First Spring Migrants

March 31, 2008

The first spring migrants (talkin’ birds here) arrived in my yard yesterday.  Several of them, actually.  There were no fewer than four Black-throated Green Warblers singing in the bare oaks surrounding our house, their five note song seesawing with buzzy precision.  Beautiful birds:  bright green on their crowns and backs, golden yellow faces, and jet black spreading from their throats down to their breasts.

A couple of Black-and-white Warblers were singing as well, thin high-pitched notes that for me are the sound of early spring here in the Appalachians.  Black-and-white Warblers are tree climbers, like nuthatches but sleeker, dressed smartly in pinstripes.

And finally, there was a single Blue-headed Vireo (formerly known as the Solitary Vireo) singing from the very top of a white oak.  Vireo song is the avian equivalent of Muzak.  Sweet notes, simple melody, and the birds can be singing for five or ten minutes before you even realize that the sound is there.  Their song blends, provides background for the more dynamic songs of their fellow migrants.  This vireo’s appearance is as unassuming as his song.  The blue of his head is closer to slate than it is to the electric blue of an Eastern Bluebird, and his white eye-rings and lores give him a spectacled appearance.  The warblers are dashing, handsome; the vireo has a geekish look.  This may be why he’s one of my favorites.

Spring migration.  There is no better time of year to be a birder.  These three species are just the beginning; an appetizer, if you will.  In a typical spring I’ll see twenty-five species of warbler, three or four species of vireo, and an assortment of tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks, buntings, flycatchers, and others.  I’ll post my sightings here as the spring progresses.  

And if any of you out there are birders as well, I hope you’ll share your sightings with me.  Happy birding.

Today’s music:  Bruce Cockburn

My panel at the Virginia Festival of the Book went very well. It was moderated by Chris Oakley, owner of Oakley’s Gently Used Books in Charlottesville, and she did a fine job of introducing my fellow panelists (L.E. Modesitt and Steve White) and me. Each of us spoke briefly about our work and what drew us to science fiction and fantasy, and then we threw it open to questions from the audience. We got great questions, which generated enough discussion to fill the rest of the hour and then some. After that, Chris and her husband, Jim, took the three of us plus Steve’s wife, and author Peter David to dinner.

I had been thinking about staying in Virginia for the Author’s Reception Saturday night. It’s apparently a big event with great food. But I wound up driving back home on Saturday instead. I have a lot on my plate for the coming week, and getting home late Sunday would have left me exhausted and tense. And besides, I really wasn’t up for an evening of shmoozing with people who, for the most part, I didn’t know.

I got home in time to read to my younger daughter before she went to bed, to catch up with my older daughter and hear about the end of her school week, and to watch the UNC-Louisville game with my wife. None of these things did much to further my career, but they made for a perfect Saturday night. It’s good to be home.

This Week’s BOW Award

March 29, 2008

Another Saturday, another BOW Award.  We had a veritable battle of the titans for this week’s award, national figures who seemed to go out of their way to prove that Buffoon Of the Week is not a title for pikers.  For those of you who haven’t read about the BOW Award before, it’s something I’ve started giving out weekly to the politician or pundit who says or does the stupidest thing.  Very simple really.  And given the number of people vying for the honor, it seems that politicos of every stripe want to be recognized for their idiocy.

So without further ado….

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In Charlottesville

March 28, 2008

Not much to write about today.  I have a panel later this evening with L. E. Modesitt and Steve White at the VA. Festival of the Book.  Not sure yet what our discussion will cover, but I’m sure it will be interesting.  I’m staying with friends here in Charlottesville, enjoying their company and hospitality.  I should be working, but that will have to wait for next week.

In the meantime, I’d urge you all to go over to and check out the discussion we’re having there under the thread titled “Today the Delete Key is My Friend.”  The thread was started by Misty Massey and it has developed into a pretty interesting discussion on writing.  Check it out.

On the Road Again

March 27, 2008

On the road today, making my way up to Charlottesville, Virginia for the Virginia Festival of the book.

Too bad, too.  Because I have a full-blown rant in my head that I wish I had time to type out.  John McCain likened withdrawing troops from Iraq to a “betrayal?”  “A stain on our character?”  So basically anyone who disagrees with him on Iraq is betraying our country.  Does he realize that this includes about 60% of the country according to recent polls?  What nerve!  What a tool!  What a buffoon…..Hey, maybe there’s a BOW Award in his future!

Stay tuned.

A Post About Conventions

March 26, 2008

Today’s post can be found at  Hope you enjoy it!

Opening Day

March 25, 2008

It’s a bit early in the year, but nevertheless, today marks the opening of the 2008 Major League Baseball season.  It’s before 8:00 am here and the first game is being played right now.  How weird.  Red Sox-Athletics, in Tokyo.  Part of MLB’s continuing effort to expand the game globally.

In spite of everything that has happened in the baseball world over the past several years, I remain a committed fan.  Here’s hoping that this season brings competitive pennant races, spectacular individual achievements, and an end to the steroid/HGH scandal.

Happy Opening Day, everyone.

Go Mets!

Monday Stuff

March 24, 2008

Woke up to a spring snow this morning.  Just a dusting, but still everything looked beautiful.  There’s something about seeing snow and forsythia together.  Funny thing is, the local schools were open.  Had the same amount of snow fallen in February, school would have been cancelled.  But the state’s standardized tests are right around the corner, so it’s all testing all the time in the classrooms right now.  They can’t afford a snow day now.  Gotta teach to that test!  It’s really quite infuriating….

As a loyal Democrat I never thought I’d say this, but could someone please — PLEASE! — put a muzzle on Bill Clinton?  Make it a big, strong one.  Because he doesn’t seem to have any trouble speaking around the foot that’s already lodged in his mouth.

Have to finish revising book II of Blood of the Southlands this week, and then I have to start writing the third book of the series.  I also have the opening reception for my photo exhibit on Wednesday.  On Thursday I drive to Virginia for the Virginia Festival of the Book.  I’ll be doing a panel there on Friday with L. E. Modesitt, Jr. and Steve White.  Busy week.  Time to work.

To all my friends who celebrate Easter, I hope this is a happy one.  And I hope it’s warmer where you are than it is here.

I don’t usually bet in March Madness pools — I did back in grad school and came close to winning one year (out of six — I probably could have done just as well using a dart board to pick my winners).  But I still fill out a bracket every year, just to see how well I can do.  My bracket this year is in shambles.  Duke, Georgia (my Dark Horse — turns out, not so much), Vandy, Pittsburgh (thought they’d make the Final Four).  There are more “X” marks on my sheet than there were on that high school calculus test that finally convinced me to give up on advanced math.

Anyway, the rest of it should be interesting.  I’m looking forward to watching.  But it’s a really good thing that I have no money riding on the outcome.

Today’s music:  Tony Rice

This Week’s BOW Award

March 22, 2008

Another Saturday, another BOW Award.  For those of you tuning in for the first time, I give a BOW (Buffoon Of the Week) Award each Saturday to the politician or pundit who does or says the most outrageously stupid thing.  This is only my third week doing this — past winners were Representative Steven King (R-Iowa) and former Representative and Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Geraldine Ferraro.  For the record, neither Rep. King nor former Rep. Ferraro has contacted me to collect his or her award.  Probably a good thing, since I have no idea what I’d give them.  I suppose you could say that Buffoon Of the Week is more or less an honorary title….

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