Monday, July 31, 2006


My Uncle Howard, about whom I've written before, died this past weekend, and I'll be driving to Lake Charles, Louisiana after work today so I can attend the funeral on Tuesday. He was a great bear of a man, my Uncle Howard, a wonderful father to his children, husband to his wife Claudia, and brother to my father and his sister Kathy.

Funerals make me more confused than anything. It's a time when religion is supposed to comfort us the most, but I just end up feeling even more conflicted by it. Why is the system set up like this, that our bodies wear out and suffer for so long? Why do we have to die, if God loves us and wants us close to Him, why not just have us born in Heaven? It all feels like some sick play with us as the star and God as the malevolent director, making us twist and turn in the wind to pass the time.

Atheism isn't any better. Someone's dead and they're returning to the same inorganic matter that they came from, end of story. There's no afterlife, this is all we get, and once the curtain falls, the show's over, everyone out of your seats, thanks for coming, folks.

But at the end of the day, no matter what you believe, those of us who remain have to live with the simple fact that someone we love is dead, and it sucks to be left here without them.

When I'm walking the property and I come across a tree that's an unusual shape, or find a ravine that's been cut by a flash flood, I can tell what went on in its past. The tree grows sideways because there used to be a bigger tree over there, and the sunlight was better over here. So that's where it grew, sheltered from the harsher elements by the bigger one but also shaped by it. That bigger, older tree is gone now, but it lives on, echoed in the shape of the one that's left behind.

The waters that carve the gully are long since passed, nourishing plants and animals well downstream. But its legacy lives on, a permanent mark on the soil that tells its own tale, while giving homage to the forces that shaped it.

So too we each touch each others' lives, each person we've loved and been loved by a monument to who we were and what we did with the time we had on this earth. I don't think there's any more comfort, or any greater testament, to be had than that for our mortal existence, no matter what happens to us afterwards.

If you believe in God, then surely Uncle Howard is there with Him. And if you don't, then take comfort from the sure, indisputable, rock-solid practical every day truth that he definitely lives on in those whose lives he touched with his love, his honor, and the wonderfully warm fact of his presence.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cleared for Takeoff

Our second clutch of under-the-porch barn swallow babies took flight today! We got to see the whole sequence from our living room window. Annie noticed that one of the three fledglings was not in the nest any longer, leaving just his two siblings in the ol' homestead.

"Criminey, did you see Bob?! He just jumped right out of the nest and took off, wow!"

"Bob's nuts, you know that. Don't you even think about doing it yourself!"

"But Mom and Dad are out there, look at 'em go! Come on, it's not THAT far down ..."

"I ain't leavin' this nest, no way, no how, and if you do you're -- PHIL!! Geez, Phil just took a dive!"

"Hey Phil, you OK?"

"Yeah yeah ... (pant pant pant) ... I'm good it's just that's a little farther than I thought. This ledge is looking pretty good right about now, I have to say."

"You're screwed, dude, eventually those dog things are gonna come back out and then you're lunch. Get back up here!"

"I can't! I can't remember what I did ... oooo, here comes Mom, maybe I should just spread these wings out and see what happens ... YEEEE HAAAAWWW!"

"Oh. My. God. I can NOT believe he just did that! Oh my, now I'm all alone ... This nest sure looks empty. Gulp."

"Bubba! Get your feathered butt out here! Can't you see how much fun we're all having? It's easy come on!"

"No way Mom! Do you know how far DOWN that is?! You're nuts!"

"Do NOT talk to your mother like that, young man! You get out of that nest right now and take flight -- all the other kids are doing it!"

"Weeeeeellllll ... "

Luckily little Bubba eventually caught on and took his own personal leap of faith as well. They're all madly winging about in the field out back even as I write this, happy as only a family on wing can be.

You could almost feel the joy coming off the little guys as they took their first flight, older siblings darting in and out, daring each other to more and more adventurous maneuvers, complete dread and fear turned instantly into exuberant joy and exhileration as the skies opened up to them.

Sometimes taking that first step requires all the courage you can muster, but man how it pays off! Take a lesson from these little swallows today, and do something you've been both dreading and anticipating. Spread your wings and fly, baby, FLY!


Thursday, July 27, 2006


People like checkboxes. Clear choices where, with one stroke of a pen, you're on one side or the other. Democrat or Republican. Christian or heathen. Good or evil. Fight or flight, nature or nurture, normal or weird, it permeates every aspect of our lives. Our entire system of government is built on it -- you walk into a private booth, pull a curtain, and put check marks in boxes that determine who gets to make the rules from then on.

