Peanut Battle

There was a peanut battle outside our house yesterday. I took photos. (Some of these are blurry, or underexposed, or mangled by iPhoto. I apologize; I’m learning a new camera. Also, on my monitor at work, some of these photos are very, very dark. )

Every morning she’s home, Kris feeds the birds. She fills the seed feeder with millet and thistle. She puts peanuts and dried corn-on-the-cob in the squirrel feeder which hangs from the walnut tree. She places more peanuts in the feeder outside the kitchen window, along with a pile of birdseed and a new block of suet (if necessary).

[Photo: The scrub jays love the peanuts]

We’re not sure how the birds know to look for new food, but they do. Especially on Sunday mornings. The scrub jays are usually first to find the food, and they’re the noisiest about defending it. They love the peanuts. So do the other birds.

In fact, for a short time, our yard becomes the site of a great Peanut Battle.

We’re still puzzling out the rules to this war. Only one jay can be on a feeder at a time. If another jay swoops in before the first is finished, the newcomer is sent flying with a tremendous squawking chatter. However, if the jay on the feeder takes too long to choose a peanut (are some better than others?), a new jay can chase him off.

If the starling appears, the jays retreat. They’re scared of her. But the starling doesn’t really eat much; she simply likes to sit at the feeder, glowering at the other birds, challenging them to fight.

L: A jay lands at the feeder, R: The mean ol’ starling
L: The stupid band-tailed dove, R: The flickers perform their mating dance

A couple of band-tailed doves live nearby. They’d like to eat, too, but they can’t seem to figure out how. They see the other birds flying to the feeder, so they come over to join them, but they’re too stupid (and perhaps too big) to land inside where the food is. They land on the roof of the feeder and pace back-and-forth, staring stupidly at all the jays that have peanuts in their mouths.

While the big birds eat, the little birds wait their turn. Even the flickers — which are at least the same size as the jays and have deadly-looking bills — yield. They’re too polite. And besides, yesterday the pair that lives in our trees seemed more interested in each other than in food. They fluttered around the lawn, nodding and bobbing, circling each other. We think they’re preparing to mate.

[Photo: Jay getting a peanut]

It’s important to note that the jays don’t actually eat the peanuts. They take the peanuts and they hide them in the yard. They tuck them in corners of the flower bed. They stick them in the middle of the grass. They cover them with leaves. The jays think they’re planning ahead, storing nuts for later, but they’re really just extending the Peanut Battle.

When the feeding begins, the crows swoop in. They perch on the wires and in the branches of the walnut. They watch the jays tuck their precious peanuts away. When all of the work is done, the crows swoop down to undo it.

L: The crows work methodically in teams, R: They often find peanuts beneath leaves

It’s fascinating to watch the crows at work. They cluster in twos and threes, pacing the grass systematically. They snatch up leaves and cast them aside. They check the dirt. They find many peanuts, and they eat them instead of saving them. (In the fall, the crows gather walnuts. To open them, they fly above the street and drop the nuts over and over and over until the nuts crack.)

The picture below may not look like much, but that’s simply because I don’t have a long enough lens to show all the detail:

[Photo: a complex tableaux in which the Peanut Battle rages

That, my friends, is the Peanut Battle raging in full-force. In the left of the frame is a crow, picking through grass and leaves, searching for hidden loot. Up and to the right, you can see Filbert, the squirrel. The squirrels love the peanuts, too. (They dominate the feeder in the walnut tree; the jays yield to their mammalian nature, I guess.) Sunday morning, Filbert was scurrying around this little patch of ground looking for peanuts. He chased off all interlopers: the flickers, the jays, and and the starling. If you stare hard, you can almost discern the jay beneath the rhododendron, to the right of the squirrel. She’s hiding a nut. Clinging to the dogwood at the right of the frame is one of the flickers (the male, I think). He uses his woodpecker grip to hang from the tree while he waits for a spot at the feeder.

There are other birds around, too, of course, all playing some role in the Peanut Battle:

[photo: Steller's Jay] [photo: Northern Flicker [photo: common robin [photo: a Grosbeak?

The leftmost bird above is a Steller’s Jay. She likes to eat from the feeder at the walnut tree. She’s not as brazen as the common jays, and is much more skittish around humans. And cats. The next photo is another (horrible) photo of the flicker. We like our flickers quite a bit, and I look forward to getting some good shots of them eventually. The third photo is of one of the two birdbaths. These get constant use during a Peanut Battle, though we’re not sure why. In this case, the robin has no hope of winning a peanut from the jays, so he’s contenting himself with a five-minute bath.

The final picture above shows a mystery bird. This bird has made a couple of appearances lately, but we can’t get close enough to it to really note its markings. It seems to have a blood-red head. Its wings are dark, with a long white stripe. We can’t recall what its chest looks like. I say this bird is a pine grosbeak, but Kris is unconvinced. (Maybe it’s this house finch we once saw at Jeremy and Jennifer’s?)

We enjoy birdwatching. It’s one of the highlights of our new house. On Sunday mornings we stand in the kitchen window for ten minutes, or twenty, or thirty, and we watch the Peanut Battle unfold.

(We’re not the only family members who like the birds, either.)


On 31 January 2005 (07:39 AM),
al said:

Nice details and photos. My neighbor hand feeds peanuts to the scrubs, so I’m going to try it soon. They seem a little skittery, but he claims they’ll take the p-nuts right from his hand. How big is the mystery bird? It almost looks like a pileated . . .

