Trans: Latin prefix implying "across" or "Beyond", often used in gender nonconforming situations – Scend: Archaic word describing a strong "surge" or "wave", originating with 15th century english sailors – Survival: 15th century english compound word describing an existence only worth transcending.

Category: Lifestyle/How-To (Page 2 of 2)

Using ESRI ArcGIS / ArcMap on Mac OSX: 2 methods

Edit 07/26/2020:
Check out the expanded GIS notes page here!

Using ESRI ArcGIS / ArcMap on Macs: 2 methods

I need to run ESRI products on my MacBook Pro.   QGIS is always the prefered solution- open source, excellent free plugins, works on mac natively- but in a college / research environment, the only option that supports other people and school machines is ESRI.  Despite the annoying bureaucracy and expense of the software, some things are faster (but not better!) in ESRI, like dealing with raster / multiband data.

First, you need a license.

I went about this two ways;

My first solution was to buy an ESRI Press textbook on amazon.  A 180 day trial for $50- when taken as a college course, this isn't to bad.  🙂   The book is slow and recursive, but a 180 days to play with all the plugins and whistles allows for way deeper learning via the internet.   🙂

Do know there is a little-documented limit to the number of license transfers you may perform before getting either lock in or out of your software.  I hit this limit, as I was also figuring out my virtual machine situation, which would occasionally need a re-installation.

My current solution is “just buy a student license”.   $100 per year is less than any adobe situation- so really not that bad.  

Now you need a windows ISO.

Follow that link for the window 10, 64 bit ISO.  YOU DO NOT NEED TO BUY WINDOWS.  It will sometimes complain about not having an  authentication, but in the months of using windows via VMs, never have I been prohibited to do... anything.  When prompted for a license when configuring your VM, click the button that says "I don't have a license".  Done.


Option one:  VirtualBox VM on a thumbdrive - download for the VM software, Suitable USBs.  the VM will take up most of a 128gb flash drive- ~70 gb just for windows and all the stuff you'll want from a PC.  Add ESRI software and allocated space for a cache (where your GIS project works!), bigger is better.   Format all drives in disk utility as ExFat!  this is important, any other file system either won't fly or could wreak havoc (other FAT based ones may have too small file allocations!

I used two drives, a 128 and a 64- this is great because I can store all my work on the 64, so I can easily plug it into other (school) machines running windows ArcMap and keep going, without causing issues with the massive VM in the 128.  

Installation is straightforward, just install EVERYTHING on the usb drive and it will be fine.   🙂

Problems:   Stability.   Crashes, and python / some other script modules do not work well.  This is a problem.  ArcAdministrator gets confused about all kinds of things- FWIW, if you are googling to delete the FLEXnet folder to solve authentication file issues, move to option 2 🙂

Speed is down, but actually the ~same speed as our school "super" PCs- (though I happened to know they are essentially glorified "hybrid" VMs too!) .

Option two: OSX Bootcamp

This way, you will hit "option/alt" each time you restart/boot your computer to choose from win/osx.   This is easy to install, as it is mac and mac = easy.

Big Caveat:  it is much harder to install windows externally  (on a usb, etc) from bootcamp.  I didn't succeed in my efforts, but there could be a way....   The thing is, it really wants to run everything like a normal intel based PC, with all installations in the usual place.  This is good for the mac performance, but terrible for the tiny SSD hard drives we get as mac users.  I have a 256gb SSD.  I have an average of < 15 gb wiggle room here, and use every cloud service in the book.

If you need to manage your cloud storage because of a itsy mac SSD, my solution is still ODrive.

I use Amazon cloud mostly with odrive, but I use a personal/school OneDrives, Dropboxes, Google,  etc.  with only the occasional hiccup.   Also, all of the AWS tools are great and cheap- EC2, S3, Cloud 9, lambda, RDS.... Great way to do your work outside of your mac via the internet.


ArcMap and GIS stuff is blazing fast on my modest 2015 i5/8gb macbook pro.  Comparing a huge, mega ATX+ school computer to my mac on boot camp, I am running large raster filtering operations significantly quicker than other folks doing the same type of work.   That is GOOD.