Checkboxes are clean; the choices you see are the only choices there are. If you don't like one of them, or you think more than one is good, tough. It's time to fish or cut bait, shit or get off the pot, push has come to shove and you have to be with us or against us. You get one choice and you'd damn well better check one of them because blank forms aren't accepted.

Most people live their lives by checkmark. When they meet someone, out comes the checklist -- let's see, it's a white (check!) male (check!) Baptist (check!), that means he's going to believe A (check!), B (check!) and C (check!). No need to think about things too much, the checkmarks never lie, just fill them out and by the end of the process all your choices are made and you can get on with watching "American Idol" (Taylor Hicks, CHECK!) without all the bother of thinking about items not on the checklist.

The thing about me and Annie is, most checklists don't have boxes for us.

Annie's a successful entrepreneur who made her business by interacting with and impressing people from New York to LA, from nationally televised adaptations of a best-seller to appearances on "Oprah", but she has chosen to spend most of her time and love on animals, not people, in a place that doesn't even have basic cable service!

I work on computers and with the Internet, something that exists only virtually, and yet I walk through horse poop and haul rocks on the weekends. I'm a Democrat who believes in a strong military and a smaller government with a balanced budget. I'm a devoted patriot who loves my country but believes it does very stupid, evil things on occasion. I'm a cynic who trusts humans (but not humanity), an introvert who loves performing, a devoted heterosexual who loves "Trading Spaces", an atheist/agnostic who thinks people ought to be able to worship their gods in public as they see fit -- where's the checkbox for all of THAT so I can check it and move on?

I feel like checkboxes are little rectangular fences that seek to surround and encapsulate not only what you are, but all the things you possibly could be.

Living outside the checkbox isn't always easy. It's fun, exciting, and interesting, yes, but also frustrating, bewildering, and contradictory. There's comfort in knowing there's a place for you on the form, and from time to time I miss that feeling. But I can't bring myself to put pen to paper and make my mark in a blank I know doesn't fit me.

I just can't.


Monday, July 24, 2006

A Texas Writer in King Keillor's Court

My father-in-law George now spends half the year (the hot half) in Minnesota and half the year (the cold half) back in Texas where he was born and raised. His transition from Texan to Midwesterner has had some "interesting" moments, much like my own from geek to Bubba. He recently told me this story that made me laugh, so I thought I'd share it here with apologies to him for the story-rustling.

George was out in the front yard trying to install a tire swing. He threw the rope up over the tree limb several times, only to have it fall back into his hands. He looked up and saw one of the neighbors -- an older gentleman, of proper imperturbable Minnesota stock -- staring at him, clearly wondering what the crazy Texan was up to now. George looked down at the rope, then up into the tree, and finally back to the neighbor.

"Squirrels are hard to rope," he deadpanned.

I think Minnesota's in for a hell of time. Give 'em heck, George!


Owl Prowl

We had a great weekend. On Sunday we went on a tour of Hill Country wineries with 21 friends (a great mix of people), and on Saturday Annie's Aunt Sharon was kind enough to take a small group on an Owl Prowl at our place.

Everyone gathered around 6:30 for some Texas brisket (that's a kind of barbeque) and various other fixin's and visited for a spell. Around dusk we loaded up into a couple of trucks and drove out to the back part of the property, where an old broken-down windmill and cistern rest, nustled up against a small oak forest.

Sharon broke out her supplies, an owl-call generator with an attached speaker, a fake screech owl, and folding chairs (the chairs were for us, but the rest was for the animals). She told us that Bertram's in the middle of two screech owl territories -- Eastern Screech Owls to the east and Western Screech Owls to the West -- so she wasn't sure what would be showing up that night.

Then she brought out some preserved owl pellets which, for those of you who don't know, are balls of owl vomit. Yes, you're reading that correctly -- owls vomit up the remains of their meals (tiny bones, fur, etc.) that are indigestible and enterprising naturalists gather them up to sell to other naturalists for upwards of $6 a pop. We got to pick them apart with toothpicks and sure enough, there were tiny little jawbones and hides in there. You can click here for a virtual owl pellet dissection.

Annie's father George has a condition known as LVT, or "Low Vomit Threshhold", so he opted to look the other way, but I'm here to tell you that until you've picked apart $6 owl vomit with a toothpick, you haven't lived.

