A Few Things That Make Me Happy

A Few Things That Make Me Happy

A List In No Particular Order


Anhinga, Everglades Natoinal Park, Florida

Anhingas also make me happy. Because they’re awesome. I mean, come on. Look at that eye makeup and hairdo.  Red eye, blue eye-liner, green eyeshadow, artfully disarrayed frosted spikes. Hotness. 
Everglades National Park, Florida



  • savoring a cup of tea while wrapped in a blanket in front of the woodstove.

cape breton highlands national park

Or savoring a cup of tea while sitting on a rocky beach in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia, because you don’t have any pictures of leisurely tea drinking by the woodstove.

  • waking, realizing there is no real reason to be up yet, and staying in bed, eyes closed, half awake/half asleep, dreaming.

Memorial Day in the Mountains

Camping up on Black Balsam, in Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina.

  • the smell of walking through a pine forest in the cool  just after dawn.

H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest Oregon

H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, Oregon. I took this in May 2010. If I recall correctly, it rained pretty much the entire three months I was in Oregon.

  • the sound of woodpeckers tapping and hammering on branches.

red-cockaded woodpecker Carolina Sandhills NWR

Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Carolina Sandhills NWR, South Carolina. I spent a great deal of time chasing them around in the woods. It was fun. Other than the chiggers and the poison oak.

  • getting sucked into a good book for hours, and only coming up for air when you desperately have to pee. Or eat.

Galapagos Islands lava gull

This has nothing to do with reading a good book, but surprisingly I don’t have any pictures of me reading. So here’s a picture I took of a Lava Gull and chick in the Galapagos Islands back in 2008. The adult is in breeding plumage, which is why it has the red eye-ring. And, it’s eye is closed. It’s napping. Parenting is exhausting, from what I hear.

  • having progressively logically ridiculous conversations, that are in turns creative, silly, and in a strange way logical.

Like planning our post-apocalyptic commune, or our skunk ape/NASA/unicorn conspiracy theory, or pretty much any time Meghan, Patrick, and I opened our mouths.


Dave Shealy's Gorilla Supplier

Skunk Ape Research Headquarters, Ochopee, Florida. Based on the drawings (which are based on a first-person description from someone who wasn’t the artist) in the “Skunk Ape Research Handbook,” that is totally a gorilla statue, not a skunk ape.

  • the smell of a rock wall, on the 2nd or 3rd pitch of a multi-pitch route.


Rock Climbing Utah

Climbing Castleton Tower with Max. I recommend climbing desert towers with someone who doesn’t say, “You know, if this tower fell over we’d be screwed” as you reach the belay on the 3rd  of 4 pitches. Near Moab, Utah.

  • singing along as loud as I please to a good song on the radio.

everglades national park, florida

Thankfully I have no pictures of myself singing, so here’s another cool bird picture (you can never have too many). This is a Purple Gallinule, a sweet bird that lives in Florida. They live other places too, but this one lives in Everglades National Park. Well, that’s where I saw it. Maybe it was just on vacation.

  • snuggling with my dog in my tiny bed

I prefer blonds in my bed

Extra happiness: snuggling with both a dog and a cat. All those blond pet hairs covering your person and clothing are just pet love stuck all over everything in your life.

  • riding my mountain bike down Game Creek trail, where I discovered one of the meanings of the world “exultation.”

Jackson Wyoming

One of the many beaver ponds along the trail. Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming.

And here’s a video of what is probably a Ruffed Grouse on Game Creek. It’s a good thing I ride slow, otherwise I might have run it over. These birds could definitely use some street-smarts.

Look both ways before you cross RUGR!

Ohio Wesleyan University Reunion Note

In May of 2014 it will have been five years since I graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University. Five. That’s a long time, and yet not. I feel like I haven’t done that much. Which is silly. I’ve done a lot. Which is why it took me so long to write my Reunion Note. I love how they gave three lines to “describe what you have been doing since your last reunion (use back side if needed).” Hahaha…. Right. I’m not even sure I could list all the places I’ve lived in the past five years on three lines, let alone what I was doing in each place.