My Fragile-Bodied Guide Scooter Safety

I like scootering.  I like riding and learning tricks so much I think it it safe to say 94% of all my major injuries occur from skatepark mishaps….  Which is part of the reason I really don’t ride much anymore, because there is an extraordinarily good chance I am either still recovering from some injury from last time or am still certain I will surely break something again and am not ready for that extra burden of healing just yet.  🙂

Below is my (in process) Fragile-Bodied Guide Scooter Safety.


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Birding Beyond Binos: 5 Bird apps vs. “the Guide”.

We all have a favorite bird, animal or plant guide.  Peterson is the best at drawing; Sibley takes the best pictures.  Kauffman ties it all together; National Geographic makes a solid reference and Audubon is great for fast looks.

While these books will always have a place on the shelf or table, the depth of content and portability of smartphone apps and trustworthy (e.g. reaserch related or associated with a big bird organization you recognize) websites truly foster the next level of ecological acuity.

[I will cover apps for iPhones and iPads- these are tools I have available and find to be indispensable.]  Like the shelf of guides they can replace out in the field, there is always room for another guide- and, generally speaking, cost significantly less than the least expensive print guide on your shelf.

  1. iBird PRO -

This app does it all: view photos, range maps, sounds, and similar birds, and search by band code, Latin/common name.  The sound recordings are pretty good and can be looped individually or as a species playlist (good for playback in research situations).  Similar bird songs are playable at the bottom of each species- great for learning and verifying nuances between similar songs.  The illustrations are “ok”- better than what I could do (obviously) but nothing quite like Peterson or Kauffman.  There are two more (add-on) engines in this app I have not used:  the local birds function by GPS (BAM) and a “humanized” search tool to pinpoint the bird you are looking for (Percevia).

  1. Audubon Birds

Audubon Birds has come a long way, and generally will offer more of a comprehensive written overview on each bird- going into feeding, behavior, breeding, and habitat discussions.  They seem to have added eBird integration (far, far superior to their “nature share” tool) which allows for both a mobile search into the unfathomably large user-based data set for local birds and a way to add your own data to eBird (though traditionally, the best way to do that is from a computer).

  1. Audubon Owls

This app is only a small vignette on owls; there seems to be more info geared solely about owls here than in Audubon Birds- photos, videos, tips, and tricks

  1. Merlin Bird ID

Despite the hardcore Bird Photo ID algorithms and location-based searches, this is geared toward those who may be starting out, and want to up the ante.  You fill in a few parameters about a bird sighting (this will not help with bird sounds), then it will generate a list of probable birds.  Supposedly, if you get a good photo of the bird on your phone (Digi scoping/Wi-Fi upload?) It can id the bird visually.

  1. eBird

If you are truly doing an eBird list for your trip, try this app for basic, quick additions- but I would not rely on it for media uploads or anything too crazy.  You can upload your checklist from the field then edit it later, though it is unclear if that is really a good idea in the scheme of data collection.

This is a list of the Bird apps I use on my phone, most getting use many times a week or even every day (iBird Pro).


Early Morning Guitar Session. ala Laundry

Guitar Practice:

Laundry is best done early in the morning.  The resulting time between cycles lets me do all kinds of things- below is a short guitar "shred" song inspired by Jeff Beck's most recent album, Loud Hailer- recorded in its entirety between washing and drying.   I recommend turning your volume down, modesty is not part if this song's vocabulary.


pt. 1: Reflecting On Stunt Culture (Theories and Frisbee)


There are only tough times finding academic craziness to get involved with during spring break, so I decided I should break out the unicycle and do a trick.  It was a 180 unispin....  But that is unimportant.