On 31 January 2005 (08:04 AM),
J.D. said:

That’s amazing that your neighbor can feed the jays right from his hand.

Kris and both estimate that the mystery bird is about the same size (or perhaps a little smaller) than a jay. I’ve only seen it once, and that was from far away (as you can tell from the photo). As I say, it seemed to have a blood-red hood that didn’t end evenly around its neck. Its wings were dark with a white stripe. (Though from the photo, it seems almost as if perhaps it has a white breast.)

According to Sibley: a jay is about 11.5 inches long, a grosbeak is 9 inches long, and a pileated woodpecker is 16.5 inches long. We did see a pileated woodpecker once last fall, and this isn’t it. The head is definitely different.

On 31 January 2005 (08:17 AM),
Tiffany said:

This is only a little related to your bird watching story.
This weekend we went to Petsmart and were amazed by one lady that brought in her 5 cats to push around in the cart! I mean what cats like to travel in the car?
But far cuter, was a second lady that parked her cat, in a cart, right next to the bird cages. The cat was really enjoying the show from only a foot away.

On 31 January 2005 (08:54 AM),
Tammy said:

Jd, we have these too and I really think they are a red breasted sapsucker; a kind of wood pecker. Read this and see:

On 31 January 2005 (10:13 AM),
J.D. said:

Ding ding ding ding!

Tammy is absolutely correct. I’m not sure how I missed this in Sibley, but the mystery bird is a red-breasted sapsucker. The drawing in the book looks exactly like the bird I saw. (And it’s 8.5″ long, which seems exactly right.)

Based on the drawings, I would guess that the specimen in question is young male adult southern red-breasted sapsucker. (The red on the northern variety extends to its chest, whereas the red on this ends around its neck.)

On 31 January 2005 (10:21 AM),
Lynn said:

I loved this entry. My cat and I both love our birds and squirrels.

In the magazine Birds and Blooms they sell a cardboard person to be set in a chair, it’s hand extended, to get the birds used to feeding from it. Then you can just move the cardboard person and take its place, or so the theory goes.

Where do you guys purchase your birdseed, peanuts and suet? You mentioned once that you can find suet on sale for 50 cents each – cheapest I’ve found is about 80 cents.

On 31 January 2005 (10:39 AM),
Kris said:


Coastal Farm store occasionally has a case of 12 suet blocks on sale for $5.99. We stocked up and bought 2 cases last time. Good thing we have a cellar!

Thanks for the bird ID help, Tammy!

On 31 January 2005 (10:56 AM),
tammy said:

Happy to be of assistance, dear cousins.

On 31 January 2005 (02:20 PM),
Amanda said:

Great entry! Now I think I will just have to buy some sort of bird feeder. In Florida it’s not nearly as exciting as in Oregon, apparently. I might see some Mockingbirds, Blue Jays, Crows and the occasional Cardinal (or usually two).

On 31 January 2005 (03:39 PM),
John said:

Great photos. The squirrel vs. bird battles continue at our place. On Sunday, *everyone* was out in the yard battling for seed. Do you ever get the flock of those small finch-like birds? They descend on the ground eating seed. Also, been meaning to ask you: what’s up with the Save Kellog Lake from the Transit Center signs near River Road? Leftovers from last November?

The Power of the Internet

Here is a plain and simple story of how the internet has changed my life. (Whether or not it has changed my life for the better is open to debate.) The following is a typical occurrence; it is not unusual.

It’s Wednesday night. Kris and I are watching the goofy-fun Alias. Sydney and Vaughn, American secret agents, are posing as Russian secret agents wanting to pose as Chechnyan agents who will pose as typical Americans so that they can detonate an electro-magnetic pulse. To wipe out the stock market.

Or something like that.

A commercial comes on — I’m not sure for what — and a melancholy poppy synth piece begins to play. I catch the following words: “And all the things I had in mind for you and me, well say something new, say something new”.

I love the song.

I get up from the futon, walk three steps to the computer, pull up google and search on the lyrics. After one misstep (caused by overenthusiastic use of quotation marks), I find five matches to my search, all relating to a Swedish band called The Concretes. Most are reviews (1, 2, 3), but one is a page entitled Your Concrete Multimedia Experience. It features mp3 snippets and bits of lyrics from several songs.

I fire up Acquisition (a Mac file-sharing program — if you own a Mac, you should own this program) and search for songs by The Concretes. Before the commercials are over, before Sydney and Vaughn can resume their surreal existence, I am playing a song by a group I had never heard of two minutes before.

This is one way the internet has changed my life.

By the way, the song used in the commercial, “Say Something New”, is okay, but not as good as I’d hoped. “You Can’t Hurry Love“, however, is outstanding. (And not the song you think it is.) I’ve posted a full mp3 copy of the song here (right-click and “save as…” if, like Jeremy, you cannot get this to play with a left-click). If you like The Concretes as much as I do, I encourage you to support them by purchasing a CD (also available via the iTunes Music Store). I plan to.

(See? This is how file-sharing works. Or should work.)

Pre-Crash Comments

On 28 January 2005 (07:38 AM),
dowingba said:

It’s not how it should work, it’s how it does work. Despite what the record companies say, it has been proven beyond any doubt that file sharing actually increases record sales. The only thing hurting sales is the record companies’ own conduct, which has caused many people to completely boycott major labels.

