Tuesday, July 26, 2016



I thought these were elands, until I saw that elands seem to have spiraly horns, instead of smooth ones.

Last year's baby, and this year's baby?  The one in the middle is definitely the mama.


Monday, July 25, 2016

big birds


Kori bustard.  About a yard tall.  According to Wikipedia, the largest flying bird native to Africa.

Ostrich.  Much taller than the bustard.  I don't know if he was agitated, or if flapping his wings is a way to get cool.  It wasn't a terribly hot day, but it was warm...........


Sunday, July 24, 2016

yet another tortoise, or, ever'body likes romaine


Another kind of tortoise.  This one was on a mission.

We wondered if this dead branch was an obstacle.  It was, but didn't seriously slow down progress.

Ever'body love romaine.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

the other side of the giraffe enclosure


We've walked around to the other side of the giraffe enclosure.  You can see where we were standing for most of the previous giraffe pics.

A closer look at the mama kudu and her baby.


Friday, July 22, 2016

romaine and the big guy


They have four giraffes.  This is the big guy.  There were no people lined up to feed the giraffes, so I could stay close to them and take pics and chat with the zoo person who was keeping an eye on things.  She told me that the bumps are cartilage, and function like a sort of helmet to protect his skull when he engages in head bashing with other male giraffes.  I don't remember ever seeing this before.  I know there are different kinds of zebras -- wondering if there are different kinds of giraffes?  And some have bumps and some don't??  So many things to wonder about.............

He likes romaine, too.  "What's a guy gotta do, just to get a tiny piece of lettuce?"

Tearing myself away from the giraffes....................


Thursday, July 21, 2016

feeding Sam (the giraffe)


I got to feed this giraffe.  I believe her name is Sam.  You can feed giraffes in Toledo, too, but you have to arrange in advance and wait in long lines in the sun.  On July 10, when we were at the Blank Park Zoo, you could just walk up, fork over a few bucks, receive some pieces of nice clean romaine, and feed the giraffes.

She was easily close enough for me to touch her, and I wanted to.  Doesn't her nose look velvety?

But we were told not to touch, so I didn't.

Isn't it interesting how their nostrils are on the top of their nose?  Not on the sides, like a horse?  And they look like they can close, too.  Makes me think of a whale.  I wonder if they really can close, and it's for sand storms or something?  I think camels can close their nostrils for that reason.............

I believe the big birds are crested cranes, and the signs said the beige critters in the back are lesser kudu.  Which are all brown, with black stripes, when I look for pics.  So why these ones are so pale, we do not know. 

(I advise against looking for kudu pics.  So many dead kudus in the pics, with creepy smiling murderers.....  Gack.)

A closer look at Sam's whiskers......


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

giraffe details


Giraffes were more animals we could get closer too, with fewer barriers, than elsewhere.  This guy was making sure that any leaves which had grown down low enough to reach would be eaten.  I saw him get a few.

An excellent flyswatter, right where mother nature intends it to be.

More details.  It looks like it would feel like a horse........

I saw this on two of the giraffes (and didn't pay attention to the other two) -- manes growing in one direction from the top down to the bottom of the neck, and then the other direction from the back up to the bottom of the neck.  I don't remember ever seeing this before.  I hope I'll remember to check other giraffes in the future.........


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

July 10 -- domestication


At the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, they have some very small cattle, and some quite big cattle.  This sweet little thing is in the "buy some food and feed the critters" part of the zoo.  I don't suppose (most of) her back was higher than my waist.  But with those horns, I suspect she is most of full-grown, if not entirely full-grown.

The sign said "miniature zebu cattle."

A working mama, on a "take your child to work" day.

Here are the big cattle.  These are watusi cattle, which are from Africa.  I don't know how old these guys are, but those horns are five or six feet across, at least.  Something makes me think they don't live amongst trees, in Africa, but maybe I'm wrong.....................

These guys were doing a bit of pushing and shoving, but it did not seem to be in earnest.  They cannot be youngsters, given those horns.  Perhaps someone has relieved them of excesses of testosterone.


Monday, July 18, 2016

July 10 -- part 1


The day after coronation, my dad took us all out for breakfast.  It was nice to spend a bit more time together, and to celebrate my Mom's birthday a couple of days early.

