Bird watching: red winged blackbird

Self-tutoring about birds: the tutor mentions an encounter

Back on September 5, 2017, I mention looking at a goose across a lake in Nanaimo. At the same place this morning, I noticed a red winged blackbird.

I heard the bird first. Its piercing call, vibrating from a single note, it uttered from atop a low tree. Its mate, who looked nothing like it, but was brown, clucked from reeds near the lake. The male answered her between his shrill calls.

I suspected the bird’s identity because of the setting, but had to pursue him a bit to see his red shoulders. After playing hard-to-get, he actually started to chase me a little as I left the lake shore.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Social studies: the generations, part 0

Self-tutoring about the generations we commonly encounter: the tutor begins….

As a tutor, I’ve worked with Baby Boomers (b. ’46 to ’64), GenXers (b. ’65 to ’76), Millennials (b. ’77 to ’95), and Centennials (b. ’96 →). What are some preliminary thoughts?

The individual’s personality is always more important than the generation they’re from.

In my experience, perhaps those of the current generation, the Centennials, possess an advantage: they don’t prejudge a situation as those from earlier ones might do. Put another way, the Centennials, in my observation, don’t have a sense of the absurd. Therefore, they are open-minded in a way that makes them perhaps the easiest to teach.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Botany: amaryllis

Self-tutoring about plants and flowers: the tutor mentions an encounter with amaryllis.

In early June, exploring a campus, I arrived at a crossroads for its various paths. There, in a raised box, bloomed an arresting red flower. Internet research suggests to me the flower must be an amaryllis. Its bloom could have been 10 inches across. It looked tropical – beautiful, but surprising to see here.

A week ago, at the same spot, I saw the bloom again. I was plunged into reminiscence of meeting it a month earlier, but then suspected it wasn’t the same bloom, but instead one planted in the same spot, later.

My reading suggests the feasibility of such a premise: amaryllis is reputed to be easy to bring to flower any time, if conditions are proper. Perhaps here, amaryllis would need fresh planting each year, in warm spring conditions.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Baking: how to melt chocolate chips

Self-tutoring about baking: the tutor wonders about the best way to melt chocolate chips.

I wondered which way was better – stovetop method vs microwave – to melt chocolate chips. Apparently microwave wins.


YouTube: America’s Test Kitchen

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Spelling: I was skeptical…but was I sceptical?

Self-tutoring about spelling: the tutor had his doubts in one case….

I read the word “sceptical” with surprise. One of the word processing programs I use doesn’t like it either. Yet, Webster’s Dictionary and Oxford Canadian Dictionary agree: sceptic is another way to spell skeptic.

Sceptic is a spelling so easy to be skeptical of: it defies the soft “c” before “e” rule. Yet, just like sasquatch and aliens, it’s real.

Curiously, the spell checker questions sasquatch as well, but is happy with aliens. Perhaps it doesn’t believe in sceptics or sasquatch?


Mish, Frederick C (editor). The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 2004.

Barber, Katherine et al. Oxford Canadian Dictionary of Current English. Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Weather: precipitation so far this year, relative to normal, in Campbell River, BC

Self-tutoring about weather: the tutor checks the relative precipitation for Campbell River so far in 2019.

The weather has been beautiful in Campbell River this year, but perhaps a little dry. Our recent rain has been much appreciated.

How much precipitation have we received in 2019, relative to normal? Well, we’ve received about 363mm so far in 2019; 658mm is average for the same period.

We’re grateful for the rain, but could still use more:)


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Health and fitness: body fat, part 0

Self-tutoring about health and fitness: the tutor begins about body fat.

My older son is a weight trainer who has an image of how an ideal body looks. He often talks about body fat: “I want to decrease my body fat,” and so on. He lets me know that mine could afford to decrease.

There are so many directions to follow about body fat (BF), I decided to start with what might be “acceptable”. For men, around 25% BF might be acceptable; for women, perhaps 30%.

Let’s imagine a person exercises, but also wants to look athletic. Cutting the acceptable body fat in half will typically do so.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Sports: why is Pittsburgh baseball team called the Pirates?

Self-tutoring about American sports history: the tutor looks up how the Pittsburgh Pirates came to be so-called.

In my experience, sports people are clever in subtle ways. Therefore, I was sure the name Pirates would have an interesting story behind it, which it does.

Back in 1891, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys baseball team hired talent from other teams in a way called “piratical” by the teams whose players they lured away. The name was so compelling, the Alleghenys adopted it, becoming the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1891:)


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Biology: mast and masting, part II

Self-tutoring about mast and masting: the tutor revisits it.

Back in my post from Aug 26, 2016, I mention mast and masting: mast being fruit produced by forest trees, and masting being their rhythmic production of it.

A concept of masting is that trees don’t produce huge crops of seeds every year. Rather, they produce large crops some years, but thin crops others. Their variable masting is intentional, to control the population of seed-eaters. Therefore, when mast is richly produced, there aren’t enough consumers to eat it all, so many of the seeds can grow.

In my reading about the red crossbill (see my previous post), I encountered the masting idea again, regarding Douglas firs. Apparently the red crossbill is aware that masting is timed differently from place to place: a scant crop in one location may correspond with a rich one elsewhere. Red crossbills are known to follow the mast, nesting where it’s rich.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Bird identification: red crossbill

Self-tutoring about birds: the tutor gives commentary.

Yesterday I spent about five hours in the yard, catching up on chores. Early on, I heard a flushing sound, but couldn’t place it. Yet, it was energetic: I wondered why I could hear it, but not see its cause.

There is a Douglas fir in the yard that’s 60 or more feet tall. Many birds visit it, but easily stay out of sight among its intricate branches. After awhile, I noticed movement in the branches, though couldn’t see what caused it. Now and again I’d look up and eventually did see birds fluttering in the needles.

The birds were around sparrow sized but maybe leaner than a sparrow might be. They were always in shadow, under the tree’s canopy, while the sky itself was bright, so I couldn’t tell their colour. Yet, I managed to observe one quite closely.

The birds were attacking the Douglas fir’s cones. One would hang upside down, peck around a cone, then move to another. They did so for hours – of course, the tree is huge, and prosperous. Cones fell as the birds worked.

I’ve never beheld such activity. The birds’ insistence was impressive: one even made eye contact with me while it pecked a low cone. It obviously surmised nothing to fear from a stiff yard labourer trying to wrap up chores in the late-Saturday-afternoon sun.

I’ve read perhaps the birds were red crossbills. I did catch some orange tinge on one high up, even in the shade; the one I saw close-up must have been female, being greenish-yellow. They did emit chirps similar to some I’ve heard online.

Yard chores are great for encountering birds. With how common the red crossbill is meant to be here, I’m surprised I’ve not seen one before. Evidently, even much of one’s everyday world might await discovery….


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.
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