On 28 January 2005 (08:20 AM),
Tiffany said:

Rich and I watched the new ‘Numb3rs’ show and after 10 minutes I still could not figure out where I had seen the actor playing the math genius. to the rescue. He played Wednesday’s boyfriend in ‘Adam Family Values’.

On 28 January 2005 (10:57 AM),
Paul said:

With much sarcasm Paul types:

The power of of the internet? I used email to contact you this summer to tell you about a great song “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Concretes. The internet could have allowed us to express your appreciation of the song and others like it on the new album. However, you were unable to capture that moment and I am left to read that some comercial on tv has turned you on, through some research of your own, to an “outstanding” song! Don’t worry about me, I will keep telling the ad executives to place those song snipets into the ads you see so that we can share our very similar musical tastes.

Look forward to hearing West Indian Girls and Kasabian in the future! BUT YOU DIDN’T HEAR THAT FROM ME!

Viva KEXP!

On 28 January 2005 (11:12 AM),
Denise said:

We like sarcastic Paul! (At least I do.)

The internet reunited me with my old college boyfriend, who is now my fiancée and will be my husband on April 1st.

The internet also let me plan our wedding in 3 hours. Nice.

The internet reunited me with the AWL and his better half, Kris.

The internet has also allowed me to meet great people I really enjoy whom I would not have met any other way.

AND, after being laid-off for 8 months and applying for ANY job I could qualify or over-qualify for, I finally found my job from a job-posting I found on the internet.

I sound like I owe my whole life to the internet. Not quite, but my life is a whole lot better than it would be if there was no internet.

On 28 January 2005 (11:17 AM),
Jeremy said:

The mp3 doesn’t download.

On 28 January 2005 (11:20 AM),
J.D. said:


Paul is right. For once. 🙂

My man is on the musical vanguard, weeding out the chaff so I don’t have to. But I hardly ever listen to what he says. (To my loss.)

For the record, here’s the e-mail he sent me on Sept. 30th, nearly four months ago:

Citizen Cope – The Clarence Greenwood Recordings (Arista/RCA) Bullet and a Target is the best song of the summer of 2004!

Drive-By Truckers – The Dirty South (New West) done well

The Concretes – The Concretes (Astralwerks) female lead singer both sensual and tough

DJ Krush – Jaku (Sony Japan) Always good

Guided by Voices – Half Smiles of the Decomposed (Matador) Some good tracks from an old school garage band

The Prodigy – Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned (Maverick) Up-tempo!

DJ Shadow – In Tune and On Time Live! (Geffen) He keeps remixing his own stuff and it keeps getting better!

Kosheen came on to my radar screen this year and melded powerful female vocal and electronica.

PJ Harvey Uh Oh rocks, but not as an album. listen to it shuffled into similar music.

KEXP ROCKS!!!! Please support them with a check. It’s almost like listening to iTunes in my opinion.

I think what happened here is that I listened to “Bullet and a Target”, but didn’t like it. After that I let the rest of the list slide…

On 28 January 2005 (03:08 PM),
Jenn said:

If you are on a mac with only a trackpad you can hold down the option key and click on the above link to dowload the mp3 to your desktop.

On 08 April 2005 (07:55 PM),
WF said:

What a hoot! This blog was the first thing I found when searching for that same snippet of lyrics, having seen that same commercial (it’s for Target, by the way). Very helpful… saved me a lot of research.

On 08 May 2005 (10:55 PM),
ViciousMonkeyKiller said:

Ha! Ditto to what WF said.

On 11 September 2005 (05:45 PM),
krin said:

i feel compelled to tell you that i was just sitting here, surfing the net.. when that commercial came on and i thought “i must find out what that song is.” i did a search on google and found this. ha!

On 17 September 2005 (05:54 AM),
abby said:

yay! thank you! i was just searching the same song and i didn’t even have the lyrics right! horray for the internet…now i’ll go find it on itunes 🙂

On 04 October 2005 (06:27 PM),
D said:

“You can’t hurry love” is in the Elizabethtown soundtrack/movie. (I’m sure Cameron Crowe had the drop on it before anyone else outside of the industry did.)

On 04 October 2005 (11:11 PM),
ardvrk said:

Wow – haven’t any of you heard of AdTunes?

Google is great, don’t get me wrong, but you can narrow your search a LOT with AdTunes, and obviously the more people use it, the better it gets.

The internet is the best thing EVER. Don’t buy into their crap that it distances people, isolates them, etc. It brought ALL of us here to this site to discuss it, didn’t it? Because of a SONG? All of us, with our different lives, with our different politics, with our different computers. All united by a song – and the internet.

Best Hot Chocolate Ever

That’s right! Another recipe, and it’s a dandy: a hot chocolate meant to be savored.

Craig and Lisa invited us for homemade French onion soup last night. They also served a delightful salad, some tasty carrots, and, best of all, a rather odd dessert: a cup of hot chocolate (served with a slice of salty buttered toast).

But this is no ordinary hot chocolate.