Eventually she set up the speaker and popped in some recordings of screech owl calls. We didn't get much of a response, so she switched to the calls of barn owls, a larger species that sometimes nests in our general area. After that we started hearing some screech owl calls, three different ones from three different directions. It was really cool to hear them responding to us, but it had gotten pretty dark at that point and we couldn't see where they were.

We kept at it for about half an hour, sending out our calls and hearing the hoots in response, searching the treeline vainly with our flashlights. "They're close, I can tell, but I don't see them at all," Sharon said several times. "Real close."

We were about to give up, when I played the big searchlight over Sharon's head and onto the frame of the windmill, just above where the fake owl was tied.

And sitting right there, staring at us with a puzzled look in their eyes, were two live screech owls, not ten feet from where we were all sitting. You could almost hear them asking "What the hell are you guys doing in that tree over there, and why are you shouting at us?"

They're really small, these screech owls, probably eight to ten inches tall. They watched us for a bit until we got too close and they took off without a sound. Owls are silent fliers -- you don't know they're coming until they're on you, which is a roundabout way of excusing the fact that they got so close while we were utterly oblivious. If this had been a rattlesnake-prowl we'd have all been dead.

Animals might not have dictionaries and thesauruses, but there's no question in my mind that they communicate just the same. I'm glad we got the chance on Saturday to sit down with them for a little chat, and if you're ever in Central Texas I'd suggest you give Aunt Sharon a call and book her for an Owl Prowl of your own.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Getting Real

This post is pretty long and pretty personal. If you're not in the mood for some maudlin self-inspection, you'd probably be better off skipping it and waiting for the next fun animal post.

Otherwise, as Custer said to his troops, "Charge, lads, we've nothing to fear!" Just consider yourself forewarned.

I don't know the name of the show or the episode. All I can remember for sure is that Rita Moreno is in it as a somewhat older woman, who invites an attractive, dynamic younger man from her office over to her house for dinner. He's funny and engaging, always making people laugh, but eventually Moreno's character asks him if he's always being honest when he's like that. He admits that he isn't, that he often has random, strange thoughts that he doesn't ever give voice to, because he's afraid people will find him dreadfully dull.

Rita encourages him to come on out with some of them, to give honesty a try, advising him that he can't be a clown all the time if that isn't his true self. So the handsome young man admits "I sometimes wonder why old people eat Lime Jell-O all the time." He rattles off a whole raft of observations like that, and sure enough, he drones on so long Moreno's character eventually goes to sleep while he's talking.

He laughs quietly when he sees her slumped down on the couch, tucks her in with a blanket, and leaves.

(I think it's an episode of "The Golden Girls", although I can't imagine I'd ever willingly subject myself to that kind of torture. Perhaps I was kidnapped by Soviet spies, and subsequently had my memory scrubbed. This fragment is the only segment of the heinous torture to survive, but perhaps I endured even worse, like being forced to watch "Diffr'nt Strokes". The horror!)

In any event, this particular scene has stayed with me for many years, while other, less important trivia has long since faded away (like my middle name, driver's license number, and how to tie my shoes -- thank goodness for Velcro is all I'm saying).

I think I remember it because it resonated with me as something true from my own life. For instance, when I was in junior high school I attended a part-time "Gifted & Talented" program at another location, returning by bus to my regular school around lunchtime. The other kids would ask me where I'd been, and I didn't want to come off as arrogant or like "Smart people school, you idiot" so I'd laugh it off, make a joke, downplay what I'd been doing. After all, I literally "rode the short bus", what's not to make fun of there?

But looking back on it, I was being fundamentally dishonest. Not so much with the other children -- I didn't lie, really -- but with myself. I loved going to those GT classes. They were the only thing that kept me going all too often when regular school was so incredibly boring. And yet I denied that I even attended. I pretended that nothing special was happening, and I fear that pattern, set so early, has persisted even til now, in my fourth decade of life.

Take this blog, for instance.

I avoid anything that might smack of controversy. My politics I leave out completely, because I don't want to offend anyone. I pretend as if religion doesn't exist and that I have no thoughts on it because I don't want to roil the waters. I studiously avoid any negative words about anyone I know, for fear that they'll one day find the archives and have their feelings hurt.

