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Monday, June 21, 2004

Quite a Weekend 

From a bit of cooking to some travel to a raptor rescue to baby shopping (or at least pre-shopping), it was a weekend chock-full-a stuff.

Friday: Dinner and a Movie

I knocked off from work on Friday around 1 p.m. Work is slack for the first time in a couple of years right now. Part of that is because my new assistant editor has been doing a fantastic job, shoveling through a lot of copy very quickly and efficiently, and part is because we've build up a good-sized pile of overset material so there's little pressure to build up more copy at the moment, especially since we're heading into the August issue, which is usually thin because of summer holidays in Europe.

I cleaned out the gutters, which were a bit clogged around the downspouts, but mostly with leaves. There were a lot of dead cicadas up there, but not as bad as I'd feared. I also took care of three loads of laundry, finished reading When Boston Won the World Series, and took a short nap.

Evelin and I had a quiet night in. I made a fresh pasta sauce (zucchini, onion, garlic, tomato, rehydrated porcini, a bit of red wine, and herbes de Provence), and we watched 50 First Dates. The sauce/veggies turned out pretty tasty, although I think the porcini were lost among the other flavors; next time, I think I'd either skip the porcini or keep them, skip the tomatoes and use a white wine. The movie was really cute and sweet.

Saturday: Road Trip!

For about a week, I have been telling Evelin to save this weekend because I was going to surprise her with something. To tell the truth, I wasn't sure exactly what we were going to do, but it worked out.

The only thing I had planned was the Pennsylvania Lavender Festival. Last weekend, I saw a sign for the festival and knowing how much Evelin likes lavender, I figured she'd enjoy the festival. We left the house around 8:00 a.m. and were at Willow Pond Farm by 9:30 or so.

It was a nice, sunny day and not too hot, which was nice for wandering through the small lavender fields and other gardens. We also took in a short lecture about organic gardening techniques and looked through all the plants they had for sale.

After about two hours, Evelin was ready to go, but we still had a day to kill. Earlier in the morning, I'd looked through our Lonely Planet New York guidebook (Pennsylvania and New Jersey are lumped into the New York guide) and noticed the section on Johnstown.

When I was a kid, I had a book about disasters, and among the tales of Pompeii and the Hindenburg was the Johnstown Flood. We had lots of floods in Louisiana while I was growing up, but the problem was always rising water, not a torrent from a broken dam. I don't remember whether or not the Johnstown Flood concerned me too much as a kid, but I do remember reading about it.

Anyway, it looked like we were about two hours from Johnstown, and Evelin was game, so we headed off to the Flood Museum. A good part of the drive was along Route 30, the Lincoln Highway, and included some fantastic scenery.

Johnstown itself was a nice, quiet former mill town in a beautiful valley at the confluence of the Little Conemaugh and Stoney Creek rivers. Those same features -- the valley and the rivers -- were what lead to the dead of more than 2,200 people when an upriver dam broke causing the flood of 1889.

The Johnstown Flood Museum did a nice job of presenting the horror of the flood with a big diorama, artifacts, an Oscar-winning short documentary (The Johnstown Flood), and a multimedia slideshow mixing 3-D stereograph postcards with survivor's stories.

Admission to the museum included admission to the Pasquerilla Heritage Discovery Center, which gives an overview of the immigrant experience in the region (and, by extension, across the United States). It was a multimedia "experience" of a museum and some bits worked better than others, but overall I liked it. (Evelin found it too noisy and too cold.)

While driving through town, we passed along all three sides of Point Stadium (former home of the Johnstown Red Sox, a BoSox Class AA affiliate in 1961, and now home to the AAABA Johnstown Grays and the annual AAABA annual tournament), which looked like a nice little ballpark, and we thought about taking the Inclined Plane funicular railway, but the pub at the top was closed and Evelin (and the baby) needed food.

We drove around for a while looking for some place to grab a bite, but ended up at Sal’s Pizza across from the Heritage Discovery Center. It looked like a hole in the wall, but the pizza was very nice and fortified us for the drive back to D.C.

I think we will have to head back out to that part of Pennsylvania. We didn't get to see a lot of things that look pretty cool, including the Allegheny Portage Railroad NHS.

Sunday: Raptor Rescue

This is the day that turned out a bit odd. Things started off normally enough. I walked up to 7-Eleven for my morning Diet Coke and the Sunday editions of The Washington Post and The (Baltimore) Sun. I found a penny on the ground, but that's not too odd.

Evelin gave me a really cute Father's Day card she made that showed me reading to the baby via a paper towel tube. She is super crafty!

Later in the morning, Evelin ran out to the car to get the to-do list she'd worked on during the drive back from Johnstown. I was inside reading the paper and heard her calling for me to quickly come outside.

There, sitting on the fence, was a young hawk being dive-bombed by a couple of blue jays. The hawk was looking rather calm as the jays kept sweeping over him, but as I came outside, he flew off across the street.

