Category: Science

‘Dog Days of Summer’ impact on Leo New Moon Goals

So, it’s now September, which means there only four months left in 2021—with four new moons, and four full moons. The September new moon is coming up, for those in the US it will be on Monday, September 6th (Labor Day), but for others it could be on Tuesday. Therefore, before looking ahead to the Virgo New Moon, I should look back at the goals I set during the Leo New Moon and see how I did with each of them.

So what were the goals that I set for the Leo new moon? They included:

  1. Continue developing my self-care/self-love routine. This will include meditation, time outdoors, journaling, stretching, and figuring out what type(s) of exercise I enjoy the most.
  2. Continue with the creative/reflective and minor research content posts for the blog, but also start working on creating more in-depth pieces as well (in addition to possibly new ‘landing’ pages and consolidating other pages)
  3. Determine the top five to ten types of freelance/remote/contract writing I would like to do and then start drafting examples of each. Also start drafting my ‘own’ medical content pieces.
  4. Determine the top five to fifteen items/sponsors/affiliates and so-forth for the other three ‘blocks’ of my business foundation.

So how did I do with each of them?

In terms of developing my self-care/self-love routine, I’ve been doing evening meditations, spending some time outdoors (either sitting & reading, having my camera, or doing some yard work; currently it’s a little too warm for walks), journaling a little in the evenings, and figuring out the exercises/intentional movements I’d prefer doing.

Those movements include lifting weights, shadow boxing, walking, yard work, stretching, and dancing (as long as I’m by myself). I’m planning on probably canceling my Beachbody-on-demand subscription this month, which means I will be needing to find things that I can do that really won’t require ‘streaming’ workouts on the computer (as I’m going to be trying to limit my screen time).

The first goal was the only one I managed decent progress with, I didn’t publish as many posts/pages last month as I’d done in previous months (though it doesn’t look like it hurt the traffic to the blog that much), but I’m behind on the las three goals that I set for the Leo new moon.

I’d planned on getting several bird pages, travel pages, and reworking the science section done last month, and I’d only managed to get a couple of the bird pages done. I also hadn’t gotten around to figuring out the different top groups for the writing or other blocks of my future business foundation.

I would love to say that it was so nice that I was sitting outside all the time not wanting to be on the computer, and that was a small portion of it—the main reason is I was just so irritated with how quickly things have gone downhill again in terms of dealing with the pandemic, that I just wanted to ‘ignore the world’—so that is what I did. I ignored the world, and only did the bare minimum amount of work each week to meet my goals.

This is something that I’m going to be working on going forward—staying more optimistic, focused, while still ignoring the world (but not letting it irritate me to the point I try to ignore my goals).

So, I managed a quarter of my goals for the Leo New Moon, which is better than what I managed in 2020 (since I hadn’t set goals for the Leo New Moon), and that is what progress is—forward movements with the occasional backwards slide.

As I look ahead to the last four months (and series of new and full moons), I know that there will be progress, as well as a few steps backwards—but I also know that I’m further down the road this year compared to last year. In addition, I can see the ‘signs’ for doing freelance/remote/contract work starting to shine a little brighter.

How are you planning for the fall and winter?

No Comments AstrologycareerfitnessHealthNew Moon GoalsPersonal Developmentprofessional developmentReflectionsScience

Raptor & Duck Pages are live: the red-tailed hawk & bufflehead

So, another two bird pages are now live under the bird tab.

One is a year-round resident of Oklahoma, though you need to look towards the sky (or take a drive to potentially see it), and the other graces the state with its presence during the winter months.

They are the red-tailed hawk and the bufflehead.

I’d finally managed to get pictures (and properly identify) of the red-tailed hawk this spring and summer.

Red-tailed Hawks perched over Boomer Lake, with another flying in the background

While I’ve always heard their calls, I always had a hard time spotting them. This year, I managed to spot a couple of them soaring over Boomer Lake, and over the house (one nice thing about living close to a wooded area).

Their ‘red’ tails are harder to spot when they’re soaring above your head, as the tails only look ‘red’ from above (or when they’re perched), looking up at them—the tails are more of an off-white color with bars across the feathers.

The bufflehead, is the smallest diving duck in North America and graces Oklahoma with its presence during the winter months.

The mature males are easy to spot—they have a large white patch on the back of their heads, along with a white flank, and black wings (that when folded—give the appearance of a black back).

Group of male Buffleheads swimming on Boomer Lake

The females (and immature males) have a smaller white oval on their cheek, and are more drab in color (they lack the white flanks).

Group of Buffleheads swimming on Boomer Lake

Since they’re diving ducks—once you spot them going under, keep an eye out as they will pop up somewhere nearby within thirty seconds or so.

One goal (hopefully for this fall) is to try to get up to Boomer Lake early enough in the day to spot different duck species that are going to be migrating through on their way to the warmer waters to the south.

As much as I’d love to get a picture of a bufflehead duckling, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make a trip north to Alaska or Canada and wander around looking for a duck sticking its head out of a old flicker hole.

What is your favorite migratory bird to spot?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographyScience

Slow and steady progress: 400 days into challenge

I just realized that I missed doing a 1-year check-in for the challenge last month since I’d been so focused on doing 100-day check-ins. I’ve also realized that I don’t check-in as often as I should with the list, possibly because we’re still in the middle of this damn pandemic and at times I feel like there isn’t a point.