It's a life in denial, really, about the things that matter most to me, much like I did back in junior high. The thoughts and dreams and feelings that I have about a major part of my life are verbotten. Even worse, I still laugh them off with a joke, or a wry comment, or a sarcastic remark ... it's bad enough that I don't engage in the dialog, but what's worse -- how dreadfully worse! -- is that I pretend they don't even matter to me!

I think one of the most powerful scenes in the New Testament is when Peter thrice denies that he knows Jesus. His Lord, literally his personal God, is about to be hauled away and crucified in an excruciating death (even the word "excruciating" has as its root the idea of crucifixion!), and Peter can't even bring himself to admit that he knows the man. It's one of the most human, and telling, and moving, moments in the entire Bible to me.

I've been thinking about it a lot (hour after hour on a tractor or hauling rocks in 100 degree weather can do that -- it's entirely possible the entire thing is just heat stroke, honestly) and I've decided I am not going to do that any more. I'm going to do my best to be honest in this space, to quit denying the things that matter most to me. This approach will likely disappoint many of the fives of you who read this blog. I hope it won't lose me any friendships, or hurt my relationship with my family, but at the end of the day I think I owe it to them, and to myself, to stop pretending like large portions of my life don't exist.

And no, this doesn't mean I'm gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

It does mean that I am going to start writing about religion, to begin with. I'm not sure about politics yet -- I don't think I know enough or am articulate enough to speak intelligently about that. And the climate these days is so vitriolic, on both sides, that I find it hard to imagine that it's possible to engage in an honest discussion, where everyone is seeking to find some kind of truth and not to score points in some arcane debate.

Instead, I'm going to start with a discussion of C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity", which my brother Johnny (one of the most genuinely religious people I know) purchased for me. I've thought a lot about religion and faith over the last five years or so, and I've started to come to some kind of peace about my feelings there. The first time I started on the book, I had a lot of strong reactions and it prompted a lot of desire to write, so I think it's a good place for me to start.

I don't have a timeline in mind or anything, but at least once a week I'll be reading a chapter and posting my reaction to it. Feel free to skip those posts if you like; I'll still be writing about all of the stuff I write about now -- animals, country life, weird tech stuff that happens at work -- but there's going to be a new element now.

I'll just try to keep the "Lime Jell-O" musings to a minimum, and hopefully no one will fall asleep :-)


Friday, July 21, 2006

Idiot America

This article was published quite a while back, by an author whose work I'd followed for a while in blogs. I've felt for quite some time that we're in the middle of a revolt against the Enlightenment, where expertise and intelligence and learning are becoming despised. I saw it as a teenager at the inner city high school I attended, and I've seen it every year since in newspapers, television programs, and conversations with my fellow Americans.

But never have I seen it so often as I have during the last six years.

We're turning our faces away from the idea that the pursuit of honest knowledge is a good thing, and I fear that, once we go down that road much farther, there won't be any turning back.

Here's a brief except from the article, it's well worth your time to read.

Greetings From Idiot America

by Charles P. Pierce, as originally published in Esquire Magazine, 11/1/05

[T]he rise of Idiot America today represents -- for profit mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power -- the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they're talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a preacher, or a scientist, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.

In the place of expertise, we have elevated the Gut, and the Gut is a moron, as anyone who has ever tossed a golf club, punched a wall, or kicked an errant lawn mower knows. We occasionally dress up the Gut by calling it "common sense." The president's former advisor on medical ethics regularly refers to the "yuck factor." The Gut is common. It is democratic. It is the roiling repository of dark and ancient fears.

I hope you take a few minutes to read the whole thing, then go donate a few dollars or some time to your local library or school.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Burn Photos

Here are a couple of snapshots Annie took on Burn Day. That's me, our hero, on the tractor, bravely plunging in with no regard for the condition of the multi-thousand-dollar piece of rental equipment under his butt.

This is one of those towering columns of flames I was talking about. That's one tree, folks. Do NOT try this at home.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Feel the Burn

Men love fire. We always have and I suspect that even if someday humanity makes it into a permanent space habitat, some guy will be there with a set of matches, staring hungrily at a pile of rubbish and wondering "Gee, will that burn?" Faced with 107 degree heat in the middle of a Texas summer, however, even the most ardent fire-lover would probably hesitate at burning dozens of big cedar trees.

But not Jeff and Annie City Slicker. Oh no, not us, never us, not even in the maw of a burning Hell would we turn away from our Constitutional rights to set fire to our property!