This is:

Chocolat Chaud
(from It Must’ve Been Something I Ate by Jeffrey Steingarten — adapted from Pierre Hermé)


  • 2-1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup bottled still water
  • 1/4 cup (generous) superfine granulated sugar
  • 1 100-gm bar (3-1/2 ounces) dark bittersweet chocolate, Scharffen Berger, Valrhona, or Lindt (see note, below), finely sliced with a serrated bread knife
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce or 28 gm) cocoa powder, loosely packed, preferably Valrhona

Instructions: In a 2-quart saucepan, stir together the milk, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the chopped chocolate and the cocoa and bring to a boil again, whisking until the chocolate and cocoa are dissolved and the mixture has thickened. Reduce the heat to very low.

Blend for 5 minutes with an immersion mixer or whirl the hot chocolate in a standard blender for half a minute, until thick and foamy.

Yield: Four 6-ounce cups of hot chocolate.

Note: I [Steingarten] use a dark chocolate containing close to 70 percent cocoa, though Lindt bittersweet also works just fine. The Mayans and the Aztecs considered the froth the best part. Today, five minutes with an immersion mixer or a blender accomplishes what a half hour of beating did long ago.

This stuff is delicious — a divine concoction. The food of the gods. It’s to be sipped, not quaffed.

Kris and I are preparing to venture out to find some good, high-quality chocolate with which to prepare this recipe for Jeremy and Jennifer tomorrow night.

The wikipedia gives us more on the history of cocoa.

The above is the fourth in my series of “Best Recipes Ever!” The other three are: Best Salsa Ever, Best Gingerbread Cookies Ever, and — my favorite — Best Clam Chowder Ever.

Sixteen years ago on this date, Kris accepted my application to be her sweetheart. We’ve been together ever since, happy and content despite our contrary natures. Today is the anniversary we mark, not our wedding anniversary.


On 24 January 2005 (07:59 PM),
jeremy said:

Happy Anniversary! Can’t wait for the hot chocolate. Will it go well with Lagavulin and a Macanudo?

On 24 January 2005 (08:19 PM),
J.D. said:

In Portland, Trader Joe’s has both Sharffen Berger and Valhrona chocolate bars, including a 70% cocoa Valhrona. They also have a house brand bar weighing 500g and containing about 70% cocoa. We’ll have try that, too.

We didn’t look for cocoa powder; Kris has some high-quality stuff she ordered from King Arthur recently. We’ll use that.

On 25 January 2005 (08:57 AM),
Amy Jo said:

Congrats to you and Kris! Paul and I also celebrate our dating anniversary more than we do our wedding anniversary. Seems more significant, seeing as we’ve been together for 15+ years now, but married for only seven.

I recommend trying Dagoba’s cocoa powder. Their hot choccolate mixes are also yummy. I especially like the Xocolatl, hot chocolate with chilies and cinnamon. It isn’t overly sweet and the chilies play off the chocolate nicely. I’ve made brownies with it and their Xocolatl bar–wowsa. Paul isn’t a dessert person and I am, but he looks at me like I’m crazy when I complain that a dessert is too sweet, especially a chocolate one. He fails to understand that too much sweetness detracts from the chocolate . . .

On 25 January 2005 (09:03 AM),
Amy Jo said:

I forgot to include their URL in my previous post:

They have a few other nibs in their favor:

1) They produce organic chocolate
2) They are fair trade certified
3) Their headquarters is located in Central Point, OR (I think)

On 25 January 2005 (09:30 AM),
Courtney said:

Happy Anniversary! Cheers to you both!

On 25 January 2005 (09:56 AM),
Denise said:

Happy Anniversary – you are a great couple!

On 25 January 2005 (11:31 AM),
J.D. said:


There’s a brief respite here at work, so I was reading my brother’s weblog, specifically his entry on the Oscar nominations. It reminded me of a story I want to tell, but keep forgetting to.

Last weekend, the book group met for a field trip. We went to see the film adaptation of A Very Long Engagement, the book we just read. Despite having reserved our tickets via Fandango, we were scattered throughout the sold-out theater.

A few of us were seated in front of a woman who truly did not belong at this movie. (I picture her as looking/acting like the young blonde woman on Lost, but who knows?)

When the film started, and the credits began to roll, she gasped. Loudly. As if some super-shocking secret had been revealed. “Omigosh!” she said.

“What’s the matter?” someone asked her.

“Don’t tell me this is one of those movies with captions,” she said. I tried not to snicker, but just couldn’t control myself.

Then, fifteen minutes into the movie, her friend asked again, “What’s the matter?”

“I am so lost,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

Somebody else leaned over and said, “Will you shut up?”

When the movie was over, most of our group headed over to South Park for late-night noshing. (I had the Farmer’s Platter — cheese, fruit, and sausage — with a glass of Aberlour; I was too cheap to spend the extra $3.50 to get Lagavulin.) We talked about the woman. We couldn’t decide whether the “shut-up” guy was with her party or not. It’s a mystery.

On 25 January 2005 (02:48 PM),
Amanda said:

Yay! Congrats!!!

On 26 January 2005 (06:32 AM),
Joel said:

Congratulations. And did you like the film?

On 03 March 2005 (06:11 PM),
J.D. said:

For the record, here’s the nutrition information for the chaud. The first number is for the entire batch; the second number assumes a 6-oz serving (one-quarter of the batch).

