Thursday, May 17, 2007

city hall falcons

Paul’s note: I’ve just returned from a great trip to Italy that has inspired a half-dozen post ideas. However, today, Scott sent in a report about new residents in San Jose that I think you will enjoy. Scott writes:

I sit in my office and watch a majestic bird, nesting not many miles from my cramped cubicle. It is a simple act, heightened by technology. One that reminds me how innately calming it is to witness nature at work.

She is with her babies now, three peregrine falcon chicks, born Sunday April 29. They sleep while she in turn keeps watch, then nods off. Dad will return soon, a fresh pigeon in his talons. He picks it apart like a hyena takes to a gazelle. It is not a pretty sight – to us – but it is a beautiful thing to his hungry wards. They gobble it up in amazing quantities, given their size. Afterwards they often struggle with the awkwardness of a feather clogged in their little beaks.

The family nests on San Jose City Hall. The webcam is courtesy of the UC Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group. Over the weeks, hordes of online viewers have witnessed first the chicks’ birth, then their growth. Their progress has been followed by local papers, and discussed in several forums. My two daughters want to see the cute babies at morning and night, fearful that the littlest isn’t going to make it.

Why is it so fascinating to watch these creatures? Perhaps it is their stately nature. Perhaps it is natural voyeurism. I think it has something to do with the fact that, when you strip away our complexities, you can see a likeness in kind. How do the family dynamics work? Does she sleep on the babies while Dad carouses on the town at night? What are the most basic needs? Food, security, protection from the elements. How are their parenting skills? It certainly seems like little Runty gets half the food of the favorite son.

It is basic drama. It is occasionally boring. It is life. It is a window into a simple world without errands, politics, traffic and deadlines, but – yes – with the wonders of the Internet.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

wrinkle free packing

A few readers have asked me about the lack of cool things lately. Laziness accounts for much of the inactivity, but things have been very busy at work and my blogging time has been reduced by planning a trip to Italy. Fortunately, this last endeavor has resulted in new discoveries, like today’s secret for wrinkle-free packing: Pack-It Folders from Eagle Creek.

Stuart is getting married in Lake Como, so that means beautiful vistas, Northern Italian cuisine and the need to pack dress shirts. For suits and shirts, I used to use a garment bag. Unfortunately, it can create unpredictable, deep wrinkles and, more damning for this trip, it lacks wheels.

The 21” and 24” bags that are now travel-standard solve the wheel problem but not the need for ironing on arrival. Enter an ingenious solution from Eagle Creek.

The Pack-It Folder is a giant envelope for your clothing. In the 15” size, the base is 15” x 10” and re-enforced with a plastic board. As part of the kit there is a second plastic board for folding clothes that creates perfect folds in shirts and pants. To use Pack-Its, simply stack your clothes up, place the folding board on top for extra support, and then pull the 4 Velcro-covered sides over the top to create a tidy and sturdy bundle.

You can see the 7 long sleeve shirts, 3 pants and 5 short sleeve shirts I wanted to bring on my trip. Notice the same clothes, compacted in 2 15x10x6 stacks. Finally, the same stacks in a rolling case with plenty of room left over for t-shirts, socks, shoes, etc.

Eagle Creek also makes an 18” size that is good for pants and even more items but, after arrivng it Italy and seeing the results of my efforts, I couldn’t be happier with the 15”. An added bonus for the 15: if you asked for your shirts boxed from the dry cleaner they will come folded 15x10. Pack-It Folders are available from REI and other fine retailers.