That's pretty much what it felt like, of course -- standing in the burning maw of Hell. Between the 107 degree ambient temperature and the cedar trees bursting into hungry, bright fireballs, I felt like I was melting. If you've ever seen video of a Christmas tree catching fire (see below), you know the feeling. The needles go first and fast, racing into flames in less than five seconds. The heat is incredible, lashing out in a massive wave, and suddenly individual branches and needles disappear in an enormous ball of fire, massive columns of red and yellow twisting and dancing into the sky.

Sometimes the wind picks up at just the wrong moment, and the blasts go literally sideways, licking along the ground for ten or fifteen feet, sending out rivulets of fire like advance scouts. I almost lost control of the burn during one such incident, when Annie was off getting lunch. I got cocky and threw on a tree right when the wind shifted. It fell to one side and burning embers got flung twenty feet in three different directions.

My heart was pounding as I jumped off the tractor, raced to the hose, and scrambled to catch up to each incursion. It looked like someone had thrown rocks into a pond of fire, ripples of flames radiating outward at a frightening clip. The burn pile was an inferno as it consumed the tree, and I could barely force myself to get close enough for the suddenly pathetic-looking stream of water that was my only ally to be effective.

I honestly thought I was going to lose it for a moment, but finally the last patch went out. Cedars burn hot, but they burn fast, so the window of opportunity for disaster is fairly small. One neighbor lost 40 acres before the fire department could put out his grass fire, though, and it seems like everyone I talk to has a similar tale of woe.

It occurred to me that country people have the reputation for being slow -- in all the connotations of that word -- because out here, slow is necessary. If you rush, bad things happen. You could lose a cow, a horse, a house, even your life if you don't take your time and make sure you're doing your job right. The margin for error is much bigger in the city, and you can afford the luxury of rushing, but that's not the case out here.

But Annie and I took things slow (mostly, when I wasn't getting cocky) and deliberate, keeping the pile relatively small and adding only one tree at a time, waiting for it to die down before dumping in another.

Maybe we'll make it out here in the country after all.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Nerd Country Haiku

In honor of my friend Dave's new blog, Haiku (And Humor Too?), I present a Nerd Country Haiku:

Dogs barking at night.
Are they herding the horses,
Or just the full moon?


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It's Milagro, not Merlot-go

Some pictures are worth a thousand words. And they have to be, because if the people involved talked they'd probably get thrown in jail.

In our defense, Milagro has a very refined palate, for a horse. Ahem.


Friday, July 07, 2006

Who Wants To Be A Superhero? I Do!

I can finally tell the world about The Project I was working on. The Sci-Fi Channel will be launching a new show later in July called "Who Wants To Be A Superhero?", created by Stan Lee (the guy who invented Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, and most of the legion of Marvel super-heroes). And I, lowly, mild-mannered artist Jeff Hebert, got tapped to do a "HeroMachine" style applet for their web site!

You can see the page here -- That's whats been keeping me so busy this month.

I enjoyed getting to extend the HeroMachine concept into a really cool space, but the best part of all was ...


To the non-comic-book-afficionado, this might be hard to explain, so let me see if I can put it into perspective. This would be like someone who likes playing football getting invited to work in Joe Montana's training camp.

Or a cook getting to spend some quality time in Emeril's kitchen.

Or an Oprah fan getting invited onto her show.

He's that big.

OK, so I didn't actually get to meet Stan Lee, or talk directly to him ... or e-mail him ... but still, it's his show, that counts, right?! I grew up reading this guy's stories and loving his characters, and now I get to work on something he's involved in. It's a pretty awesome feeling.

Anyway, the long toil is finally done and I plan on relaxing this weekend. It'll be the first day off in five or six weeks -- I'd come to work at my day job all day, drive home, spend a (very little) time with Annie and the animals, then trudge up to the office to work on this til midnight. Weekends were the same.

So now it's time to relax and revel in the sense of accomplishment. I hope Stan doesn't get mad when he finds out I am spending my new freedom by going to see Superman and not some Marvel super-hero movie ...


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Texas Fourth

I talked yesterday with one friend from New York and one from California, and discovered that the Fourth of July is celebrated very differently here in Texas than elsewhere. In a big city, there are lots of flammable buildings crammed in close together and not a lot of open space to shoot off fireworks, for starters. That means you have to gather hundreds of thousands into an arena or on a river shore to watch the explosions -- it's safer that way.