TV shows were removed during earlier updates, as I usually don’t watch that much TV currently, and I am also thinking of cancelling my Beachbody-on-Demand subscription, since I’m also wanting to start ‘working-out’ away from the TV/computer screens. But, if I decide to do that—it will probably be before the fifth check-in on the challenge, and it will have it’s own post on the blog as well.

There is still the pandemic going on—which means that the travel plans are still on hold, and I’m still sheltering in place. While three vaccines have been approved for emergency use and the Pfizer was just granted full approval for people over the age of 12 (with several more in the middle of phase 3 clinical trials), I managed to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (1 & done) in early April. The numbers of cases had started to go down, but then people got lax on getting their vaccines (or just didn’t want them—not going to rant here), and then the delta variant decided to become the most dominant—and numbers are going back up. Therefore, I’m still going to be sheltering in place through the fall and winter, and hope that maybe by the late-fall of 2022 things may be heading towards a new ‘normal’.

So how are things progressing?

Professional Development and Career–Ongoing:

Professional Development e-courses completed, and those that I will be working through
  1. Transition into an industry position (this is probably going to be remote/online or freelancing; exact direction (subjects) still to be determined; there will be several posts on this goal
  2. Learn a programming language (going to go with python to start); just need to set up the newer laptop and download both teh program and bookmark the e-courses that I bought on the subject
  3. Finish various e-courses that I’ve bought, but in particular:
    • Clinical Research Coalition--Finished May 30th 2021
    • Medical Writers Organization–need to finish the writing assignments; finished up the editing assignments last month
    • Data Science Syndicate–Finished September 3rd 2020
    • Project Management Consortium
    • Management Consulting Firm
    • Intellectual Property Pack–Finished June 25th 2021
    • Regulatory Affairs Council
    • All other e-courses that are in the journal (including other Cheeky Scientist Courses)
  4. More interaction on LinkedIn-while hard to score (see the below photograph), I’m slowly figuring things out. There are certain posts that do better than others, and certain versions of posts that do better than others.
    • Sharing articles from various biotech pages and other science pages–I’m managing to do this at least once a day, Monday thur Friday, I don’t really share much on the weekend.
    • Commenting on posts–as I commented on a post, I’m trying to do more than the just usual congrats, or that’s great. So this is still a work in progress
    • Giving/Asking for recommendations–this still needs to be done in order to ‘finish’ building my professional/personal brand on LinkedIn. I just have to decide who I’m going to ask (and then who I’m going to give recommendations to)
    • Start writing my own posts–see the below photograph, but I’m slowly dipping my toes into the world of LinkedIn publishing. I mentioned previously that my first two comfort/stretch/risk/die diagram posts had been my best posts (1st had over 1900 views, 36 reactions, and 12 comments; the second had over 6 thousand views, 36 reactions, and 20 comments). Obviously I didn’t use the correct hashtags with the third diagram (as it hasn’t come close to the number of views, reactions, or comments yet).
  5. Creating monthly/weekly/daily calendars for above goals–trying to get better at the whole ‘planning’ things out in advanced.
  6. Renew professional memberships–I need to pick two (one is going to be joining the American Medical Writers Association, and then the other may be either ASBMB or ASCB).

Screen-shots of the stats on some of the ‘original’ content I’ve created for LinkedIn

Personal and Professional Development: on-going

7. Becoming fluent in Spanish–I need to get back to using the app Mondly, and aim for thirty minutes two to three days a week to begin with and build back up to doing it daily.

8. Become fluent in German again

9. Become proficient in French, Norwegian, Swedish, or Mandarin

10. Read at least 300 personal/professional development books total (since I first started these challenges in 2017). Aiming for twenty to thirty (plus) books a year, this year is going to be low (unless I start really reading all non-fiction and very little fiction).

Various Non-Fiction books I’ve read since 2019

11. Finish the books on scientific writing

12. Start building a portfolio (possibly as another ‘page’ on the blog) of different types of work (writing/data analysis)

14. Develop a daily writing habit

15. Write a letter to my future self

Personal Development and hobbies: on-going

16. Paint and frame at least one original painting

17. More photography–have been doing some, but now between the weather and the delta variant I’m not walking at Boomer as much as I would like to

18. 365 photography challenge–this one I’d try to start, but had fallen off track already. May try to restart it in the fall

19. Update photography pages on blog–I’ve been adding pages to the bird tab, and I have about another 100 pages to go, plus have been trying to expand the travel pages as well

20. Make my own jewelry

21. Learn to cross-stitch–I’ve started an abstract project, where I’m just filling in the entire tapestry with colors

The current status of my cross-stitch project

22. Get a new sewing machine–on hold, due to the fact that there are issues with the machines being able to wind their bobbins, and the fact that people are probably buying them up again to make masks.

23. Make a new quilt (on hold due to #22)

24. Make a set of drapes for the bedroom (for backdrop when sitting at desk; on hold due to #22)

25. Start a new afghan–not sure if I’m going to be buying any yarn this year or not, since I still need to finish patching the second afghan that Chaos had chewed holes in.

26. Showcase crafts on blog (weekly update or possibly new pages when I have several completed?)

27. Start writing a book

28. Learn Photoshop

29. Write in the journal daily

30. Create my own coffee-table photography book

31. Learn basic sign language

32. Start a virtual book club

Finances: on-going (still a little difficult as there is no steady paycheck yet):

33. Create monthly budgets–currently this is just paying off the monthly bills

34. Credit cards debt down and hopefully paid off monthly–there are two that are high (where they aren’t paid off in full). Plus one is probably going to be high for a couple of months (since I’m thinking of possibly buying a bookcase and nightstand).