I think tricks, fitness, and the subsequent cultures they create are a valuable asset worth cherishing.  From "grandmaster", 50+ year old women and men duking it out armed to the teeth with ultimate frisbee discs, knee braces, ankle support, and vast quantities of beer to 20-30-year-olds scaling famous rock faces with nothing but a trad rack of cams and a bag of snow white chalk, to some french dudes doing unicycle ballet to the little lads and lasses on their skateboards and scooters, one can draw a clear conclusion: humans seem to benefit from physical and mental challenges that really don't fit in with most primary evolution-related characteristics.

Oddly enough, even the most elite athletes in frisbee, climbing, and scootering will consider their sports part of their culture and a way to "chill" while also pushing limits.    Does that make sense?

I had a great friend a few years back- nicest fellow in town.  Not only was he extremely well educated and respected in the doctoral-level health services community, he was  one of the top competitive ultimate frisbee players in the country, heralding from Boston.  This dude is the definitive quarterback of frisbee for crying out loud- upon entering a stadium where he was playing on evening (I had not realized his elite-ness yet, I was just going to a game to be nice), I quickly realized the crowd was chanting, screaming my friend's last name- when he came roaring into the field leading the team, I could feel the adrenaline in the crowd like helium in my lungs.  Yet: this was just his game, not even a "sport" (like pro baseball) to him as far as I could tell...  ...My friend had unearthed the "ultimate" way to deal with stress from his lofty academic and work positions.   Despite the immense amount of time, energy, and failure put into a complicated, dangerous game (he definitely tore more ankles, shoulders, and labrums "playing" than he ever would working on his doctorate) he was able to find a balance between relaxation, play, and work while maintaining a cheery attitude and high octane, dedicated mindset.

Photo by Bob Durling –

We see here a balance of playing, chilling, and working in this multifaceted fellow.  Why is this so important?  It turns out the balance being struck here is neither trivial or even fully understood.  researchers in the 80s convinced themselves all this play and relaxing in other animals was about preparing for adulthood, deciding the reason for all this extra work animals go through boiled down to a ultimatum of adult survival and reproductive success...

...These researchers were great and important in advancing this difficult-to-pin-down subject, but that idea  definitely does not complete much of our story here.  We can observe all animals who have play and chill in their student workbook will indeed play as a child, about the same amount.  We will then observe the data correlating any aspects of play to adult success really doesn't provide amazing parallels or strong trends....   So it must be more fundamental than what simple 80's observation studies can show us.

These boundary-pushing sports we engage with for fun teach us to teach ourselves things and support others doing the same thing; in this way, it is a self-serving cycle.  This learning, teaching, and progressing through extreme sport  is simply a way of living and experiencing life through a lens already suited for play, relaxation, and hard work.

Next up:  Scooters + Youtube = ?

pt. 2: Reflecting On Stunt Culture (Scooters)

Gone are the days of hoodies and hooligans (or rather, that crowd seems to be moving somewhere else) at the skate park.  In their place is the new generation:  12 year olds tearing about on scooters.  These kids are tuned into the vast, global network of scooter riders who wear their helmets, knee pads, and elbow pads and give strangers high-fives for doing a good job.

The key factors of playing, chilling, and hard work are all present on the scooter.  Indeed, it would appear after even a brief stroll through youtube, the amount of "work" put into this "chill" sport is astounding.

Theories aside, I have included two videos I think highlight the new, revamped, youtube-generation scooter crowd below.  Note how the ideas in pt. 1 apply...

Here is Claudius and his mini-sized friend.  Not much is known about where Claudius actually came from, aside from popping up on youtube with a bang a year or two ago.  He can be easily identified in other youtuber/scooter rider's videos in the background with is iconic neon-everything gear and apparel and his exotic, titanium, and tennis-grip-gripped scooter (while doing wildly technical tricks while yelling in various languages with a thick German accent, often involving a backflip to signify he completed his run).  The odd thing is he is seen in the background of videos from australia , germany, the UK and California....  Regardless, he seems to have a good influence on younger kids with his amusing sensibility (or lack of sensibility in general).  He preaches things like knowing one's limits, "staying hydrated", using foam pits/resi/gymnastic gyms for safe practice, and always wearing protective gear.