Here in Big Sky country (with apologies to Montana) things are a little different. There are whole square miles void of any flammable buildings and plenty of space to stretch out in, so fireworks are plentiful. Plus you can see literally for tens of miles in any direction, so you've got an expansive view.

It's not unusual for very small towns or sometimes even neighborhoods to set up a big show, complete with the blossoming colored rockets you usually only see on TV. Heck, even Andice (pronounced "and ice" supposedly because a big storm split the sign over the only general store in town so instead of reading "Beer and ice" it just read "and ice" -- believe that or not as you like, we're gonna stand by it anyway), barely more than a junction in the road comprising no more than a hundred people, puts on a big display.

Granted, you have to be careful of brush fires and such, but we got a nice dose of rain in the last few weeks so that wasn't a problem this year. In fact, the photo at the right, taken from our yard, shows a big storm front that moved in earlier on the Fourth. It gives you an idea of the kind of horizon-to-horizon views that we have.

So on the night of the Fourth of July, 2006, Annie and I camped out on the back porch in our rockers, dogs cavorting around, and watched three different fireworks displays from three different cities on the horizon going off. It was quite a show. We didn't have to fight any crowds or pile into the car -- it was just us, the animals, and some mighty loud explosions. Off in the distance to the east were the remnants of that big storm front, and occasional sky-brightening flashes of thunderous lightning. Kind of nature's own fireworks, I suppose, and it somehow made everything just right.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Birthday, America

I rarely do linkbacks to other blogs, but I just can't pass this one up. My favorite blogger, Ed Brayton, has perfectly summed up how I feel about America, this great land in which we are blessed to live:

The 4th of July, for me, has very little to do with patriotism or nationalism, feelings that seem to affect me far less than most men. My allegiance is not to the nation, it is to the set of principles upon which the nation was founded. When the government upholds those principles, I offer it praise; when it violates them, I offer my anger and my opposition. Those principles of individual liberty and equality before the law are, in my mind, sacred and inviolable. They are the cornerstone of my view of human civilization; whatever advances them has my support, whatever impedes them my opposition.

His whole post is worth a read, including some fascinating history between Jefferson and Adams that I did not know.

I'm proud to be a member of a country that stands for the ideals ensconsed in our Constitution and the incredible Declaration of Independence. Happy birthday, America.


Monday, July 03, 2006

The Real Trouble at NASA

I saw this headline on today (my highlight in yellow, click the image for a bigger version):

Appparently there's no need to launch a multi-billion dollar shuttle to get into orbit, all you really need is a crack pipe and some quality rocks. I can definitely see how having your astronauts on crack would hold things up, though. Hope they can get that fixed ... All this talk about "foam" also suddenly becomes a lot more understandable, I guess that's what the kids are calling it these days.


Is Superman Brave?

In thinking about "Superman Returns" (which I haven't seen yet, so no spoilers!), a thought occurred to me today:

Is Superman brave?

To be brave means to overcome fear in order to do the right thing, to attempt some act that carries with it the possibility of danger to oneself. Clearly, being mortal, Superman can feel fear, but not from most of what he encounters. He's virtually invulnerable, so does it take bravery for him to, say, try and stop a giant robot from marauding downtown?

I suppose he must be afraid of failure, of someone getting hurt or killed because he is not smart enough or quick enough or strong enough to stop the menace. But there is no (or virutally no) risk of personal danger for his physical well being.

Does that make him less of a hero? Would any of us, guaranteed a free pass from harm, do the same as he does? Would we be more or less inclined to stop the robber, crush the monster, foil the plots of Lex Luthor? Without fear, does it count as bravery?

I do know Superman is a great hero, an icon of a pure and brilliant ideal that I hope never fades from our culture. I just don't know if he's brave or not. What do you think?


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Hummingbird Delight

When we put out the first hummingbird feeder, we were expecting it to take a long time before anything would be attracted. Boy were we wrong. Within two days we had several hummingbirds coming up for that sweet sugarwater, and within a month we had dozens. We're up to three feeders now, and Annie's replacing the water in at least one every day.

It's worth it, though, especially on beautiful evenings like last night, when the sun is setting and the hum of tiny wings fills the air. I broke out the new camera and got a couple of nice shots I thought I'd share with you.

I scared them away by getting too close, but I thought this was a nice shot anyway.

A little closer.

Finally thought to use the flash.