35. De-clutter the house–basically trying to sell DVDs back as a way of earning some extra money; on hold only because of the delta variant and me not wanting to be around other people

36. Saving account up another 20+K–this will take quite awhile since I haven’t ‘officially’ started doing any freelancing or remote work yet; nor have I landed any type of contract position

37. Talk with financial person about short-term investment possibilities–on hold, again due to the delta variant

38. Continue doing the small surveys as a way of earning a little extra cash

39. Finish the various financial e-courses (and decide how to implement what I’ve learned)

Fitness and Health: On-going

40. Get into the best shape of my life

41. Multivitamin and supplements daily–I’ve only forgotten to take my multivitamin and supplements every so often

42. Manage to make it through the following Beachbody workouts–these might be removed by the time I do a 500-day check-in as I’m thinking of cancelling my beachbody-on-demand membership

43. Morning Meltdown 100–I finished my 1st round on 9/15/2020

44. Yoga Booty Ballet-Abs & Butt series–Made it through 3/4 of the program by 11/14/2020

45. 10 Rounds–1st round finished 12/26/2020

46.Barre Blend–Started on 2/8/2021; managed to do half the program before deciding to call it quits

47. Insanity Max 30

48. LIIFT4–Did a round of the program back in 2018; second round finished on 11/14/2020, 3rd round (focusing mostly on the lifting) was finished 7/23/2021

49. 22-Minute Hard Corps

50. T20

51. Insanity

52. Insanity: Asylum 1

53. Insanity: Asylum 2

54. 4 weeks of Prep

55. 6 weeks of work

56. T25 (have already done once)

57. Brazil Butt Lift

58. 21 Day Fix (have done once); started the ‘LIVE’ version and made it a week before moving to LIIFT4

59. 21 Day Fix Extreme (have done once)

60. Country Heat (have done once)

61. CIZE–managed to make it through the program, even though I felt like I had two left feet the entire time. Finished this April 9th 2021)

62. Muscle Burns Fat–First round finished 1/17/2021

63. Muscle Burns Fat Advanced–First round finished 2/7/2021

64. Let’s Get Up! (hopefully out fall 2021; but have to decided if I’m keeping BOD or not)

65. 9-week control freak off the wall (technically with dumbbells)

66. Shawn Week

67. 80-Day Obsession

68. Brazil Butt Lift: Carnival

69: Shift Shop: Proving Grounds

70. P90

71. Core de Force

72. Manage 5 push-ups on my toes (I had been practicing, but I haven’t done much lately–need to get back to it)

73. Manage 10 push-ups on my toes

74. Hold a two-minute forearm plank

75. Hold a ninety second plank

76. Meditate nightly–Have been doing, even if its only been for a minute or two

77. 60-80 oz of water daily–some days I fall way short on this; something to work on

78. Stretch daily

79. Get at least 10,010,000 steps (breaks down to 5K/day)–on my way; some months are better than others.

Blog and Social Media: On-going:

80. Finish the YouTube for bosses course

81. Finish the YouTube course creation for bosses course

82. Launch a YouTube Channel

83. Launch an online course

84. Launch an online freelance/remote/contract business

85. Get blog traffic to 500+ views a day–have managed to increase the monthly views (May-July it was a little over 500 views per month), and now just need to work on increasing the weekly and then the daily views

86. Rebrand myself (?)

87. Get Instagram followers to constant 800+

88. Get Pintrest followers to constant 400+

89. Get twitter followers to constant 1000+

90. Publish at least two blog series

91. Editorial calendars (monthly/weekly/daily)

92. Blog–tried this for August, but life had a way of throwing it out the window; will try it agian for September

93. Instagram

94. Facebook Page(s)

95. Twitter

96. Pintrest

97. Get BecomingJessi (or new name if I change) to 1000+ likes/follows

98. Various top 10 author lists

99. Various top 10 book series lists

100. Launch a podcast

Spirituality: On-going:

101. Full/New Moon Goals–I’ve been managing to keep with these, even if I may not hit each goal that I set for each new/full moon

102. Create my own altar (wiccan/pagan): This was accomplished earlier this year, though I will be moving things around since it is a small shelf and everything feels crowded

103. Oracle Card readings (Weekly or Daily)–I’ve managed to do this more or less daily (though there have been a few days that I’ve missed). I started a 120-day oracle card sharing challenge, but after 26 days I’ve called it ‘quits’ for now, as it was feeling more like a task than an enjoyable hobby.

104. Sitting outside in the morning with my coffee (back to waiting for nicer weather–so hopefully sometime this fall)

Others (that don’t require travel): On-going

105. Keep at least three plants alive–I’ve managed to ‘root’ and replant several cuttings from our dumb cane plants, so I guess that could count as keeping plants alive. Though the Christmas poinsettia didn’t survive it’s repotting.

106. Design a science based board game

107. Update my digital vision board

108. Reorganize my storage unit

109. Put in at least one flower garden around the house (backyard, and/or front yard).

110. Help put up a partial privacy fence in backyard

111. Start downsizing clothes and creating different ‘minimum’ wardrobes (work/professional/casual; home/casual/working out). Have found different non-profits that I could donate clothes too, but the overall project is on hold due to the delta variant. Once that is under control, I’ll box up clothes that I don’t want and ship them off.