We were very sorry to learn that one of my nieces-to-be lost a stepbrother overnight.  Sad and shocking.

As we finished breakfast, it got stormy.  We were planning to spend another couple of days in Des Moines.  Six hundred miles each way is too far to drive for just a day and a half.....

Everyone else was headed for home.  We all said goodbye at the restaurant, and went our separate ways.

We decided to move to another hotel that was closer to the things we planned to do in Des Moines on the 10th and 11th.  We ended up in the Holiday Inn in the Mercy area (meaning -- right across the street from Mercy Hospital).  We moved into our new room before noon.

It was still cloudy, but not raining.  We checked the weather.  The rain was supposed to be over, and it was supposed to be cooler on the 10th than the 11th, so we decided to go to the zoo, and save the science museum for the 11th, when it was supposed to be hotter.

Did I say we rented a car to take to Des Moines?  We did.  We like our Versa, but it it is not very big, and it rides stiff on the highway.  Not comfy for a long road trip.  We drove this dark gray Jeep Compass, and liked it well enough.  Its seats didn't adjust high enough for me.  I ended up tipping my head back, so I could see "higher", and gave myself a stiff neck.

I forgot to mention, when I described July 8, that we made a trip to Target after supper.  That is -- we didn't plan to go to Target, but after those fat hard pillows at the lodge, I wanted to buy a pillow.  And I was also thinking about something to sit on in the car, to be higher.  So we went trolling for a place to buy a pillow, and -- yay -- we found Target, which we were pretty sure would have everything we were thinking about needing.  So we bought a pillow, and then I had to have pillowcases.  I picked out a nice fat towel as something that could give flexible extra height when sat upon (depending on how it was folded).  I picked out some souvenir socks (my Chicago socks were from Target -- why not my Iowa socks?).  Then we got breakfast for the last part of our trip.  Cheerios, Raisin Bran, milk, and oj.  And some microwave popcorn, just because we could.

We trundled all of that stuff (well, ok, the towel stayed in the car), in addition to all the stuff we started with, up to the hotel room, and then headed for the zoo.

I'd never really used Google Maps on my phone for navigation all that much.  I am  happy to report that we used it quite a bit in Iowa and it worked like a charm.  (I also used it to find the Holiday Inn we picked.  It gives prices as well as locations for hotels.....)

This nice clematis was at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines.

The first critters we saw were otters!   They were big.  It said they were river otters -- I wonder if they were Amazon river otters, or something.  I think the USA river otters I've seen are smaller than these.  But I may be wrong.

Right near the otters are the flamingos.

A recurrent theme of the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines is that you can get closer to the animals, with fewer barriers, than elsewhere.

I wonder if Iowans are more respectful of (and less dangerous to) the animals than people elsewhere?  I hope there are people somewhere who are more respectful of animals than most people seem to be, and why shouldn't they be Iowans?  (Noting that Iowans are not more respectful of impending red lights than are Michiganders, which surprised me a bit..........)

Close enough to the flamingos to note their pale eyes, as well as their orange feet and knees (above).

Zoo-goers walk right in the same area with the wallabies.  No barriers at all.  I believe I have been in the same area with kangaroos before (Ft. Wayne, maybe?).  The wallabies were quite skittish, moving off the moment they perceived I was paying attention to them, so maybe that level of respect I was describing earlier wasn't quite what one could hope.  I don't know.  But none of my wallaby pics were interesting.

Here is a kookaburra.  Don't they have excellent striped tail feathers?

Black swan.

The black swan's babies.  You can't tell from this pic, but these cygnets are almost as big as a full-grown mallard duck, despite being young enough that they have no apparent adult feathers.

Fuzzy guys.

This interesting individual is a crested pigeon.  With fancy wings.

I suspect this means people were constantly hunting for keepers, to tell them they'd seen injured birds.  Good for people who try to do the right thing!

I was glad I had seen the sign -- this looks a lot like blood!

Wandering on.....  This is easily the biggest tortoise I've ever seen.  He was huge.  Massive. 

Both of us thought he was fake, until he moved.......