This fellow is based out of NYC, and is one of the "original" (and really only) flatland scooter riders.   He has been actively working to keep the "chill factor" a big part of the scooter scene for the new young folks.  He generally doesn't do wildly crazy tricks, instead focusing on cherishing practice, focus, and riding in fun spots with friends.  This ethos is very important for sports like this, when one can easily start asking, "why on earth am I putting myself through this difficulty trick?".

Ideas to keep things in check - according to Jon, Claudius, and myself:

Have relaxed expectations for a session.  Going big, whatever that may mean, usually implies pursuing the hormones and their precursors (Epinephrine and dopamine respectively) instead of the primary intent of the sport: to play, chill, and progress.

Understand why it is alright to expect some level of injury.  Getting hurt happens, and doing things that look somewhat dangerous and perhaps a little stupid probably are.  Yet- safety is easy, almost as easy as getting hurt.  With that relationship in mind, we can aim to only ever get "a little hurt".  The level of progression should ideally match the level of safety precautions- for instance, there are some 12 year olds doing backflip 180 tricks (flairs) in concrete skatepark ramps.  In most cases, this is actually fine (if they have knee, elbow, and head protection of course!)  because they probably threw hundreds of attempts into a foam pit, then a few hundred more to a soft, spongy ramp, then a few hundred more in a smooth wood ramp on which they could slide safely down on their knee pads.  That is a vast amount of safety measures to ensure every time they do that trick and subsequently go upside down, with the worst that could happen ending with them on their knee or elbow pads sliding down the ramp.  Similarly, an intro ultimate frisbee player should learn to condition and stretch their shoulders (hammer throws), calves (sprints) quads (epic jumps) and do proper warm-ups on their feet and toes to strengthen the worst and most common frisbee injury: the "out-for-6-months-softball-sized-ankle-sprain" or worse ankle injuries.  I see most older frisbee players with one or even both ankles wrapped firmly in a brace- not to say this is inevitable, but we should understand this is a huge danger and new players should be extremely careful with their fresh ankles, whatever sport they end up going into the deep end with.


Reflecting on stunt culture - A few references and further content:

Sharpe, Lynda. "So You Think You Know Why Animals Play..." Scientific American Blog Network. Scientific American, 06 Aug. 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Thorpe, Holly. "Sign In: Registered Users." Action Sports, Social Media, and New Technologies. Te Oranga School of Human Development and Movement Studies, Faculty of Education, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand, 22 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.

Wood, L., et al. (2014). Dispelling Stereotypes… Skate Parks as a Setting for Pro-Social Behavior among Young People. Current Urban Studies, 2, 62-73.

Boutique everything: When The Hobby Grows Up


Food.  Clothes.  Art.  Musical Equipment.  Consumer Design and Products.  Can a mere citizen enter the fray of cutting edge design and production?

As a hobbyist designer with a passion for, say, high end audio, the options for actually producing a quality, well executed product may seem lucrative and completely not worth while.  “It’s just a hobby” some say, or, “The cost of manufacturing tools or a bid at the factory floor in China are way bigger than my love for sound”, or, “nobody would ever purchase my design, there are so many other companies who have done this longer than me”.  These answers are all valid, but may not be the complete picture when it comes to local, boutique production.    

Can a passionate enthusiast use makerspace technology and peer support to bring small batches/limited runs of high quality products to a localized, niche market?

Could a food connoisseur use networking services to construct a timely supply chain for seasonal meals at local restaurants or cafes?

Would a local tailor be able to source materials and equipment to realise the material science and design they have always dreamed of for a coat in small batches?

Using cutting-edge makerspaces and the subsequent networking opportunities, I believe producing small batches of high quality goods and utilizing a local business/niche marketing approach or distribution system could increase the innovation and quality of any given local economy.

