Silhouette: a short hawk quiz

31 Jul

Originally posted on Ramble:

A fuss of blue jays and robins. Look up:


Some clues:
unhappy songbirds
a tail that extends beyond the wing tips, but not too far
stout chest

Red-shouldered hawk. Not a Cooper’s Hawk? The tail is too short and the body too chunky. (Birders: let loose with corrections as needed!)

I used the computer to zip down the brightness of the photograph:

hawk3Coarse streaking: an immature bird. It took off after a young robin… and so the next generation relearn the old ways.

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What I Can Say About Sandra Bland

24 Jul

It’s hard for me to write about the Sandra Bland case. I can’t pretend to be an expert on police procedures or being black in the USA. I’ve edited videos and photos but can’t always tell if someone else has.

I wish I was more of a medical expert here. I suspect that the police holding her neglected her health and let her die over the course of three days, maybe because they were afraid to let the public know about her injuries. Maybe she became asphyxiated during an epileptic seizure that left her in a bad position. I have my doubts that it was suicide. The few young activists I’ve known who have been in jail wanted to stay alive in order to tell their stories. Then again, all the ones I’ve known have been white. Maybe they figured they could go on with life.  See the link on point one below for an argument in favor of ruling it a suicide.

I also doubt that it was deliberate murder. That particular jail had been in trouble for so many violations recently, including being too easy to escape, that I doubt its guards would ever scheme such an elaborate conspiracy unless they felt forced to do so. Negligence just seems more plausible for such incompetents.

Anyway, here’s what I can say:

1. Even if it was suicide, which I’ll admit is likely, the general public should show more sympathy about the causes that drove her to suicide.

2. The jail neglected to enforce Texas’s rules about watching possibly suicidal prisoners. We know that for sure. If you believe in law and order, then hold the law accountable to its own rules.

3. Even if I’m no expert, this woman is. I can share her words.

4. Police shouldn’t fear civilian cameras. That’s probably the one thing that makes me the most annoyed about the two different videos, one of them shot by a bystander at a good distance away who was still told to leave. Police aren’t always wrong. They aren’t always right either. Often in these comment threads, commenters tell people to obey and be respectful to the cops. Sometimes these commenters go as far as saying that if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear. That kind of statement should apply equally to the police themselves.

5. I’m tired of a media obsessed with narratives about devils and saints. Internet commenters are even worse. This happens all the time with crime reporting and it sickens me. No one is perfect. Few people are perfectly evil.

What disturbs me most in this particular case was the red herring that the medical examiner found THC in Bland’s body. Smearing her corpse with accusations of reefer madness is sickening. Plenty of people, black, white, rich and poor alike use cannabis for various reasons, including use of it’s derivatives as a treatment for epilepsy, which Bland had. I suspect hypocrisy on the part of many of her accusers here.


Knoxville Skatepark

14 Jul

My recent “News Sentinel” article about Knoxville Skate Park.

It’s a challenge writing about a sport that’s well-known among a small group but with terms that outsiders barely understand. Anyway, here are some extra photos of Tyson Park that didn’t make it into the article.

Peanut pool and scoreboard.

Peanut pool and scoreboard.

Scooters in banked bowl Flow bowl at Knoxville Skatepark Banked bowl with flow bowl beyond it Knoxville Skatepark

Rugby Swimming Hole Harkens Back to Days of Yore

1 Jul

This article was published by me in the Knoxville News Sentinel. Click here to read it.

South Knox Trails Invite Repeat Visits

1 Jul

“Yvonne stared amazed as we approached his red-eyed face, taking quiet pictures of his yellow-marked shell with her iPhone. This was the first box turtle she’d ever seen.”

Click here to keep reading

Inherit the Wind

10 May

I recently saw the movie Inherit the Wind. Inherit the Wind is a movie based on a play which was based loosely on the Scopes “Monkey” Trial in Dayton Tennessee, in which a man went on trial for teaching about the evolution of humans from other animals.

I say loosely because all of the characters’ names are changed except for the single bit part of a boy named Howard and offstage characters like Charles Darwin. Even the town’s name is changed to Hillsborough. No matter how many lines and scenes got taken from the trial’s transcript, the play is a work of fiction with some characters invented completely. My upcoming book Ben and Larry in Cumberland will mention the Scopes trial, but won’t say much about Inherit the Wind, the play or the film. After all, the last thing I want to do is confuse readers with three different parallel universes.

The main issue that relates the trial to my book’s focus, the Cumberland Trail, is Dayton’s flagging coal industry. Coal doesn’t even figure into the movie or the play, which makes sense. Inspired by the House Un-American Activities committee, the movie is about the right to hold differing opinions, or as the movie puts it “The Right to be Wrong.”

What strikes me about the play and movie is not their relation to the era in which they were written and produced: The fifties and early sixties. When movies dealt with serious issues back then, they did so with optimism and full conviction. Inherit the Wind has characters making powerful speeches about science, education and open-mindedness. More recent movies about serious issues like Crash and Syriana have been more cynical. I do not know which approach is better.

A New Olympic Sport?

11 Sep

A New Olympic Sport?. A post from another blogger who just discovered disc golf for the first time (and yes, that’s the right spelling). I discovered it last year. Of course, I just play it for fun. I imagine that if my first experience was disc golf as a serious sport as this author did, my view of it would be different.


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