Calories: 1200/300
Fat: 60g/15g (40g/10g sat.)
Cholesterol: 80mg/20mg
Sodium: 280mg/70mg
Carbohydrates: 136g/34g
Fiber (yes, really): 12g/3g
Sugar: 112g/28g
Protein: 28g/7g
Calcium: 72%/18%
Iron: 40%/10%
Vitamin A: 12%/3%
Vitamin C: 4%/1%
Vitamin D: 56%/14%

Tangerine Dreams and Marshmallow Skies

Sometimes, there’s a man…

One year in the waiting, five days in the making! (Click on stuff!)

Rearing in quaffed monk, you stun me by employing eight windows when the priest is but iodine.

Ming the Merciless says:

From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee. For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee.

The richest man in the world:

(No joke)

Dustmites the world over love you for your feet.

Homer: A gun is not a weapon Marge, it’s a tool. Like a butcher knife, or a harpoon, or… or an alligator.

Homer: Lisa, if you don’t like your job you don’t strike. You just go in there every day and do it really half-assed. That’s the American way.

Homer: Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?

Homer: Marge, don’t discourage the boy! Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals! (pause) Except the weasel.

Homer: He has all the money in the world, but there’s one thing he can’t buy.
Marge: What’s that?
Homer: (pause) A dinosaur.

Homer: Kids, you tried your best, and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.

!!!!!!!! 100% NUDE ALL TEEN STICK FIGURES !!!!!!!

You look like someone who has lunched poorly and who has no expectations for dinner.

Eleven Worst Songs of 2004

Free throw contest

Remember Jesus?

[Jesus Quintana tongues his bowling ball]


On 24 January 2005 (12:37 PM),
dowingba said:

Oh man, I too remember when Simpsons was good. By the way, I turned my speakers down almost instantly upon loading this page. How dare you. I trusted you, man.

On 24 January 2005 (01:52 PM),
Mom (Sue) said:

I laughed when I heard your sound upon opening this site because I recognized the line and the movie instantly, having just rented it from Netflix and sent it back after watching just 1/2 hour of it. I especially don’t like John Goodwin as a psycho — I prefer him as a big teddy bear.

On 24 January 2005 (01:57 PM),
J.D. said:

Well, I’ve had three different people tell me that the sound I’ve embedded in this page causes problems, and each person told me it causes a different problem.

I guess this is why I don’t usually embed sounds in my pages. Watch out next January 23rd, though, because there may be another… 🙂

On 24 January 2005 (02:32 PM),
Drew said:

That was Khan, not Ming – methinks.

On 24 January 2005 (04:24 PM),
Aimee said:

Maude Lebowski, baby … Who else? (For the record, this is one of the best internet quizzes I’ve seen in a long time …) Did you really come out as The Jesus, Jd?

On 24 January 2005 (04:25 PM),
Denise said:

The embedded sound works for me, man.

On 24 January 2005 (04:31 PM),
Joel said:

On 24 January 2005 (04:33 PM),
Joel said:

Oh, crap. I didn’t do that link thing right. Which is just the sort of thing the Dude would do, right? Or is that more of a Donny thing?

According to the “Which Big Lebowski character are you?” quiz:

I am Jeff Lebowski, but nobody calls me that. They call me the dude, or his dudeness, or el duderino if they’re not really into the whole brevity thing.
Why don’t you check it out? Or we cut of your Johnson!

On 24 January 2005 (06:46 PM),
J.D. said:

No, Aim, I did not come out as Jesus. I, too, am Maude Lebowski. “I can’t suppress my instinct to be a mother.”

Living with Rain

Via the recently introduced AskORblogs, Oregon-transplant pb asks:

It was farily sunny today in my section of the Willamette Valley, but rain is predicted through next week. I’ve lived here for a couple years, and the rain hasn’t bother me too much. For some reason I’m noticing it this year. Do you have any strategies that help you get through the winter rain?

Okay, Northwest readers (especially transplants like Mac and Pam): what do you do to ease your mind during the endless weeks of rain?

Me? I rarely notice the rain. Actually, mostly I prefer the rain, though it’s nice to have a few days of sun now and then. (Was it the winter of 97-98 or the winter of 98-99 during which we had something approaching 180 consecutive days with measurable rainfall? That was too extreme even for my tastes.)

However, there are some things I do more often during winter than summer in an effort to keep myself distracted:

  1. Spend time with friends! Winter is the season for formal dinner parties and for general socializing. Sure, outdoor meals in the summer are fun, but nearly all of the dinner parties we attend occur during the months of rain.
  2. Play video games! For some reason, computer games do not interest me in warmer months, but during the winter they offer a whole other world, a world in which it never rains. (At least in World of Warcraft).
  3. Read! I read much more in winter than in summer. When I’m buried in a good book, I don’t notice the gloominess outside. (This is especially true if I have a hot tub in which to soak at the same time. If.)

What about? What strategies do you employ to cope with the rain.


On 18 January 2005 (07:22 AM),
J.D. said:

I forgot one: Movies! Not just Netflix, but actual films in a theater. Usually, we see many more movies during the winter than the summer. Part of this is due to our quest to see every Best Picture nominee, part due to the fact we like winter movies better, and part due to the weather. (This year is an anomaly: we’ve seen hardly anything.)

On 18 January 2005 (08:31 AM),
Jeremy said:

I just continue with my normal life. If I have something I want to do outside, I do it in the rain (unless it is impossible). I just put on my rain gear and go to it.

That being said, I tend to slow down a bit during the winter (with the projects that is) and cook more, eat more, drink more, watch much more TV (not hard to do since I watch virtually none during the summer months).