You can tell from the video that he's big enough that movement was non-trivial.  We saw a sign that said he weighed 500 pounds...............

His name is Barnaby.  He's described as calm and friendly ("A 500-pound lap tortoise!").  He is an Aldabra tortoise, which is not common, but is not critically endangered.  He eats grass, when there is any within reach.

When there isn't, he moves on.

I think this is another Aldabra tortoise.  I'd never seen orange on a tortoise before July 10....

When he approached her, I thought he was checking on what she was eating.  Perhaps he was.  He touched noses with her, and then (slowly) this happened.

I show the pic mostly to show how much bigger he is.  You can tell from the grass that she's no dainty little thing, but in comparison?  I suppose her shell is meant to carry his weight as well as hers....  And I don't suppose her keepers would let her be in harm's way.  But you can see that she is holding up most of his weight, and this is less than there was just a moment before I took this shot..............

I believe she allowed this to happen.  I am pretty sure she could outrun him without trying too hard.  She did not struggle or seem distressed.

He got up there fairly handily, but then found it hard to get down.  In the end, she basically walked out from under him.  He braced his hind legs so he wasn't hauled along, and eventually sort of slid off.

No wonder she's got mud all over her back (see that first pic of her, above..........).

He does some pretty audible groaning as part of this process.  I was asking a keeper if babies were expected.  He said not, though attempts had been made all day.  Apparently breeding is very chancy for these guys, so even when they are enthusiastic about it, success is a surprise.  I wish them luck..........

There were more tortoises in the same enclosure.  This one's shell seems different (smoother, less orange).  I have no idea how much variation is usual for Aldabra tortoises.  Maybe this one and the next two are Aldabra tortoises.  Maybe not.  All three of the next ones are about the same size as the girl above.

I think these shells look very different from those of the three individuals above.

Moving on -- more swans.  These are trumpeter swans.  Very rare.  We read that there are pairs of trumpeters here and there who have clipped feather so they cannot fly off.  They raise babies, who can fly away.....  I didn't see anything about migration patterns or anything like that.  Wondering where those babies go, since no one is teaching them where to migrate.  Do they stay in place?  Or what?  I didn't think to wonder, at the time, but I'm wondering now............

This pair was doing what looked to me like a pair-bonding dance, but I saw no attempts at cygnet production.  Their heads went up.  And down.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

July 9


Coronation was on July 9.

For those of you who may not know the Society for Creative Anachronism, there is a wealth of information available online.  Here is a description of the SCA, found on its website:

"The SCA is a practical history society, recreating the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe. While dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, you can experience tournaments, royal courts, feasts, and dancing. You also have the opportunity to learn and practice ancient arts and skills — calligraphy, cooking, armoring, metalworking, carpentry, and needlework (to name just a few) — within an all-ages social group. The SCA is a great place to make friends and learn transferable skills."

Here is a map of the known world, showing Calontir in the heart of what is also known as the USA.

My brother and sister-in-law live in the Kansas City area.  They and their kids have been involved in the SCA for decades.  My sister-in-law knows how to make clothing, shoes, soap, mead, and cheese.  She knows how to spin wool into yarn, and how to knit and weave.  Between them, she and my brother have managed the barony of Forgotten Sea (part of Calontir), and have organized and run many activities and events over the years.  (I'm sure I have managed to forget many of their contributions and accomplishments.) 

My brother makes banners out of silk he has painted with bright colors.  And he fights, and teaches fighting. 

In the SCA, they fight in real armor, with rattan weapons (so the combatants get bruises, but do not end up dead or maimed).  Fighters learn how to fight with various weapons (swords, pikes, many things whose names I do not know), and they learn how much injury they would have taken from a given blow, had it been delivered by a weapon that actually had a sharp metal edge.  (Chivalry demands that fighters quit using an arm or leg that has been seriously "damaged" by a blow, and that they retire from the field when they have been "killed.")

The person who wins the fighting at a Crown Tournament becomes the next monarch.  In May my brother won Calontir's Crown Tournament.  Against all comers.  Against the 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings.........

On July 9, much of the citizenry of Calontir gathered to witness and celebrate his coronation.

First, the previous king and queen gave recognition and honor to various individuals, and talked about what it had meant to them to lead Calontir.