112. Develop different 30-day challenges–this one may be taken off by the 5th check-in if I haven’t come up with one and seen it through to completion.

113. Start down sizing the rest of my belongings (would like to live comfortably in a small house/apartment and I know that I don’t need majority of my stuff).

Goals that require a little traveling (or having moved into my own place):

114. Re-pierce my ears

115. Go to at least one scientific conference

116. Present at a scientific conference

117. Got to at least two professional networking events

118.Move to a new (or maybe not new) city for job

119. Visit at least three new countries

120. Visit at least one new national park and/or state park

121. Visit at least one new national monument and/or state monument

122. Visit at least one new zoo

123. Visit at least one new aquarium

124. Fly out and/or land at three new (to me) airports

125. Visit at least one new city

126. Visit at least one ‘new’ state

127. See the northern lights

128. Attend at least one blogging conference

129. Attend at least one author-reader conference

130. Swim with whale sharks

131. Parasailing

132. Get fabric and foam and make new cushions for chairs

133. New couch and chair for living room

134. New dresser for bedroom

135. New mattress and box spring for bed and/or a new bed set

136. New TV & stand

137. New desk/craft workstation

While the number of goals seem shorter than previous: the total number is still about 147 (ten of the goals in the professional development group were dotted instead of numbered).

Since, I thinking of cancelling my Beachbody-on-Demand membership next month, there will probably be about 25 ‘goals’ that may disappear from the list (at least the ones that would require the use of streaming; older programs that I have the DVDs on may still be done).

Therefore I may in add some additional personal or professional development programs to the list, or some other goals to take their place (in other words I’m not sure I’ll be decreasing the total number of goals or simply switching numerous ones out).

I’d mentioned in a post last week (my most updated comfort diagram share), that I felt like I’d let my time management slip the past month or so—and I have. I actually tried to make an ‘editorial’ calendar last month for August through October. But, life has a way of getting in the way at times, and it threw the calendar out the window (though I’m going to try to update it for the rest of fall).

I’m almost certain that I want to go in a freelance/remote/contract direction for my career (since the delta variant isn’t going to be disappearing anytime soon), and am slowly brainstorming the ideas needed for that pivot.

The bingo card that was created at the beginning of the year (both for yearly goals and the fitness programs I wanted to get completed), with the best intentions—I’ve realized that I probably won’t be getting a ‘bingo’ this year, and I will need to fine-tune the ideas for my 2022 yearly bingo card and any future fitness bingo cards.

I’ve decided currently that I’m going to keep the current web addy (becomingjessi) and the running tag-line (a little bit of this, a little bit of that) for the blog, but also start trying to brainstorm some ideas for new ones as I slowly start trying to develop my freelance/remote/contract business (writing, with possibly data analysis, project/product management, consulting).

So, the summer saw me becoming a little lax in time management and online learning—but I’m reactivating the self-control app, and will be setting weekly goals (say three hours of online learning, non-fiction reading, and work on crafts; in addition to some type of word total for writing).

The volunteer writing position that I took is helping me learn some of the ins and outs of researching various types of topics and writing for a general audience (I’m slowly figuring out how much science is actually needed within those topics), and I’m hoping to be able to do more than one post a week (one for the company, and then a different one for the bog) within another month or so.

So I will be brainstorming/mind-mapping different ideas for the career pivot that will appeal to my mixed-style multipontialite personality (different types or number of projects), and my strengths (learner, intellection, input, achiever, ideation, and deliberative) moving forward. This will mean trying to determine the best type of daily schedule (when to do research; what to research; how long to research; blocks for writing and so forth).

Therefore, the goals for the next 100 days will include getting through various professional development programs (finishing up the writing tests for the Medical Writers Organization, making it through the Regulatory Affairs Council, and possibly the Business Development Federation program as well), reading at least 3-4 books off the personal/professional development list, and creating my own fitness/intentional movement calendar for the rest of the year (weight lifting, and then some types of cardio and recovery), and then whatever else from the list that will fit into the 100-day schedule.

No Comments 101 GoalsBookscareercomputersCraftsfinancesfitnessHealthLifestyle Challengesmoney saving challengesno spend challengesoutdoorsPersonal DevelopmentPhotographyprofessional developmentReflectionsSciencespiritualitytravelUpdatesvision boards

Updating my comfort diagram: reflections & planning for the fall

So I spent a good chunk of last week working on my 3rd comfort diagram. I’d been introduced to the concept about six months ago by one of my coaches during a zoom call (I’d been more or less rambling on what I thought my future plans were).

I’d decided that I was going to do a new version of it every three months, but also introduce a new zone between the comfort and stretch zone–the bounce zone.

I’d chosen the name ‘bounce zone’, because I didn’t feel like there were things that I’d been working on from the stretch or risk zones that could be moved all the way into the comfort zone (i.e. I didn’t feel like they’d become fully ingrained habits yet).

3rd rendition of my comfort zone diagram. Growth is being made, everything is back and forth.

You might notice that I still have blogging within the bounce zone. This is because at times I feel like I have ‘writer’s block’ and my inner critic/imposter syndrome pops in every so often and I end up not posting as frequently as I had originally planned.

