Sunday, April 23, 2006


I'm about 90% recovered from my hard drive crash. I now have most of my data back but it will be a week or so before I get the actual computer back with a new hard drive. I am so thankful that I have my writing as well as my cartoon drawings. I am working on an online flash cartoon in the evenings and many hours go into making each character, set, vehicle, sound, etc. Here's a gem I'm thankful to have saved.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Feminine side

While eating lunch the other day I noticed the title of the feature article in the Utne Reader. It was : "Embrace Your Feminine (You too, guys)"

The title immediately sent up my hackles as it reminded me of a moment back in high school.

It was the end of my junior year as I stepped into the gymnasium to pick up my yearbook. In the past, our yearbooks had just been delivered to our classroom but this year was different. People enjoyed this new distribution method as it was a great opportunity to see a lot of people and get them to sign your book. At one point I ran into my friend Steve. Steve was a senior and a guy I looked up to. We hadn't really had a huge amount of time to spend together that year but we'd done some cool things and had some great conversations. It was too bad that he was a senior and I was a junior because he was going off to college and inevitably we'd not be able to have those great conversations and share ideas on music, the universe and everything. While this wasn't the last day of school it was very close and signing a person's yearbook brings a kind of closure. We talked for a little while and then said, "see you around," knowing that wouldn't be the case. We gave each other a hug, which was not unusual for my group of friends and that's where the story really begins. One of our female friends who was standing around saw us hug each other goodbye and said something to the effect of, "It's so great to see men comfortable expressing their feminine side."

We were both taken aback by this statement and it turns out we were both thinking the same thing. You see, women want sensitive men. They want us to express ourselves. They want us to be in touch with our feelings and emotions, as well as the feelings and emotions of others. This is not something I work on. My Meyers-Briggs profile is INFP. I am Intorvert, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perciever. (Thank Dog I wasn't raised Catholic or I'd be full of self hatred.) It is in my nature to exhibit characteristics some are so quick to label, "feminine."

Herein lies the problem. To label actions feminine and masculine is to assign them to a specific gender. These are the things men do and these are the things women do. Women want men to show their emotions but when they do, the women then label those actions "feminine" i.e. something that is contrary to the very nature of what a man is.

Is it any wonder men don't want to show emotions when women label men as feminine for doing so?

You can't have your cake and eat it too women. If you want men to show that they are in touch with their feelings and if you want them to express their emotions then you need to give up on the monopoly and stop calling these things feminine.

Imagine this, a woman friend applies for a job as a corporate CEO (traditionally a male role) and I say to her, "Hey, it's good to see you showing your masculine side." I would guess I would no longer be able to count her as a friend. The statement is totally offensive.

Is it really any different when women comment on men "showing their feminine side?"

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Last night Chelsey and I had a discussion about the definition of some words. She claimed she had seen authors using "sorites" to mean party. The correct term would be soirees. This all came up because we couldn't remember the name of an episode of Firefly. I remembered the next day that is was Shindig. Oh well. I looked up sorites as she spelled it and was confused even more because I was confusing sorites with sorties. Ah language.

I continued to flip though the dictionary amusing myself when I came upon the word lentil. Of course a lentil is a small pea like seed we eat. Close by in the dictionary, I spotted the word lenticular. Of course, lenticular, which I always associate with lenses actually means "shaped like a lentil". The word lens comes from the word lenticular. So, the lenses in my glasses and telescope eyepieces are actually named lenses because they resemble a lentil.

Weird. I never knew.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Timberdoodle Twirl

(Note: This appeared as my April "Au Naturel" column in Stillwater Living Magazine)

I remember being nervous in high school as I waited to be asked to the Valentine's day "sweetheart" dance. Not being asked was my girlfriends subtle way of setting me free. I spent the evening with a friend driving to Darwin, Minnesota to see the biggest ball of twine in the world. I've perhaps been skeptical of dances ever since.

Now, later in life and as a professional naturalist, I think about one dance in particular as I prematurely take off layers of wool and don shorts on fifty degree days. The signs of spring tell me it is time for the Timberdoodle Twirl.

The Twirl, a.k.a. the Sky Dance, is a secretive event that only occurs in the spring. Naturalists have attended the twirl for centuries and yet it remains a little known event to most outsiders.

You will not be invited to the Twirl. There are no invitations and no awkward propositions. You don't need to trek to the giant twine ball when you're not invited to the dance.

If you want to attend the Timberdoodle Twirl you need to first figure out where it is held. If you are lucky enough to know someone who has been to one in the past then you have an easy in. The only other option is to hunt down the location on your own.

Although locations do change, the Twirl often takes place in the same spot for generations. Timberdoodle Twirls are usually situated on the edge of meadows. There must be enough room to twirl. There must also be a woods nearby with young trees such as aspen and alders. A stand of sumac may work in a pinch. It all depends how picky the dancers are.

The Timberdoodle Twirl is an elaborate dance that can only be performed by the highly experienced and rules dictate that it can only be performed in the dying rays of twilight. A full moon rising in the east makes it all the better. Dim lighting sets the mood. The Twirl is about one thing; bonding with hopes of mating.

If you think you're up to participation in the Twirl keep in mind that none of the naturalists are. There are two requirements. To perform in the Timberdoodle Twirl you must first off be a male. This precludes half the population but you must also be able to flap your arms hard enough to fly. This tends to rule out the rest of us.

To actually take part in the Timberdoodle Twirl, you must be a timberdoodle. The males of this strange slightly spherical species perform an elaborate mating dance we naturalists call the Timberdoodle Twirl or the Sky Dance. The timberdoodle, also known as the American woodcock, is a secretive bird that spends most of its time in the woods probing the ground with a ridiculously long beak. Technically, the woodcock is a shorebird but with the beaches being such historically crowded places who can blame it for preferring the solitude of the woods?

In the woods, the sensitive beak searches the earth for worms and insects. With eyes on the sides of its head it can see both in front of and behind itself at the same time. It can also see above itself, which is useful for keeping an eye on both predators and dancers.

Any evening, April through May, you may have luck discovering the secret dance of the timberdoodle. As the sun sets, listen for the buzzy "peent" call of the male bird. It shouts to the females, "Look at me, I am about to dance." This is personally a declaration I have never shouted on a dance floor so I admire the bird's self esteem.

After a few minutes of peenting, the male soars two hundred feet or more into the sky. The spiraling skyward travel is accompanied by a twittering sound produced not from the throat of the bird but by air rushing over the wings. If you approach from the east you can see the bird silhouetted against the dying rays of the day.

The bird then sings a dreamlike courtship song in a liquidly warble while beginning a leaf-like fluttering descent to the earth. It goes silent a few feet from the ground and alights gently on the dance floor.

Upon landing, he immediately starts up with the peents again, trying to call in a female to watch his elaborate dance.

The springtime ritual of the Timberdoodle Twirl probably occurs near your home. Visitors to Lake Elmo park have seen it and Warner Nature Center offers a guided Timberdoodle Twirl program each spring.

When you discover the secret location of the Timberdoodle Twirl, hold that information dear. You are witness to a marvel seen by few. Remember though, unless you can fly, you'll be asked to sit this dance out.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Would you fly with these men?

I blame the bizarre music on the headphones for these photos taken over the grand canyon.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Just a quick note here. Eariler this week I heard the first frogs of the year. The western chorus frogs started first at the east end of the bog. Yesterday as I left work the wood frogs were finally singing as well. What a change in just a few days! The "peeper pond" as we call it was full of life yesterday when it was frozen just a few days ago. Julie, who left work about an hour and a half after me claims she heard spring peepers as well.