The idea of “group buys” is elementary in DIY audio circles.  Folks going in on a board design for fabrication will often drum up some enthusiasm on the internet or elsewhere, in a move to offset the high entry price of board manufacture.  I have noticed some folks take it a step further, and will not only complete the project they intended to, but perfect the project into a product and do a run of a few pieces to a few dozen and beyond.  This model is actually a great asset to the developing maker; offsetting the cost (or even making a few coins in profit!) of larger projects inherently makes bigger and better projects feasible.   

The folks building audio equipment in their basement, garage, or bedroom are, in essence, artists exploring art through avenues otherwise devoid of artisan qualities.  It is easy to reproduce sound commercially- Apple supplies those iBud-earPod-headBeats with every phone they sell.  Yet, the people in DIY audio are taking on audio components exactly how a great potter would craft a new bowl or coffee cup; functional sculpture, art in one of its oldest forms.

Screenshot of Jazzman's blog (

Below is a picture of one of the quasi-famous Jazzman ESL panels.  A true labor of love and work of art, Charlie has pioneered the processes required to build a ultra-top-end electrostatic loudspeaker, in the confines of the home, job, and hobby budget.  Now, Jazzman's speakers are built almost exclusively by hand, using careful measurement techniques to ensure tight tolerances instead of using machines that could do this automatically- making these panels really one of a kind and certainly not an option for even the most ambitious cottage industry entrepreneurs.

I bring these panels up simply to show what home-brew audio (or any labor-of-love-hobby) is about: craftsmanship, dedication, and a desire to learn.  falling right in with home-brew beer, local pottery, cooking, painting, tailoring,  and more, one can see from this artisanal point of view the value in these kinds of work.

Unlike some of these art forms found exclusively in art shows and galleries, only recently has there been an opportunity for individuals to reverse the commercialization of otherwise beautiful hobbies.

 Commercialization and hobbies: can we have both?

You bet.  As individuals get better at their craft and further down the hobbyist rabbit hole, (I personally) wonder where to draw the line as a hobby.  Don't!  We develop makerspaces to propel creation into hyperdrive; the next and last step in completing the artist's high-end project circle is selling the last project so the new batch can be justified.  Because rapid fabrication and makerspaces are "a thing" now, people need to understand what comes next with all those creative and production juices flowing.  I think many makers may not approach their custom brazed bikes,  amazing wooden trinkets, or tube guitar amps from the view a painter would monetize paintings- but they (we) should.  Art stores, art shows, audio meetups, DIY ecommerce sites, Etsy, craft conventions...  These are real venues we should be adding to our vocabulary as makers.  It is the last step to a full circle justification, and for me (in my hobby bird photography work for sure) it simply feels amazing to be at that stage of chatting it up with locals about where I took the picture of the merganser.  It takes way more effort than I or my fellow artists will let on, (learning high-end home printing, commerce, getting a materials supplier, website, etc) and marketing/selling is not NEARLY as glamorous as hacking away at our craft.

But, at the end of the day, this is the right thing to do.  Showing others through commerce the true value of maker craft not only educates and enriches, but increases the value in our local economies and local-maker-wizardry.

Develop A Limitless & Habitual “SoIThen_SoICould_” Ethos

Some call it yak shearing.  

Some call it the next step, and a method to never let the next step get in your way.

...So I then I learned to make custom blown vacuum tubes at home so I could build an amazing artisanal nixie tube clock.

...So I then looked up how to throw a bigger flower pot using wheel-thrown pottery techniques on youtube, so I could become a better and more refined artist.

...So I am building a CNC mill so I can make nice looking wood headphone cups for the DIY planar build.