As I was working on the diagram, I decided I would add one or two things into the stretch zone:

Intuitive eating, which is something I’ve been working on for the past few months. I have it in the stretch zone only because there are a couple of points that I’m still slightly struggling with:

(1) Eating enough protein during the day (especially at breakfast)

(2) Savoring the meals/snacks (i.e. taking more than ten to fifteen minutes to each the meal), and finally

(3) figuring out what type of intentional movements I enjoy doing, figuring out how to incorporate them into my day and then ignoring the rest. I know it may look funny putting movement (or exercise) in with nutrition, but they’re tied together in society.

The second thing I added to the stretch zone is learning more about UX (user experience), as a possible freelance/remote direction to go in.

I’ve actually completed a couple of courses over the past six month where I learned the basics on clinical research and intellectual property. I’m currently keeping them in the ‘stretch zone’ as I haven’t quite figured out how to tie them into the direction that I’m thinking of going (which is freelance/remote/contract focusing first on writing, and then possibly adding in data analysis, project and product management at a later point). Both topics were interesting, but I also realized that I probably wouldn’t want to go in either direction full time (in terms of clinical research–unless I was at the bench, I possibly would have to travel between clinical research sites frequently, and to become a patent agent would require passing the patent bar exam).

While I would like to possibly travel (depending on when the various variants of the SARS-CoV2 virus are contained), I don’t want to constantly travel for work, and currently I don’t want to go in a direction that would require a large amount of money and a standardized test.

But what has changed over the last three months?

Cross-stitching and science writing have bounced their way into the bounce zone, while time management and refreshing a foreign language have bounced their way back into the stretch zone.

I’ve realized that I enjoy doing more abstract design and creation (in other words not having to follow a set pattern), and my first cross-stitch project is actually a continuous circle with a few bumps in the road made up of different colors. I’m going to see how many different colors it takes to fill up the fabric, and not worry about little mistakes that I may make along the way.

I’m slowly making my way into science writing again. I managed to land a volunteer medical content writing position with a online Canadian magazine (Medical News Bulletin) last month. While it is a volunteer position (and they own the ‘rights’ to my work), I am learning the ins and outs of science communication for the lay audience. Hopefully then, this will flow over to the blog and I will be getting out at least one science related blog post a month (and possibly one to two science related pages a month as well).

I’m also trying to focus a little more on my spiritual health as well over the past few months, and it has bounced (along with oracle cards) to sit along side meditation in the bounce zone. This has been an area that has been bouncing between the stretch and the bounce zones the past couple of months (and will probably still bounce the next couple of months). I’ve always been fascinated and intrigued by ancient cultures and practices more so than contemporary practices–and have felt like an outsider growing up due to those interests.

Over the past month, I’ve picked up quite a few non-fiction books related to ancient cultures and practices for two reasons: one because they interest me, and I actually have the time to indulge in those interests; and two–they may serve as ‘reference’ books for a couple of short story ideas that I have bouncing around in my head.

Various non-fiction books that I’ve bought over the past month

I like Graham Hancock–I have his book ‘Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization’ in my storage unit. I bought this book back in the late 1990s after I finished reading the Egyptian Book of the Dead that I got for Christmas one year. The others were bought because I’m either fascinated with the civilization (Mayan) or feel like they could be good ‘reference’ books for short story ideas.

My time management has been slipping for the past month or more, due in part to the warmer weather (so I want to be sitting outside more often than I do during other times of the year, and preferably without my computer), and my anxiety has been spiking due to the rise in the number of SARS-CoV2 cases due to delta variant running rampant through the country.

So, I’m going to have to just ensure that I have various time management apps up and running on both my computer and phone (and possibly add in the different news sites to the ‘blocked for the day’ list)–because if I can’t see the news, I can’t stress out over it and have my anxiety spike (yes, I know that doing this is showcasing my privilege–but sometime protecting ones mental health means embracing certain things that I would usually try not to embrace).

Refreshing the foreign language also bounced back into the stretch zone for almost identical reasons as time management, with the addition of my inner critic/imposter syndrome poking their heads out and ridiculing me on my progress.

Therefore, the next three months are going to be focused on:

(1) Time management,

(2) learning (aiming for spending at least three and a half hours a week working through various e-courses; this breaks down to roughly thirty minutes a day),

(3) reading (aiming to read non-fiction for another three and a half hours a week (again, another thirty minutes a day),

(4) craft time (also three and a half hours a week at minimum; thirty minutes a day, while focusing on cross-stitching, jewelry design/creation, photography, and doodling), and

(5) writing (this will be the most varied area with different projects, but aiming for four to six thousand words a week).

Progress is being made–writing is slowly becoming an enjoyable habit again (after years of dreading having to do it), meditation at night is helping with anxiety (for the most part), and I’m going to work on incorporating it more often during the day. The staircase out of the pit of burnout does seem to go on forever, but I only need to take it a step at a time, and I can sit with a book on a stair whenever I need to catch my breath.

Question time–what are your favorite e-course sites and subjects?

No Comments BookscareerCraftsfinancesfitnessHealthLifestyle Challengesmoney saving challengesno spend challengesoracle cardsoutdoorsPersonal DevelopmentPhotographyprofessional developmentReflectionsSciencespiritualityTurtlesUpdates

Odd facts and statistics on the US State Birds

Unless this is your first time visiting my blog (and then, hello and how do you do), one may realize that bird watching and photography are some favorite pastimes of mine. While creating the birding section of my blog and the various bird pages, I’ve come curious on the topic of ‘state’ birds.

