writer saying Quasar had outstanding writing. I looked up this Mark Gruenwald guy, since I wasn't familiar with him, and I learned he wrote 59 out of the 60 issues of Quasar. So I went back to ebay and discovered that the listing for the entire Quasar series was still available, 6 months after I initially saw it. I bought it right then.

And I am here to tell you that I LOVED it. All 60 issues. It was cosmic to the max. The writing was outstanding, and it was worth every penny. Apparently Gruenwald had realized that none of Marvel's cosmic characters were human (even the Silver Surfer was from another planet), so his goal with Quasar was to do cosmic from the human perspective. Well, it worked out great.

I looked around for other comics written by Mark Gruenwald, and I learned that he considered his 12-issue limited series The Squadron Supreme to be his magnum opus. It was available through my Marvel Unlimited digital subscription, so it went on my reading list. I actually started reading it last year, when flying home from Phoenix. I got through 3 and a half issues on the plane, but for some reason never kept reading it afterwards.

I was thinking about all of this last week, as Wendy and I were getting ready to fly to Phoenix to visit my family. So I started reading The Squadron Supreme again a few days before our flight. For whatever reason, I was hooked this time. I got over halfway through the series before our flight, and I just barely managed to finish reading it on the plane: I read the last page of the last issue right as our plane pulled up to the gate and the door opened!

The Squadron Supreme, although it wasn't cosmic, was still really good. It's about human civilization being on the brink of collapse, and a group of superheroes installing themselves as world leaders with the goal of solving all of humanity's problems: crime, poverty, hunger, war, disease, even death itself. As you can probably imagine, things go horribly wrong.

On the flight back from Phoenix, I read the much-shorter sequel, also written by Gruenwald, called The Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe. It actually had a cosmic plot, and it was fantastic. Even better than the original 12 issues, in my opinion.

All of this is to say I am now a huge fan of Mark Gruenwald, but I am very sad to report that he died suddenly in 1996, in his early 40's, due to an undiagnosed heart defect. He was such a huge fan of comics, though, that he requested his ashes be used to make a comic book. To honor that wish, when the 12 issues of The Squadron Supreme were collected into a graphic novel, Mark's ashes were mixed into the ink used for printing.

How crazy is that!

Serpent Mound

I've written about Native American mounds a few times, such as our trip to see some in Wisconsin, and a trip to West Virginia where our hotel was near the Criel Mound. There is one mound in the Midwest, though, that is the grand-daddy of them all: the Serpent Mound in Ohio. It's the largest effigy mound in North America, and I think in the world, too. Last month Wendy and I took a weekend trip to see it, as well as see some of the sights in nearby Cincinnati.

One of the first things we did to prepare for our trip is buy a cooler with wheels. When we went to Kansas and Nebraska for the solar eclipse a few years ago, Bill and Beth had one that we borrowed. It was so handy to have. So we bought one the night before our Serpent Mound trip, and filled it with water bottles and all kinds of snacks: bread, cheese, hummus, veggies, and fruit.

It took about six hours to get to Cincinnati, but a time change made it seven. It was dinner time when we got there, so as soon as we checked into our hotel, we went back out to eat. After dinner, we stopped at a place called Graeter's for ice cream. It was $5 for a single large scoop of ice cream, which seemed really expensive to me, but I have to admit it was very good. I had cookies and cream, which I really liked, but Wendy had salted caramel with chocolate chips, and it was even better.

First thing the next morning we drove 90 minutes east of Cincinnati to the Serpent Mound. The drive was mostly on a major highway (and wow, were there a lot of police out and about; I lost count how many times Google Maps said "There's a speed trap ahead") but the last 20 minutes or so were on narrow, curvy roads through lots of hills.

There's a gift shop and very small museum at the Serpent Mound, which we looked at first. One of the things that really surprised me is that the Serpent Mound was built on the site of a huge, ancient meteor crater! The construction of the serpent also has astronomical significance. The serpent's head points to where the sun sets on the summer solstice, and the curves in the serpent's body point to other astronomical events. I did not know these things, and they fascinated me!

We then walked all around the Serpent Mound (twice, actually, at my request) and climbed an observation tower to get a better view. The mound is 1,400 feet long, and even at the top of the tower, it's hard to see all of it clearly.

When we first arrived at the mound, there weren't many people there. But as the morning progressed, it got much busier. We think we might have seen some kind of Wiccan wedding, too! There was a picnic shelter reserved for a private event, and it seemed like a man and woman were at the center of the attention. Later we saw the group walking around the mound and the groom was wearing a skirt and long, blue robe. Unusual, if nothing else.