The hawk was obviously young -- he had bits of down/fluff still on his head -- and he couldn't really fly very well. He landed in a neighbor's yard where the jays kept up their torment. As Evelin and I wondered what we should do, a cardinal and a robin joined in with the jays to harass the hawk.

I ran inside to google "raptor rescue" and to check the phonebook for animal rescue numbers. Evelin stayed outside to keep an eye on the bird. By the time I came back out, the bird had flown further down the street (entangling himself in a chain-link fence at one point) and he was standing in the gutter while Evelin stood far enough away to keep the jays from attacking.

I called the raptor rescue number I found online and wasn't able to reach anyone, so I tried animal control. They said they'd send someone out.

As Evelin and I stood around keeping an eye on the hawk (and the jays), a car turned the corner, startling the hawk and he flew into the side of a nearby house. The hawk seemed to be stunned and was hanging by one claw upside-down from a shutter on the house. Evelin ran back to our house to get a blanket, and I approached the bird, trying to see if we could catch him. When the blanket arrived, I tried to figure out how to get the bird into the blanket when he suddenly dropped into the azaleas below.

Poking through the bushes, I could see that the bird was upright and looking okay. Since the jays couldn't see him anymore, they left and we figured we should just wait until animal control arrived.

After a half hour or so, I went to check on the bird. He was still under the azaleas but I must have startled him because he flew out into the street again.

Evelin stopped a car that was coming down the street and the bird hopped up onto the sidewalk. As Evelin distracted him from the front, I came up behind the hawk with a towel (the blanket was too big, so I'd traded it for a towel) and dropped it over him. The towel helped calm the hawk and I was able to pin his wings, pick him up and carry him home to await animal control.

Sitting on the fence, the hawk had looked fairly large, but in my hands he seemed much smaller. His head and talons were wrapped in the towel, but I could feel the occasional movement, so I'm sure he was trying to figure out how to get away.

Not too long after the capture, animal control arrived and transferred the hawk from our towel to a carrier for transport to a wildlife rehabilitator. He wasn't sure, but the officer said he thought the bird was an immature red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis); he was also worried that it might have a hurt neck (which could have come from getting tangled in the fence or smacking into the house, and I hope not from my rescue attempt) and/or wing.

He did say, however, that we had gone about capturing the bird the right way, which was good to hear since the only other wild bird rescue I've been involved with was a crow with a hurt wing. The crow was much easier to catch, but we used a similar trick of covering him with a towel.

Now what a fledgling red-tailed hawk was doing in our neighborhood, we're not sure. Maybe he was blown out of a nest during the storm a few days ago and had gradually made his way to our neighborhood, or perhaps there are some hawks in the big old trees up the hill. I've never noticed any near us before, and I've only seen squirrel dreys and smaller bird nests in the trees when the oaks drop their leaves for winter.

After the excitement was over, Evelin and I headed out to the farmers market, but when I went to lock the door, the deadbolt broke. I'm not sure what happened, but my key just kept spinning and the lock wouldn't engage.

So, instead of the farmers market, I made a trip to Home Depot.

Given the age and nature of our house, however, this would be no simple matter of buy a new lock. I could have replaced just the deadbolt, but I wanted to swap out the handle lock too, but it is placed much further into the door than is standard these days. The deadbolt is about 2.5 inches from the doorjamb to the center of the lock; the handle lock is about 5 inches. Home Depot had no handle locks for such a configuration.

After running home, getting the old lock, and opening a few packages at Home Depot, I hit upon a solution. I found a handle lock with a similar mechanism and decided to use the old bolt with the new handle. It took a little doing to make it work, but we now have new locks for the front door (and, for the first time since we moved to this house, the handle lock is actually effective).

After clean up from that project was done, Evelin and I headed out to Babies "Я" Us to test-drive some car seats, strollers, and other baby gear. Evelin has been going through Baby Bargains trying to get an idea of what we need to buy and what we should register for, but we needed to touch some of these things to figure out what we liked.

This was a good idea. Among other things, it got us straightened out about strollers -- we're now planning to go for a Chicco or Combi umbrella stroller, instead of jogging stroller or a big off-roading stroller that will be difficult for Evelin to wrestle out of the trunk.

After about two hours in the store, we grabbed an early dinner at Hard Times Cafe (all of the sudden, I developed a craving for vegetarian chili, five-way, over spaghetti). It was good and filling, but I think they've slipped a bit as the chain has grown. They seem to have stopped giving you cornbread before the meal arrives, and the chili was a little less plentiful than I remember.

After a bit of time at home composing this entry (and Evelin quickly calling back a HypoBirthing teacher to see when classes start), Evelin and I were back out to enjoy the clear night sky at the University of Maryland Observatory open house.

We got there a few minutes late, but still caught most of the lecture about the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM), and we got really good looks at Jupiter and four of its moons and the double-double star Epsilon Lyr, as well as fuzzier looks at M 13 (Hercules globular cluster) and M 81 (Bode's galaxy).

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