Every state has an official ‘state’ bird and after seeing the list of birds, I decided to create a list of ‘fifty-one’ odd facts about the state birds. In addition, I also found about a dozen odd stats about them as well.

Collage of all the ‘state’ birds

So to start off, here are the odd statistics on the ‘state’ birds:

  1. There are over a thousand different species of birds within the United States, but only twenty-seven species, plus two types of chickens were chosen as state birds.
  2. Ten states have both a state bird, plus another ‘official’ bird (game, waterfowl, raptor, or symbol of peace)
  3. The state birds of nine states (plus the District of Columbia) are only present in the state (or area) from mid-spring to early/mid fall (breeding season)
  4. Seven states have the northern cardinal as their state bird
  5. Six states have the mockingbird as their state bird
  6. Six states have the western meadowlark as their state bird–though it is a summer resident for three of those states
  7. Two states have a chicken as their state bird
  8. Three states have the goldfinch as their state bird
  9. Three states have the American robin as their state bird
  10. Two states have the eastern bluebird as their state bird
  11. Two states have the mountain bluebird as their state bird (though it is a summer resident in one of those states.
  12. Two states have the black-capped chickadee for their state bird

What I found ‘weird’ was that high frequency of the northern cardinal (14% of the states), mockingbird (12% of the states), and western meadowlark (12% of the states) being chosen for state birds. These three choices by nineteen states account for 38% of the ‘state birds’.

So, what are some weird/odd or amazing facts about the various state (or national) birds?

  1. The national bird (the Bald Eagle) is no longer considered endangered or threatened (it is one of the biggest success stories of the Endangered Species Act). Though it is still protected at the state level in many states.
Bald Eagle and gulls flying over Boomer Lake. Picture by JessicaMattsPhotography

2. The District of Columbia has a ‘state bird’–the wood thrush.

Wood Thrush

3. The rough translation for the wood thrush’s scientific name (Hylochila mustelina) is ‘weasel-colored woodland thrush’

4. Male wood thrushes do more of the feeding of the chicks than the female; this allows her to start a second brood.

5. The first national wildlife refuge (Florida’s Pelican Island) was created in 1903 by Teddy Roosevelt to protect the brown pelican.

Brown Pelicans flying over the beach. Photograph: JessicaMattsPhotography

6. Besides being the state bird of Louisiana, the brown pelican is also the national bird of Saint Martin, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

7. Northern flickers actually hunt for their food on the ground, with ants being a staple in their diet.

Northern flicker

8. In addition to nesting in trees (like all other woodpeckers), northern flickers have also been know to use abandoned burros of belted kingfishers or bank swallows.

9. The willow ptarmigan is the only grouse in the world where the male regularly helps raise the young.

Male Willow Ptarmigan in mating colors

10. The willow ptarmigan is also a master of camouflage; they can be snowy white in the winter and a mix of reds and browns in the summer.

11. The cactus wren gets its liquids from the juicy insects and fruits it eats; therefore rarely relying on water.

Cactus Wren

12. Young California quail gain their gut microbiome by pecking at the feces of the adults.

California Quail

13. California quail broods mix after hatching and all parents help care for the young

14. A male northern mockingbird can learn up to 200 songs during his lifetime.

Northern mockingbird

15. While it is called the northern mockingbird, it is actually absent from many of the northern states.

16. Lark buntings are able to survive periods of drought by taking moisture from grasshoppers and other insects

Lark Bunting

17. Lark buntings are endemic sparrows to the grasslands and shrub steppes of North America.

18. The entire American robin population ‘turns over’ on average every six years, though many may live longer than that.

American Robin

19. Did you know that robins can become intoxicated when they exclusively eat honeysuckle berries?

20. Brown thrashers have been known to imitate the songs of Chuck-will’s-widows, wood thrushes, and northern flickers

Brown thrasher seen up at Boomer Lake

21. Brown thrashers are the largest common host for the ‘parasitic’ brown-headed cowbirds. Though they can tell the difference between their eggs and the cowbird eggs, and usually reject the cowbird eggs that had been laid in the nest.

22. The Nene evolved from the Canada goose, which probably arrived on the Hawaiian Islands roughly 500,000 years ago.

The Nene or Hawaiian Goose

23. The Nene is the sixth-most endangered waterfowl species in the world.

24. There are Hawaiian geese (Nene) living in the Slimbridge Wetland Wildlife Reserve near Gloucestershire, England

25. Mountain bluebirds can hunt for insects either in flight or from perches

Mountain Bluebird

26. A male mountain bluebird with a high-quality nesting site is more likely to attract a mate than a more ‘attractive’ male with a low-quality nesting site.

27. Female northern cardinals are one of the few female songbirds that sing

Northern Cardinal

28. Cardinals don’t molt into duller colors–the mature males stay bright red year-round.

29. Goldfinches are strict vegetarians, and the offspring of other birds who parasitize their nests (such as the brown-headed cowbirds) rarely survive more than a few days on the all-seed diet.