Here’s to rain! Prost.

On 18 January 2005 (10:31 AM),
Virginia said:

My son bought a place a few years ago from a Californian. He had lived up here for several years and he said he is going back to California. He said in Oregon there are only 2 seasons, “Eleven months of rain and 1 month of relatives.”

On 18 January 2005 (11:49 AM),
Courtney said:

I’m a native Oregonian. I am used to the rain. However, there have been winters when the rain has really gotten to me (1996 for instance…remember the flood?!!). My remedy for endless weeks or months of rain was to take a vacation in the winter to someplace warm, like Hawaii, Thailand, Florida, Australia, etc. I found when I could break up the rain with a couple of weeks of sun, it was much easier to take.

I also agree with Jeremy. You mustn’t let the rain deter you from whatever you want/need to do. If you did, you’d never accomplish anything.

On 18 January 2005 (11:55 AM),
Kris said:

Hot tea, hot chocolate, hot cider, hot soup. Any of those and a good book go a long way to making the winter enjoyable, not just bearable. That and imagining my springtime garden!

Seiously, though, even though the heating bill is the worse for it, I love all the huge windows in our new home. Even on a rainy day there are glimpses of sun, green grass, birds and squirrels going about their business. Doesn’t seem nearly as gloomy as in our former ranch-style cavern.

On 18 January 2005 (04:28 PM),
Schmela said:

I love the rain. I usually try to get out and do whatever I would normally do, not including yardwork in the muck. However, rain means time to spend on good books, movies, friends, games, etc. Rain means coffee and potato soup. Rain also usually means snow in the mountains (except for this week…arrrggh), and the skier in me likes that.

We lived in Albuquerque for 4 years after growing up in Washington. The lack of rain was startling and even a little depressing. I used to crave the summer monsoon season, just for the brief 30 minutes of afternoon rain. Living there, I think I always felt like I should be outside enjoying the sun (all 300+ days a year of it), and I usually felt guilty if I was inside at the computer, reading, or watching a movie.

On 18 January 2005 (05:14 PM),
Rob said:

We just moved back to a place that had more sun; in the end we couldn’t cope with the rain, it became too much to live with.

Maybe we could employ some of your techniques if we have to come back to the rainy northwest.

Thanks J.D!

On 18 January 2005 (06:40 PM),
Amy Jo said:

It isn’t the rain that gets to me, it is the low ceiling of clouds. The lack of bright light leaves me feeling lethargic and grumpy. Folks in DC would give my friend Windy and I strange looks when we walked through the rain, faces turned upward, without the cover of an umbrella. She’s a left coaster too (Northern California, but we can still claim her) and nothing made us both more homesick than a drippy day . . .

On 18 January 2005 (10:34 PM),
Tammy said:

I clean closets and plan my spring garden.

I dont mind the rain at all but then I live in a very bright house with a sunroom attached to the living room. My living room has two sets of glass doors in it. One can almost imagine you’re sitting outside.


I was fortunate during my sophomore year in college to share a room in Willamette‘s off-campus apartments. I was even more fortunate that my roommate had managed to nab a corner flat on the top story.

Ken was only nominally my roommate. He actually lived on the third floor with his girlfriend, Caroline, in a small studio barely big enough for a single person. They packed the room with Ken’s synthesizer, Caroline’s clothes, and their shared books, furniture, and food. They lived cozy lives.

Ken stayed in our apartment only if he and Caroline had been fighting, and usually then for only half the night. (As you can imagine, I found this arrangement terribly convenient.)

During the spring semester, Ken “moved out”; that is to say he still lived with Caroline, but he gave the university some bogus address. I found a new roommate, Bill, and had to become accustomed to actually sharing living space again.

Bill and I both preferred morning classes. I know a lot of kids who, during their first year of college, schedule all their classes for the afternoon. I did that during the first semester of my freshman year, but found this was a Bad Idea. For me. I fell asleep in afternoon classes. The professor would be droning away about behavioral psychology or gender roles in society or the Baghavad-Gita while I waged a private little war with my leaden eyelids. Not fun. And not conducive to learning.

So I took morning classes. Ever after it was my goal to be done with classes by lunch. (Except I allowed myself one night class per term. I liked night classes.) Bill had a similar schedule.

We both liked to rise early, but we had different approaches to waking.

If Bill woke first, he’d play a tape of mellow music. (This was mere months before the dawn of the CD era; I owned four CDs but had nothing to play them with.) George Winston’s December was a favorite, or Cat Stevens, or James Taylor. He’d brew some tea or coffee, and when I wandered to the kitchen I’d find him sipping his drink, eating a fresh scone, reading Michel Foucalt, piano music tinkling softly in the background.

His whole approach to mornings was anathema to me.

If I woke first, I’d put in a tape of 80s dance music: Alphaville or Duran Duran or Depeche Mode. I’d crank the volume as much as I dared. When Bill made his way to the kitchen, he’d find me chugging a glass of orange juice, eating a couple of slices of bacon while reading a Stephen King novel. “Can we turn the music down?” he’d ask.

Our philosophies on evenings were just as different.

Bill managed The Bistro, the campus café. His idea of a great evening included boisterous conversation with friends, a bustle of activity, and lots of upbeat music. It was in the evening that he broke out REM, The Communards, and U2.

I wanted my evenings soft and restful. I wanted lullabies and classical music, a good book, and maybe a warm bath. I wanted to prepare for sleep.