By this time, it was noon, and we were hungry, so we made a lunch from the many snacks in our cooler. Before leaving, we stopped at the gift shop again, and I scored some loot, which included this super cool wooden turtle bowl:

Then we drove back to Cincinnati (once again avoiding the speed traps) and had enough time left in the day to visit the American Sign Museum. It was fairly small and a little disappointing, to be honest, given the great reviews we'd read, but it did have many different kinds of colorful signs.

The next day was our last day in Cincinnati, and we made the most of it. We started the day by going to the Cincinnati zoo, which is the second oldest zoo in the country. There were lots of neat things to do. We started out with a "cheetah encounter" where we got to see a male and female cheetah sprinting. The female was faster, but the male was terrifyingly big and still very fast.

Later on we waited in a very long line to ride the train around the zoo. It was an okay train ride, certainly not great, but two notable things came out of it. One, as we rode by a small lake, everyone saw some turtles sunning themselves on a log. This caused great excitement among all the kids on the train, and one little boy yelled out "I want a turtle SO BAD!" Ha. I know the feeling, kid.

The other notable thing was that Wendy happened to see a sign saying "Galapagos Turtle Encounter, 2pm". This really piqued my interest, so we added it to our agenda. Around 1:45pm, we decided to head to the turtle area, and this is where we had a problem. Getting around the zoo was kind of confusing. We had a map, and I found where we were on the map and where we needed to go. Despite knowing that, I managed to lead us in a complete circle. This was not good. We were going to miss the turtle encounter. But, I put my logic skills to use, and now that I knew which way not to go, I managed to figure out which way to actually go. And we made it in time, and it was even cooler than I had hoped, because we got to see the Galapagos turtles up close, touch their shells, and take pictures with them. They were only 11 years old, but still quite big, and we learned it would be another 14 years before the zoo would be able to tell their gender! Getting to see them up close was the highlight of the zoo, for me.

It was now mid-afternoon, and despite being exhausted we still had one more stop on our itinerary: the Cincinnati Art Museum. Wendy wanted to see this, and I'm glad we went because 1) it was free parking 2) it was free admission, and 3) it was the last day for an exhibit of art from Burning Man. This exhibit was very weird and super cool. It's hard to describe many of the exhibits because they were so weird, but I enjoyed it immensely.

And that was it! We drove home the next day (gaining an hour this time, instead of losing one). It was a fun trip.

Rain Gauge Notes

Early last week I was thinking about the start of fall, the coming of winter, and how I would have to put away my rain gauge once the weather turned cold. I realized that throughout the spring and summer, there was only one day we had gotten more than an inch of rain, and that was in the spring, just a few days after I installed the rain gauge.

Perhaps I was sensing the future, because by the end of last week we'd had three days with more than an inch of rain! The grand total for my rain gauge last week was 6 inches. Other CoCoRaHS observers in the county reported even more, so it's no surprise there was a lot of flooding in some areas.

There are 2 other rain-gauge-related notes I've been meaning to share:

Death in Paradise

A few years ago, while visiting Wendy's family, Bill watched an episode of a TV show called Death in Paradise. It's about a British detective solving murders on an island in the Caribbean. Wendy and I had never seen it before, but it looked good, so we started watching the show whenever it aired. Recently, Wendy was watching an episode in which a meteorologist was murdered while taking measurements at a weather station. She got excited and called me in to show me this scene:

On the left you can see a rain gauge exactly like the one I have! It's got a funnel at the top, a narrow inner tube and a large outer tube. I would guess there's about a half-inch of rain in it. It's a bummer for the meteorologist that he had to be murdered, but at least his killer was brought to justice in the end.

Powered Paragliding

A month or so ago I went outside in the morning to check my rain gauge. I heard a strange-sounding plane, but I didn't pay much attention to it at first. It got louder, though, so I looked up in the sky to see what it was. Eventually, I saw it, and it wasn't a plane. It was a guy sitting in a chair, attached to a parachute, with a big fan on the back of the chair, propelling him forward.

Huh, I thought. That's weird.

And indeed it was. I didn't think to take a picture, but I'm not sure it would have turned out well anyway. I searched the web for a description of what I saw, and I found it: powered paragliding. Here's a picture of what it looks like:

That's not an everyday sight, at least not in our neighborhood!