Occasionally, I find myself looking into space and feeling like whatever the next steps may be in my various hobbies are remain unreachable, need to wait, cost more than I have, or is in someway not the right time to continue.  While some of these may be true, it does not mean all that remains is slow, unyielding time.  More often than not in these situations, I really am looking at a step that is unreachable or untimely, but is actually not the end-all and last step.   There is usually more than meets the eye; there are tasks to be done, as small as they might be, that will help a process along.  I think of this mathematician:

For example- I do not have access to all the tools I need to complete my projects; it is inherently exciting to think about the actual fabrication of evolving ideas.  That does not mean the tools needed to complete the projects are needed to do the peripheral learning and knowledge-gaining and scheming and planning.  We can easily see in writing, the cutting and buffing and bolting of things is just a tiny part of a huge commitment in time, learning, and design.  Have I exhausted all learning and designing time?  No!  I can always add an extra step between me and a goal, no matter how small.  Learn  Autodesk Fusion 360?   add that to the list.  Complete a few of their 10 hour instructional webinars?  That sounds important.  Learn to roughly mill and glue wood into end-grain orientations for future CNC-ing for the future headphone cup-rings?  I should do that too.


...Is your back hurting from your posture or your chair?  If so, you should learn better posture and/or build a perfect chair (and learn fine wood luthiery to make a snazzy inlay of your name, Blender and CAM to mill unique chair legs, etc, etc....)


Music Sketches 3: Rethinking “Canon in D” “guitar” Discipline & Tone pt. 2


Here is a little LaTeX visualization I made to better convey the simpleness of learning, life and the world in the the internet.  In even plainer terms, we can see in order to learn something (ideally a hard skill set or task- soft and meta skills are iffy on the internet at best) we must spend a certain amount of time on the internet and a fair amount of time on task, with all both of these things getting larger in size as standards for quality and ambition of work go up.  In order for all this "work" to equal the desired learning, we divide the three factors (Time, Standards, Ambition) by the difficulty of the task at hand.

It is easy to set ambitions with great difficulty (in funtwo's case, learn guitar to do a neoclassical shred of a pachelbel tune) but as the steps get broken down into smaller day-to-day and minute-by-minute gains in ability and knowledge, the difficulty factor must be incremental enough to be attainable, but difficult enough to be engaging.  Thus, this model can scale from the: 35 minutes (Time) on youtube (internet) learning guitar scales for sweeping techniques with good form and in complete scales (Standards) divided by the goal to maintain and enhance a current harmonic minor scale (Ambition) that has been the focus all week, which is incrementally more (difficult) than the "not sweeping the normal minor scale" that was last week's project and success success... ...To the 3-5 years of diligence it took funtwo to gain mastery of both guitar and the arrangement. 

So, moral of the story is you do not need "prerequisite understanding" that can only be bought for $20k at a university near you to master whatever it is you need to master (Though these institutions are good for lots of other things though, that IMHO do make the visit worth it).

Anyone can do anything if they understand the factors that go into high craft, artistry, and learning.

Music Sketches 2: Rethinking “Canon in D” “guitar” Discipline & Tone pt. 1

Between 300 and 400 years ago, this archaic string of melody, harmony, and straight forward rhythm came about.  I don't read this kind of scribble, but I, like many others, have heard Pachelbel's Canon in D.  Christmas tunes, 80's orchestras, video games and more have ripped up this beautiful idea and tried to glue it back together.  Below is what I believe to be the most influential niche version, posing a striking composition highlighting the power of discipline and learning (read: Time, Standards, Challenge)  in lieu of the internet (read: all "hard skills"  are free and readily available in a computer-box near you)

This, to both my pair of ears and many pairs before me, is simply stunning.  The deft skill and accuracy, the angelic warbling tone....  This is an example of almost complete mastery AFAICT.  What granted Lim Jeong-hyun, generally referred to mononymously as funtwo, the ability to play at this level?  Like just about everything, it seems his track record on the internet plus his standards and time against the challenge of learning guitar equals...          ...the above video. 

Observe the 75% "slow" speed (thanks youtube and guitarteacherdotcom for access to this stuff):

....Coming up next:  Unpacking discipline and learning through funtwo's "guitar"

Music Sketches 1: Playing with rhythm, division, and jazzy chords

Piano and straight up 4/4 drums:

Here we have an interesting chord progression idea.   In the 4/4 groove, the piano plays the second chord on the "and" of 2... Very cool.   The pickup for the second chord starts on two, as I visualized in the midi roll diagram.

With a root of C (what I played it in), this could be called C minor to D flat, major 7, while at the end of the fourth bar the progression finishes on G7.