I have many fond memories of Bill. I remember our early-term trip to Heliotrope, the local health food store. We stocked up on natural and organic food, most of which was never eaten (the stuff slowly turned foul in our cupboards). I remember the day he fixed curried chicken: he spent the entire day boiling and seasoning the meat, preparing a feast for friends. “What’s curry?” I asked him. “You’ll see,” he said. In the evening, I tried curry for the first time; it remains one of my favorite flavors. I remember the day he told me a deep, deep secret. This must have been difficult for him, and I’m afraid I was a bit too flip. (I already suspected the nature of the secret.)

Bill was a good guy, a deep thinker, an excellent human being. After college, he pursued a graduate degree in philosophy. We exchanged e-mail once, about ten years ago, at which time I mentioned that Kris and I felt morally obligated to have children (a story for another day). He responded that this kind of thinking was akin to Naziism. I’m sad that was our last communication.

I like Bill, and I wonder what’s become of him.


On 15 January 2005 (11:26 AM),
Amy Jo said:

Do share why you and Kris felt “morally obligated” to have children at one time . . . I have a difficult time imagining Kris feeling morally “obligated” to do anything, especially when it comes to having children. This isn’t to imply that Kris has no morals–quite the opposite. She strikes me as someone firmly rooted in her beliefs and not easily swayed by others with whom she disagrees.

On 17 January 2005 (08:13 AM),
J.D. said:

Our reasoning at the time — for good or ill — went something like this:

We are reasonably healthy, well-educated, psychologically stable, and wealthy. In theory, we can provide an excellent environment for a child to excel. Therefor, we ought to have children in order to balance the scales a little. It was a moral obligation.

Bill believed — perhaps correctly — that there was an unspoken, subliminal racism inherent in this philosophy. I don’t think it’s so much racism as a sort of classism, and I see that now. But I still think that, statistically speaking, has we brought a child into this world, they would have had an above-average chance to succeed. I look at many of our friends who are now having children and I think, “These kids will be the top kids in their classes at school.” Maybe it’s wrong of me to think this (and probably I’m completely wrong on my guess anyhow), but it’s still what I believe.

I’m not saying that a kid raised in poverty, in an unhealthy environment, by uneducated parents cannot succeed. I just think it’s more difficult for a child to do so.

On 17 January 2005 (03:01 PM),
Scott D said:

JD – last time I communicated with Bill, I learned he was an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Don’t know if he is still there, but I do have that particular email address if you are interested.

BTW, our DVD “Stir it Up” is going to be reviewed in Parenting magazine in May. And you are not morally obligated to buy it 🙂

On 18 January 2005 (06:21 AM),
Joel said:

Dude, you guys had your own kitchen?! Salem really is the land of milk n’ honey.

On 18 January 2005 (07:32 AM),
J.D. said:

Well, Joel, you can find photos of our apartment, with kitchen, in this entry about the first Chicken Noodle Fest. Bill’s even in one of the pictures.

On 19 January 2005 (06:09 AM),
al said:

I (We) have decided to not have children, though I have no problem with people who do have them (up to 2). I believe it’s irresponsible once kids start outnumbering parents.

My wife and I are thinking of an activity group for adults w/o kids. We have the freedom that being childfree allows, so let’s travel, let’s go out late w/o babysitters, let’s have fun!

Battlestar Galactica

The new Battlestar Galactica series airs on the SciFi Channel this week.

You should watch this show.

If you’re interested in science fiction — even just a little — you should watch this show.

If you’re tired of the direction the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises have taken, you should watch this show.

If you liked the old Battlestar Galactica, you should watch this show.

Basically, if you think there’s even a remote possibility that you might like the new Battlestar Galactica, and you have access to the SciFi Channel, you should give the show a try.

This new Battlestar Galactica debuted last winter as a four-hour miniseries. I didn’t watch it. It received mediocre reviews, and despite Nicole‘s endorsement, I didn’t take the time to check it out. I regret that.

Since the actual series began airing in the UK in October, I’ve been grabbing each weekly installment via BitTorrent. The eleventh episode was broadcast Monday, and I’m downloading it this very moment.

At first I was disconcerted because this isn’t so much a remake of the original series as a “re-imagining”. The creators have taken the premise of the earlier show (which aired twenty-four episodes from 1978-1979), the character names and traits, even many of the situations, and then re-adapted them to suit their purposes. But they’ve done a fantastic job.

The old Starbuck and Apollo…

The revised premise:

The cylons were created by man. They rebelled. They evolved. They look and feel human. Some are programmed to think they are human. There are many copies. And they have a plan.

The cylons, machines created to do humanity’s dirty work, rebel. After many years of war, they propose peace. But they’ve secretly planted cylon agents, agents that appear human rather than mechanical, throughout the twelve colonized worlds. They cylons launch a surprise attack, nearly destroying civilization. All that remains is a “rag-tag fleet” of ships, fleeing from the cylons, searching for a new world to call home.

I love the homages the new series pays to the old. Two original episodes have been adapted to the new series, but it’s more than that. In one episode, Richard Hatch, the original Apollo, appears as the leader of a prison riot. His scenes with the new Apollo gain additional subtext when you understand that Hatch championed the cause of a new Galactica for years, only to see his version ignored in favor of the one we have now.