Goldfinch

30. Meriweather Lewis, noted in 1805 the differences between the eastern and western meadowlarks

Western Meadowlark

31. Male western meadowlarks usually have two mates at the same time, as the females do all the incubating, brooding, and most of the feeding of the young

32. Black-capped chickadees hide their food to eat later, placing individual items in different spots

Black-capped chickadee

33. Black-capped chickadees adapt to changes in their flocks and the environment every fall, by allowing neurons with ‘old information’ to die and replacing them with new neurons

34. Baltimore orioles are known to breed/hybridize extensively with Bullock’s orioles where their ranges overlap within the Great Plains

Oriole spotted at Boomer Lake

35. When migrating the common loon has been clocked at speeds greater than 70mph

Common Loon

36. Common loons are only present in a few states during the summer. Most of the US is actually within their migratory routes to the coasts, where they will spend the winters (and the young will stay for two years before heading back north).

37. Eastern bluebirds will typically have more than one brood per year

Eastern Bluebird spotted at Boomer Lake

38. Purple finches have lost territory in the eastern US to the house finch

A finch spotted in the winter

39. Roadrunners are able to eat venomous lizards, scorpions, and rattlesnakes.

Greater Roadrunner

40. Roadrunners may also be seen walking around with a snake protruding from its bill, swallowing a little at a time as the snake is digested.

41. The scissor-tailed flycatcher tends to wander on their way to and from their winter grounds in Central America. They have been spotted as far north and west as British Columbia, and as far north and east as Nova Scotia.

Scissor-tailed flycatchers at Boomer Lake

42. The scissor-tailed flycatcher as the second longest tail for members of the kingbird family. The fork-tailed flycatcher has the longest tail.

43. The popularity of the ruffed grouse as a game bird led to some of the earliest game management efforts in North America back in 1708.

Ruffed Grouse

44. The overall population of the ruffed grouse goes through an eight-to-eleven year cycle that is in correlation to the snowshoe hare population.

45. It is only the male Carolina wren that sings

Carolina wrens in the backyard

46. Ring-necked pheasants will sometime parasitize the nests of other birds (such as the ruffed grouse or the greater-prairie chicken)

Ring-necked pheasant

47. Ring-necked pheasants practice ‘harem-defense polygyny’ where one male will keep other males away from a group of females during the breeding season.

48. The California gull became the state bird of Utah in 1848, after they started feasting on the katydids that had been devastating the crops of the settlers.

California Gull

49. Hermit thrushes are likely to nest in trees west of the Rocky Mountains, but on the ground east of the Rocky Mountains

Hermit Thrush

50. Male hermit thrushes will collect the food for the nest, giving it to the female who will then feed the nestlings.

51. Not really odd facts, but here are the two pictures of the chickens that are also state birds:

Delaware’s state bird
Rhode Island’s state bird

So there are the ‘fifty-one’ odd facts on state birds (yes, I know that the last fact are just pictures). So far I’ve managed to get a picture of thirteen or fourteen of the birds–I’m leaning more towards fourteen, since I’m pretty positive that is a purple finch I got a picture of this winter.

A photography goal–get a picture of the other state birds, though I’m not sure if I’m also going to include the chickens in that or not. You might have noticed that I didn’t mention every state in terms of their state bird–I thought it would be more fun to test everyone’s knowledge.

So question–do you know the state bird of your state?

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European Edition: Two more Rail Member Pages are Live

So there are two more bird pages live under the birding section, and they aren’t geese, swans, or ducks: they’re two members of the rail family that I saw on my trip to the UK a couple of years ago.

Ever since I started this project (creating bird pages for the various birds I’ve gotten pictures of over the years), I’m constantly going through my old pictures and asking–which bird is this, and am I sure that is the correct bird?

For most birds, I’m usually correct with my identification, but there have been others that I’ve been wrong on. As it turns out I wasn’t correct with my first identification of these two birds; I’m made a ‘rookie’ mistake and assumed they were just ‘regional’ variations of birds I’d seen back in the US.

Well, it turns out that that was the wrong assumption to make–they’re actually separate species from the ones I’d spotted within the US.

The first one is the common moorhen. The reason why I’d thought that it was similar to the one I’d seen down in South Padre Island, is that they had been considered the same (or possibly subspecies) up until 2011–so only a decade ago, and I have an ‘outdated’ bird book.

The ‘Old World’ has the common moorhen, while the ‘New World’ has the common gallinule.

Common moorhen spotted within Kensington Park in London, UK

The second one I had ‘mistakenly’ identified was the Eurasian coot–I thought it was the American coot. Yes, I know that the name ‘American’ should have given it away that it probably wouldn’t be found in the UK–but if the pied grebe can occasionally migrate over the Atlantic Ocean, whose to say that the coot couldn’t?

Eurasian coots swimming in Kensington Park

I now know that there are several coot species, and I’ve managed to get pictures of two of them–in order to make it a perfect trifecta, I now need to head back to the Hawaiian islands and get a picture of the Hawaiian coot.

There are still one or two more birds from the UK trip that will be getting pages, but currently this brings the rail family up to date for members that I’ve spotted either within the US or abroad.

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Two swan pages, and their order and family pages are now live

So several more pages are now live under the birding tab of the ‘blog’.

An new organizational page (the ‘water birds’) is up and running. This ‘tab’ will contain all the bird orders/families that are associated with the water (members spend at least fifty percent of their time near, on, or in the water). As mentioned on the page, while there are raptors that eat fish (namely the osprey and bald eagle), they aren’t included within the tab as they don’t spend that much time on or in the water (they grab their food and fly off to eat it).

The order (Anseriformes) and family (Anatidae) pages for the ducks, geese, and swans are also up and live under the birding section (specifically under the ‘water birds’).