(beta) – How to build “The Phone Charger”


Imagine, any AA or 9v battery could charge your phone and other USB gadgets.   Behold, the LM780!

This is a voltage regulator chip.  Stick between 5 and, say, 9 volts in one end and huzzah! (about) 5 volts pops out the other end.  these cost a few dimes and can be had on ebay 10 for 4$.

Below is the BOM:  (to make 10 chargers!)

Sourced via ebay:
$4:  10x of LM780 5v
$4:  10x of little toggle switches
$4:  10x of 9v snap connectors (I used a 6v supply from AAs but as far as the chip is concerned it doesn't matter to much.  (I am reading 4.~ volts and enough power to charge a phone out of mine now)
$0: PCB-  Technically they aren't even needed, but for our uses they make the soldering and building more straightforward.
$1:  10x of USB A ports from China
$?: Casing- be creative.  I want to make one in a shrink-wrapped tube or 3d printed box or something.
First, lay the parts out like so:
...notice how when facing the shiny side of the chip, the left leg is in line with the left hand side of the USB port when looking into the port:

Then arrange them like so:

...Notice I squished the power wires under the bent pins.  RED GOES TO THE PIN ON THE RIGHT when facing the shiny side, and BLACK GOES TO THE MIDDLE ONE.

...The remaining leg is attached to the far left pin on the USB port (when facing the chip's shiny side remember).

Then it works!!  YAY!

Here I verify it works by charging my commercial usb charger with my DIY duct tape one:

Good luck!


Opportunistic birding: 14/12/2016

Today, I am in a good mood and feel happy because:  

The two Bohemian waxwings were still hanging around the museum of cedar waxwings, both of whom arrived yesterday.  Bohemian waxwings special because they are far, far rarer than the cedar waxwings.  The cedars are pretty snazzy-looking by themselves, and I look at them in my daily travels too.   One can tell the bohemians apart by the crimson/burgundy/rufus color under the tail and around the face.  They are also a bit bigger, but that's only helpful if one can compare a cedar with a bohemian at the same time (which is still useful because, as we can see, they like to travel around together).  This was opportunistic because I "birded" only in transit, as my route to my dorm door takes me under the waxwing tree.

What does this mean?

Opportunistic birding is a easily one of the most rewarding ways to enhance life on earth.  Imagine deriving copious amounts of joy and justification every day, revolving around the day-to-day views of exotic birds.   Are there really that many exotic birds wandering around a tree near you?  Absolutely.  Everywhere I have lived and traveled to, I will find at least one exciting bird –that is, if I tune in correctly.   The first part of finding divine avian joy is simple;

  • Decide birds are fascinating, exciting, and scattered around you like a Where's Waldo? original
  • Allow the innate curiosity and "buzz" be way more important than immediate applicability
  • Subsequently decide to read and research as much as possible in large binges about local birds...
    • Join E-bird
    • Download Merlin (North America and growing)
    • subscribe to all the local bird lists and updates
    • Visit your local sanctuary, patch of woods, river, marsh, sea bog, neighbor's bird feeder

Then, once you know a robin and from a heron, a "murder" of fish crows from a "tournament" of wintering white throated sparrows to a "museum" of mixed cedar waxwings, you are done (with part one...)...

...Now the real fun begins!  You will know you have reached part two when:

  • You are walking to work or class and hear some chips and beeps...
    • it is winter:  You are inland, in a light mixed habitat of new-growth trees and leafless shrubby plants:
    • 2+2=4: this must mean there are small passerines wintering, likely in a mixed flock
  • You stop for 30 seconds; You hear fleeting piece of a sonorous whistle, then a flit with vertical slate and white stripes
    • 4+1+1=6:  You feel euphoric and grandiose, then continue walking to class, thinking happily about the slate-colored-junco group you just witnessed containing a single white-throated sparrow.  You arrive to your destination on time, unharmed, and in a jovial condition.

...This is opportunistic birding.   Good Luck!


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