In my last post, I mentioned buying a trilobite fossil at the Dunn Museum. That reminded me as a kid I collected a number of rocks around our house that contained fossils, and I've kept them even after all these years. Adding the trilobite to that collection gave me the idea of posting pictures of all the fossils.

Here's the trilobite that I got last week:

The remaining pictures are all ones I collected as a kid.

This is the most impressive one:

This one is much smaller, but I really like the amount of detail on it:

This is another of my favorites. It looks like a little leaf!

There are several little shells on this one:

A lot is going on in this rock:

More shells here:

A series of lines in this rock, but not much else:

Another series of lines here. I'm not sure what it's a fossil of.

Finally, a really good looking shell:

That's my fossil collection.

To take these pictures I first had to learn how to use the macro (close-up) setting on my phone's camera. Then I had to discover that the pictures turned out blurry, regardless of what setting was used. I was bummed. I couldn't write this post without better quality images.

Fortunately, I found a neat product on Amazon that clips onto your phone and puts a lens over your phone's camera to improve the picture quality. It was only $15, so I gave it a try. It came with 3 lenses, one of which was for macro photos, and it worked really well! I am pleased. All of the photos in this post were taken with it.

Dunn Museum

A while back we got an advertisement in the mail for the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County, which featured a special exhibit on Marvelocity: The Art of Alex Ross. I had never heard of Alex Ross, or Marvelocity, or the Dunn Museum. But I enjoy all things Marvel, and the ad had very cool artwork of Captain America, so I was intrigued.

Friday we both took the day off, went out to lunch, and then visited the museum. It's in Libertyville, which is within a 30 minute drive of our house. The museum traces the history of Lake County, starting with a small dinosaur exhibit (which includes an enormous rock with fossils embedded in it) followed by short exhibits on Native Americans, European settlers, the Civil War, and the railroad boom, among others. At the end we came to the Alex Ross exhibit.

Apparently Ross is a famous comic book artist who lives in the Chicago area. The exhibit featured his life-like artwork, and some busts and statues he's made. The most adorable display showed artwork and dolls he made as a child:

The superhero art he's created as an adult is amazing. Here's the artwork of Captain America that was printed on the advertisement we got in the mail:

But, for me, the crown jewel of the collection was a Galactus helmet he made in the early '90s:

I cannot get over how awesome this is. It is sheer brilliance, born of cardboard and duct tape. For those who don't know, this is Galactus: (not drawn by Alex Ross, just an image from the interwebs)

He is a cosmic force in the Marvel universe. A giant being known as the "Devourer of Worlds", who must destroy planets and consume their energy in order to survive. Woe upon you if he chooses your planet! Woe, misery, and doom!

My favorite superhero has forever been the Silver Surfer, who is deeply connected to Galactus. To prevent his planet from being devoured, a man named Norrin Radd offered to become Galactus' herald, and search the universe for planets ideally suited to the giant's appetite. Galactus agreed. Norrin was transformed into the Silver Surfer and saved his planet and his people, but he himself was now slave to Galactus. Until, that is, Galactus tried to devour the Earth, but was foiled when the Fantastic Four managed to convince the Surfer to rebel against his master and help them save the planet.

So yeah, I thought the Galactus helmet was cool.

After we finished the Ross exhibit, I scored some loot in the gift shop. I bought a small trilobite fossil, estimated to be around 400-500 million years old:

And a magnet, featuring Thor and Galactus himself:

The magnet now lives on our refrigerator, right next to a Silver Surfer magnet I bought many years ago:

I enjoyed our trip to the Dunn Museum, and I enjoyed the Alex Ross exhibit a lot.


Last year I wrote about discovering the works of J.M. DeMatteis, a comic book writer, and how it was really a re-discovery of sorts, because he wrote Moonshadow, a graphic novel I read years (nay, decades) ago. Shortly after that post I was able to purchase a cheap, used copy of Moonshadow from eBay, which was a major feat, considering that most used copies of it sold for around $100.

This week a new edition of Moonshadow was published by Dark Horse Comics, and I purchased a copy. It is a beautiful deluxe hardcover:

So what is Moonshadow about, you may ask? That's a difficult question to answer. Here are a few attempts:

  • I like the phrase "a cosmic coming of age story".
  • DeMatteis himself describes it as "Dickens' David Copperfield meets Siddhartha in space". I've never read those books, though, so I have no idea what that means.
  • A commenter on DeMatteis' blog described it as being "like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, except way more poetic", a description which DeMatteis liked.