Then they stepped down.

The knights of Calontir gathered to protect the empty throne, until it could be claimed by the rightful heir.  (The woman in the green dress is a sign-language interpreter.)

The heir appears, and is challenged as to his identity and credentials.  He answers the challenge, offering several people to speak for him.

People spoke of his character.

People spoke of his service to Calontir.  (The guy in Calontir purple-and-gold at the far right is the previous king.)

The guy in blue is the official who can attest to the identity of the victor in the latest Crown Tournament.

Many oaths were sworn on the sword of the kingdom.

(Digression:  This is the only SCA event I have attended, so it is entirely likely that I have made mistakes in my description.  I have tried to be accurate, but I expect I have not entirely succeeded.

My sister-in-law's persona is Norse, so the ceremony had Norse influence, and many more people wore Norse clothing than would have otherwise.  I believe that the oaths were specific to this reign.  All oaths went both ways on the status spectrum -- the people kneeling gave an oath, and the monarchs returned with an oath of their own to those who were swearing.)

Both the kind and queen have champions.  The young woman who is now the queen's champion is someone the queen has known since that champion was a little girl.

Lots and lots of oaths.  These are the knights.  The people who have earned rank through scholarship and teaching also swore oaths, as did those who have been honored for service.

Note the variety of costumes -- people can pick whatever persona they like, from any part of the appropriate time period, I believe, and then people are fussier or less fussy about developing that persona (including fancy, or not-so-fancy clothing).

I think these are the scholars/teachers.

Important robes were donned.  The tiny woman in the middle, below, is the previous queen.

Robes, front and back.

Lots of different garb.

The three people kneeling here are accepting roles as communicators, to be sure the people are heard if they have concerns they don't wish to bring directly to a monarch.

From left to right -- Queen's Champion.  Head of Household (who happens to be the mother of the Queen's Champion).  Queen.  The guy with the gray beard is one of my brother's oldest friends.  He was acting as Royal Herald.  King.  King's Champion.

Shortly thereafter ended the coronation ceremonies.

There was lunch.  There were meetings.  Some of us went back to the hotel for a rest.

In the late afternoon the new rulers held a court.  You recognize the people on the right (except the Royal Herald is a different person).

The kingdom of Calontir is divided into several administrative baronies.  Des Moines, as it is known to us mundane people, is in the barony of Coeur d'Ennui.  The two people in red at left are the baron and baroness of Coeur d'Ennui.

(Digression:  one of the things I love about the SCA is that the people are busy *doing* things.  Not sitting around mouldering in front of the TV.  SCA people tend to be high on curiosity, and high in sense of humor.  "Coeur d'Ennui" means "heart of boredom" in French...................  Their banner is a ring of boar heads -- one of their group calls is "Boar Ring!"  They also squeal like cartoon pigs from time to time, in honor and respect to Coeur d'Ennui.  Long may they squeal, say I!)

Many people were honored for various things, always including doing any work that needs to be done, and being helpful and kind to all.  Calontir prides itself on helping anyone who needs help, friend or foe.......

Lavish presents were given to the previous king (whose persona is Japanese), and to the previous queen, who received the most elaborate illuminated manuscript I've ever seen in the SCA.

When all had been rewarded, or notified that rewards would be received once the recipient agreed on a time, court was over. 

A crew of people made sure the church sanctuary was picked up and vacuumed, vacuumed, vacuumed.

Then we waited until the feast was ready.  It was hard to wait -- delicious smells emanated from the kitchen.........

The cooks did a spectacular job, and the wait staff was attentive and helpful.  I was warned to save room for dessert...........  We ate many wonderful things, and enjoyed sitting with my nephew and his fiancee, and with my brother's old friend (mentioned above) and his wife, as well as two other friendly people.

Of course the evening had to end.  Here is a close look at the king's crown.  This belongs to the kingdom, as do the thrones and banners (and maybe those elaborate capes?  I don't know.).

Many people went on to a post-feast revel, but we took my parents and my sister back to the motel.

The Coeur d'Ennui sun, setting over a very UNboring day. 

So nice, to see one's brother recognized for hard work, persistence, and right-thinking, over a long period of time.