Young Mute Swan

This is another group that will take several days/weeks to finish, as I think there are thirteen to fourteen members of the family for me to do research over (most seen within the United States and three or four were also seen over in the UK).

So far I have two swan pages up on the site: the Mute Swan (seen in both Boston and the UK) and the black swan (seen solely in the UK).

The black swan is native to Australia and was introduced to the northern hemisphere starting in the 1800s, and the mute swan is native to northern hemisphere–but within the ‘old world’ and was introduced throughout the rest of the world starting again in the 1600-1800s.

Black swan seen within Kensington Park

The next set of pages will probably cover the geese that I’ve seen (again mainly in the US, but several were also spotted within the UK) and I’m hoping to have those pages up and ‘live’ by the end of the weekend.

A photography goal is to get pictures of the two native swans in North America: the trumpeter and tundra swans.

Curious to know if you’ve seen a swan–which species was it and where were you?

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Proud to be a geek: ‘Celebrate your geekness day’

Today is ‘celebrate your geekness’ day, a day that was created by Wellcats Holidasy as a day about being proud of what you do, who you are, and what you’re ‘obsessed’ with. I will freely admit that I’ve always been a ‘geek’, and I’ve been proud of being a geek. While I may seem ‘quiet’ and slightly ‘unsociable’, it is more of the fact that I’m wondering what I can add to the conversation. Depending on the topic, I may either be more of an active listener or an active participant. While I am a ‘geek’ on various subjects, I also admit that some areas I’m reconnecting to, so I may not be that big of a ‘geek’ in terms of random knowledge.

I like these five reasons from ‘a big think edge’ blog post back in 2018 on why one should embrace thier inner geek:

  1. The term communicates that you are intelligent
  2. You may be more socially competent and mature than the ‘cool kids’
  3. As a geek, you are viewed in a increasingly positive way
  4. You are technically savvy and an early adopter of new technologies
  5. Geeks bring different perspectives and knowledge to the conversation

I agree with all of them, with the exception of number four–I really don’t care for updating/upgrading my electronics and such unless I either absolutely have to, or the update/upgrade has something really going for it.

So what are things that I consider myself a ‘geek’ about?

Hobbies such as:

Birds (and bird watching)

Photography

Reading (fiction, especially romance)

Knitting and other crafts

Being outdoors, gardening and nature

Learning, especially on topics related to:

Science

History

Geography

Archaeology

Anthropology

Paleontology

My pets

What am I currently learning or teaching myself?

Python coding, cross-stitching, jewelry making, and brushing up on subjects such as intellectual protperty and clinical trials.

What are my end goals?

Continuous learning, finding harmony between ‘work’ and ‘everything else’, and bridging the communication gap beteen the scientific community and the general public.

What is one scientific topic that you wished was communicated better?

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Short Post: Pied-billed grebe with its summer beak

Pied-billed Grebe swimming at Boomer Lake

Last week I managed to get in a walk at Boomer Lake and as I was crossing the bridge on my way home I noticed that the grebe was swimming about.

I also noticed that it is showcasing it’s mating mark–the bill.

During the summer/breeding season, the bills of pied-grebes turn white with a black stripe on them.

Pied-billed grebe

The rest of the year, the beak is a more drab brown color, and there is no black stripe.

Pied-bill grebe swimming in Boomer Lake (winter time)

Since we’re in their year-round range, I had been hoping to spot one this summer. While I saw several during the winter, I have no idea if they were a mix of males and females, or all of one or the other. I will be keeping my eyes out again on walks, to see if maybe I can spot one possibly carrying their young with them for a swim.

Have you spotted a grebe in its summer’s finest?

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Two weird bird facts: leading to more bird posts & pages

So I shared the above image on LinkedIn and Instagram earlier today, and it got me thinking that it could also become part of a running blog series.

Last fall I decided that I wanted to start creating ‘bird pages’ for all the birds that I managed to get a picture of over the years, and that I had digital pictures of on my computer. This started the evolving ‘birds, birds, and birds’ section of the blog/website. Currently there are about seventy-eight pages under that tab, with another ninety-one pages to be added.

As the bird section has grown, so has the potential number of side projects that I’m thinking of doing in terms of I’ve learned about various birds or minor issues I’ve discovered.

Since molecular testing has become ‘cheaper’ over the decades, bird families and orders have been reconfigured–to where the cormorants, frigatebirds, and boobies are no longer classified with the pelicans, ibises, and herons. They’ve been given their own order: Suliformes, which doesn’t seem to have much information on it (something that has slightly bother me).

I also found that the orders Gaviiformes (loons), and Coraciiformes (kingfishers and other brightly colored birds) also have very little information on them.

Researching all three could generate at least one to two small ‘blog/science’ posts/articles in addition to a simple summary post as well.

I also found out that the dodo was within the same order as the pigeons and doves–I never knew that. I don’t think the classification of the dodo was ever discussed in any science class.

I also learned that the order for swans, ducks, and geese (Order Anseriformes), in addition to the order for turkeys, quails, and pheasants (Order Galliformes) have been around since the dinosaurs. I knew that bird evolution started during the age of dinosaurs, but I didn’t realize that there have been two orders that have been around since that time.

Those are just two of the ‘weird’ facts that I’ve learned since starting this project. I’ll be sharing a couple every week or so both here and on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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