Here's how the publisher's website describes it:

A romantic, unreliable narrator leads us through his interplanetary coming-of-age story, as an older Moonshadow recounts his strange mixed-species birth in outer space, his escape from a deep-space zoo, and his struggles to survive in a war-torn universe.

It goes on to describe it as poetic, philosophical, and groundbreaking. I would also say it's the most literary graphic novel I've read. It inspired me to read Dostoyevsky, after all!

I was a little disappointed at first that the cover art on the new edition is different from the previous one. But as soon as I opened the book, I discovered a welcome surprise. The previous cover art is beautifully reproduced on the inside cover:

And that reminds me: one of the minor characters in the book is a black cat named Frodo!

I love Moonshadow. I can't wait to re-read it in this new deluxe edition. If you're interested in it, just be aware that the subject matter is inappropriate for kids -- mature readers only!

Assorted Notes


I decided to join CoCoRaHS after all. It's the community of amateur rain gauge readers that I wrote about recently. Since I have their rain gauge, and I'm taking daily measurements, I might as well submit my data to them. They have training material online that I read through. I was discouraged at first, because according to their guidelines I don't have a good place to put a rain gauge, but at the end they said in urban areas there often aren't any good spots, so just do your best. My rain gauge is attached to a post on our deck, which is about the only spot in our yard that isn't covered by trees.

They also recommend taking measurements every day at 7am. I'm not quite that dedicated, but fortunately they accept measurements any time between 4:30am and 9:30am. That I can handle. It's neat to see my data plotted on the county map each day, and see how much rain other observers in the county recorded. I've also been amazed at all the other observations you can submit besides rainfall. Things like:

  • Hail (they have instructions on making a hail pad out of styrofoam to measure hail size)
  • Snow depth and water content of snow (there are entire training sections devoted to these topics)
  • Significant weather events, like extremely heavy rain or snow (these reports are sent immediately to the National Weather Service and have proved vital in helping the NWS decide when to issue flood warnings)
  • Thunder frequency (there are instructions on how to count thunder claps)
  • Even the shape of snowflakes! (They have pics of the predominant snowflake shapes, like stellar dendrites, sectored plates, and rimed crystals, among others.)

All of these are optional, of course. They point out that we are volunteers, and we should only do what we can handle.

One other neat thing is that once you've submitted 100 rainfall observations, your data is included in the Global Historical Climate Network, which is used by researchers around the world.

Bird's Nest

I noticed a while ago that a robin built a nest on top of the electric meter on the side of our house.

This does not seem like a good location! It looks precariously balanced, and is only about waist high, seemingly well within the reach of an animal like a raccoon. But apparently I know nothing about bird nests, because its been working out for them. Over the past few weeks eggs appeared in the nest, followed by four very ugly little baby birds which then quickly grew into more bird-like fledglings. Yesterday we took a peek in the nest, and there was 1 little bird left. Apparently we startled it, because it hopped/flapped onto the ground, and one of the parents flew over to protect it. I assume/hope that the other little birds had already done the same.

Turtle's Nest

Last week we went on a hike at a nearby park, and came across a turtle that seemed to be digging a nest to lay eggs. Once again, I thought it didn't seem like a good place, because it was right by the hiking trail. But what do I know about turtle nests?


Earlier this spring, Wendy and I started geocaching. The conservation district has a geocaching program that highlights the best hikes at parks around the county. You get a trivia question about the park, and GPS coordinates to a container along the hike that has the answer. Answer all the questions and you get a badge. It's a neat way to explore new areas.

So it's been surprising to me at how un-fun some of our geocaching hikes have been! We started in late March and were wholly unprepared for how soggy the trails were from melting snow. Our shoes would be soaked all the way through to our socks by the end. You would think we'd learn our lesson, but we kept thinking conditions would dry out by our next hike, only to discover that was not the case. Our most recent hike was a few weeks ago, and not only were the trails still wet, but the mosquitoes were out in force and we didn't think to bring bug spray!

I've also been annoyed with the geocaching app I've been using to navigate to the right coordinates. It tries really hard to make you upgrade to the premium version. On the most recent hike, we couldn't even find the container because the app refused to navigate us unless we paid up. Very frustrating.

Perhaps all of these troubles were foreshadowed on our very first geocache hike, when we came across a dead body!

Yes, it was the dead body of a fish. But a dead body nonetheless!