Apr 10

105 – Why I Bird

Yesterday my life list passed 100 birds. This makes me happy; I’ll try to explain why.

Beltzner asked me once why I liked birds so much. I told him I didn’t, not particularly. I like nature. But if you go out for a walk in nature, you’re apt to come across a rodent or two, maybe an interesting mammal like a fox or deer, and you’re going to see at least 20 to 30 different kinds of birds. Bird knowledge is high return on investment, and gives lots of opportunity for practice. Knowing… I don’t know… voles, seems less immediately rewarding.

As for keeping track of them, I only started that last fall after a trip to Florida that was particularly packed with “life birds” (birds I’d never seen in the wild.) It may delight you to know that keeping track, “listing” as it’s called, is not without controversy. There are rules, if you enjoy such things, and there are a variety of local, regional, continental and world lists to work from. There are also, because of course there would be, reactionary elements within the bird watching world who are anti-list. There are lines drawn along the axis of listing that separate “birders” from “bird watchers” in ways that any Trekkie (or Trekker) will find immediately familiar.

I mostly don’t go in for all that. I record every bird I see in the wild; that’s it. For now I keep the list to North America, though I might start a world list at some point. I don’t record a bird until I’m confident of the ID, and I add a little ‘P’ in the margin for those where I managed to snag a good photo. Among (ahem) serious North American birders, my 105 is child’s play. 250 is the price of admission, 400 is typical of serious hobbyists, and 700 is a target once thought impossible but now reached regularly by people with the ability to fly to the Aleutian Islands to sneak in some Eurasian migrants while still technically in North America. I’m not likely to go in for all that, either.

Still, it’s rewarding for me to keep track. It motivates me to seek out habitats I haven’t visited before, and it lets me flag certain birds with extra import. It helps me notice detail on the birds that, I think, makes me a better photographer. Mostly, it gets me out of the house and into nature with a camera – that’s reason enough.

For posterity, then, my list to date (in Peterson’s order). Big thanks to Barry, my mentor in all things bird, for getting me this far.
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May 09

What’s a Few Months, Really?

I know.  It’s  been a few months since my last post.  But what’s a few months, in the grand scheme of things?

Stick that in your perspective and smoke it. It’s worth clicking through to the HD version.

Jun 08

Hello Vancouver! Briefly!

A quick note, to any Vancouverites that may be interested, that I will be in town on Wednesday to speak at the FIRST 2008 conference. The title of the talk is “The Most Important Thing – How Mozilla Does Security, and What You Can Steal.” If you’re attending the conference, I hope I’ll see you there. Once the conference is over, I’ll post my slides and a video of a presentation dry-run, in case anyone is interested.

I had a lot of help from several people, most notably Shaver, in putting this presentation together; my goal is to keep adapting it and ideally get other people giving it as well. Security is something that the Mozilla project has a lot of experience with, and a lot to be proud of. It is important to our mission that we share that expertise. Even when what we’re saying isn’t new (“have unit tests”), the fact that we have achieved the success we have lets us be a proof point for people trying to make change in their own projects (“Mozilla didn’t think code review was too time-intensive.”)

I may not be an official member of the evangelism team, but I will do whatever I can to encourage more people in our community to take their knowledge outbound. We are doing crazy awesome stuff here (how many IT people, on the planet, have dealt with what Justin‘s team has?) and we should consider it an obligation to spread that knowledge around. Heck, that’s actually sort of what my talk is about.

Dec 07


Johnath on NSID Day 7A couple years ago, when I still worked for IBM, there came a point – about a week into December – when I realised that I had no more user lab sessions, no more customer travel – that I had no particular reason to keep myself presentable.  This was an opportunity not to be ignored.

I tend to shave pretty regularly, and I think people tend to prefer it that way, for the most part.  I do too, really.  But sometimes you need a chance to stretch your follicles and see what you’d look like if only.  And so, NSID was born:

No Shaving In December

I have been delinquent in not introducing the concept sooner, but in truth, the first NSID was not a full month long anyhow, and we keepers of the faith welcome late arrivals in any case.  Don’t view it as a contest, or a strict discipline, view it as an opportunity.

If you have to shave early because of some social function – so be it – consider resuming your hobo look afterwards if there’s still time.  If you have to shave it because it itches like an unholy FIRE, that’s okay.  NSID is not about judgement.  It’s about self-actualization which, unless I am sorely mistaken, and I’m not, is right at the tippy-top of the god damned pyramid.  It’s the gift you give yourself.

Know too that you are not alone.  I am here.  Robcee is here.  Beltzner and bhearsum and claire are here too.  Shaver defied the destiny of his very name to join our motley crew, and mconnor is a member by default.

We have a flickr pool.  You know what to do.

May 07

Unseen Backwards Flying Pigeon Kick

We have returned safely. Pictures are here, for your considered appraisal. On first glance, my personal favourites include this one,

Westminster Abbey

this one,

He Suspects Nothing

and this one,

Oh noes!

Jul 06

Photo Linkage

Claws!Everyone with a soul needs to go look at this flickr pool. So many great shots.

Animal Kingdom: flickr pool

[Photo credit: dotpolka]

Jun 06

Enough with the bloody birds already

Taken this weekend up at Barb & Barry’s place, north of Orangeville. At time of shooting this little guy has literally just fledged – he was the last of his sibs to leave the nest, and wasn’t quite smart enough yet to fear me and my camera.

Fledgeling Robin

Jan 06

The Megapixel Myth

Now I’m not saying I know a damned thing about photography. I know what aperture does to your depth of field, I know why high speed film is grainy (even when it’s high speed digital “film”) and I know why a fast 1200mm lens makes an excellent christmas gift, but that’s mostly about technology, not photography. The kids in Born Into Brothels didn’t know any of that stuff and they shot more powerful photos with dollar store 35mm point and clicks than I will likely ever manage with cameras far more spiffy than I will ever buy. Photography is about taking the things that you see in the world and capturing them so that other people (including future instances of yourself) can see them the same way you did. In a sense this is, of course, impossible for a host of reasons but basically you take a photo so that later you can look at the photo and go, oh yeah, remember that?

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