…meet the new Apollo and Starbuck

The Colonial Vipers — the X-Wings of Battlestar — are still here. Starbuck still swears and smokes cigars and loves to gamble, but is now a woman. Boomer’s a woman, too. Adama (still a man) is played, most excellently, by Edward James Olmos.

The biggest change from the original is that now most of the cylons take human form. (The most prominent cylon, a beautiful seductress referred to simply as Number Six, seems to exist almost entirely in the mind of the traitor, Baltar.) The old, robot-like cylons are still around, but they play a minor role.

There’s lots to praise here. The music is subtle and atmospheric, almost haunting, not bombastic in the sci-fi movie tradition. Spacecraft obey the laws of physics. The (rare) space battles are quite different from those we’re used to seeing. Best of all, this is a show for adults; there are no annoying children to detract from the main plot threads.

And, really, that’s what we have here: a series of continuing plot threads, weaving their way through the course of a thirteen episode season. The series’ tone reminds me very much of Lost, another new show from this season.

Battlestar Galactica is not without weaknesses. The acting tends toward wooden at times, especially from the supporting player. Everyone is too earnest by half. Certain plot points are belabored beyond my ability to care (though, to be honest, the plot element I liked the least — the cylon in Baltar’s mind — paid off in a big way in a recent episode). And, if anything, I long for more robots and spacefights. The show’s creators use these elements sparingly, and perhaps that’s why they carry such weight when they actually do appear. (Sometimes this show feels like The West Wing in space.)

You should watch this show.


On 11 January 2005 (05:56 AM),
Denise said:

Kris was wrong!!!

I loved Battlestar Galactica when I was a kid, and was devastated when they took it off the air. I love this entry – in only reinforced my decision to watch the series.

When does it start for us almost geeks that wait for normal TV? I don’t want to miss it!

On 11 January 2005 (06:17 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

Hm. What a horrible oversight. It would be helpful to post the schedule, wouldn’t it. It appears that the show’s normal air-time will be Friday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Pacific.

Part one of the miniseries from last year will broadcast tonight from 6-8 and again tomorrow from 4-6. The second part will broadcast tomorrow from 6-8. (Which means that for the first time since my knee surgery I’ll be glued to the telly for six hours straight: four hours of Battlestar, then Lost, then Alias.)

The first episode of the new series airs this Friday at 6 p.m., followed by the second episode at 7 p.m. Next week the series settles into its regular time at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Fridays.


On 11 January 2005 (06:39 AM),
Peter said:

That’s two votes for the “Kris was wrong” party. The mini series was awesome so I’m really looking forward to the series, especially after your review J.D.

BTW, the schedule for Canadian viewers is Saturday Jan. 15th at 8pm EST and repeats on Sunday Jan. 16th at 6pm EST on Space.

On 11 January 2005 (08:13 AM),
J.D. said:

I’ve posted the trailer for the new Battlestar Galactica series here. It’s a 5mb Quicktime clip. (Left-click to watch in a browser window or right-click to save to your hard drive.)

On 11 January 2005 (10:03 AM),
Lynn said:

One vote for the “Kris definitely knew what she was talking about” camp.

On 11 January 2005 (10:54 AM),
Amanda said:

Make that two.


On 11 January 2005 (03:04 PM),
Michael Rawdon said:

Strangely, I don’t get SciFi in my city on cable. Yesyes, I could get satellite or something, but I don’t watch enough TV to care.

Not sure whether I’d watch the series if I did get SciFi. I enjoyed the original series as a kid – but then, I was 9. As an adult, the few episodes I’ve seen have been just plain awful. And it never interested me as much as Star Trek.

On 11 January 2005 (08:03 PM),
Courtney said:

Kris ROCKS!!!

On 12 January 2005 (08:21 AM),
jenefer said:

I probably would not have watched if you had not mentioned it, but I did watch last night and will probably watch the rest just to see where it is going. I never could get into Battlestar before. I grew up on Star Trek and saw the first Star Wars on the first day at one of the few theaters showing it. The theater is now gone, but I still have my “May the Force Be with You” pin that they handed out to the diehards. We were actually first in line!

On 12 January 2005 (09:44 AM),
Mrs Darling said:

I’m sooooo with Kris on this!

On 12 January 2005 (08:40 PM),
Paul said:

JD–Sorry I didn’t respond sooner. My school computer isn’t allowing me to respond. I’m totally with you (must be a y-chromosome thing). I loved the original as a kid. Not geeky, or I guess it is not geeky if it is something that you like.

On 12 January 2005 (08:40 PM),
Paul said:

JD–Sorry I didn’t respond sooner. My school computer isn’t allowing me to respond. I’m totally with you (must be a y-chromosome thing). I loved the original as a kid. Not geeky, or I guess it is not geeky if it is something that you like.

On 15 January 2005 (10:06 AM),
J.D. said:

Rave reviews for the new Battlestar Galactica.

On 19 January 2005 (09:44 AM),
Jim Treacher said:

I really liked the miniseries, and if anything the first two episodes were better. I find the “Earthisms” kind of jarring, but that’s pretty minor. This is the show that Enterprise has been trying (and failing) to be.

On 11 July 2005 (11:34 AM),
Gopher said:

Is the new season of battlestar galactica going to be on any other popular stations (nbc etc), besides the Scifi? In canada we don’t get that station (bummer) eh:-((((
Stargate (both series) are hard to get as well.