I spend a ridiculously long time writing this reunion note, mostly because I allowed myself to get distracted by what-have-you on the internet (and by working, and by climbing things). I’m not sure if this is a good sign for grad school, that it takes me three days to write less than a page about myself. How will I manage to write actual papers on topics that aren’t me? Oh man. Guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

So I thought I would share this with everyone here, since I’m assuming that most of my audience won’t be purchasing the OWU Reunion Yearbook this year. It was also a great excuse to go through some old pictures.


Ohio Wesleyan University Alumni Weekend 2014

Reunion Note Form


Lauren Smith

Class Year:


Classmates can find me on Facebook:


(If you’re feeling extremely bored, just search “Lauren Smith,” and see how long it takes you. I may or may not be in the first 3,000 people that come up). 

Please describe what you have been doing since your last reunion. 

Since graduating from Ohio Wesleyan in 2009, Lauren has been all over the place. She has only once spent 6 months straight living in the same state, and it was a very odd experience. Working as a field biologist and an environmental educator, Lauren has lived in eight different states and one Canadian province. Most of her jobs have involved working with wild birds, though she has also been known to walk dogs and scoop ice cream (and no, she did not go to a special ice cream scooping school, she’s just that good).

red bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker trying (unsuccessfully) to take a chunk out of my pinky.


When she’s not climbing trees to study red-cockaded woodpeckers, getting charged by moose, explaining bird migration to small children, or getting pooped on and/or bitten by songbirds, Lauren is usually outside.

When she’s outside and not working, she likes to climb rocks, go for long hikes, and look at birds. Sometimes she does go inside, and then she usually writes things, mostly for her blog: Tales from a Wandering Albatross (@wordpress.com)*.

Lauren tends to travel as often as she can, both domestically and internationally. She is particularly fond of road trips through the American West and of trekking to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. The other parts of Asia she visited were also pretty cool.She also really likes southern Utah.


Contemplating the Tetons. Paintbrush Divide, Wyoming.

This summer (starting May 2014) Lauren will be going back to Jackson, Wyoming, to work with the Teton Science Schools as an avian research technician, where she will be primarily banding songbirds and secondarily educating visitors about bird banding and migration.

In August of 2014 she will start graduate school at The University of Montana in the Environmental Studies program, with a focus in Environmental Writing.


*Yep, I totally just put a link to my own blog in there. Which hopefully you found, since you’re reading this on said blog… But, you know, just in case you needed help finding the home page, or wanted it opened in two tabs. You’re welcome.

What is your favorite Ohio Wesleyan memory? 

I’m particularly fond of my memories of banding birds in Jed Burtt’s backyard. I have no idea why I decided to sign up for his freshman honors tutorial, The Microbiology of Birds. At the time, I wasn’t particularly interested in birds or their microbiology (and I might not have known exactly what microbiology referred to), but it sounded intriguing and I didn’t know any better, so I signed on.

I can say with absolute certainty that this particular class influenced both the rest of my time at OWU and the rest of my life. It was that class that sparked my interest in birds, a spark that has turned into at least a Medium Fire Severity burn (standing trees are blackened but not charcoal; roots are alive below 1 inch; duff is consumed—I like birds, but other things can be interesting too).

NAOC AOU conference 2006 Veracruz, Mexico

The degrading parrot feather crew at the NAOC in Veracruz, Mexico, 2006. Left to right: Kevin McGraw, Max Schroeder, Jenna (Sroka) Smith, me, Jed Burtt.


The research project I started in that class led to a number of ornithology conferences, where, in addition to learning about extremely useful things like hummingbird wing morphology and duck penises, I became much more confident in my public speaking and was exposed to the ornithological research community. That project also led to my zoology departmental honors thesis on parrot feather coloration (I’ll spare you the details), which hasn’t really led to much yet but sure looks good on my resume.


I had no idea then that I would go on to spend the next few years after graduation studying birds all over the country. Every time I set up a mist net or hold a Black-capped Chickadee in my hands, I am reminded of Jed and all that he’s done for me. Thanks Jed. You’re awesome.

flock of horned larks; Edward H. Burtt Jr.

Left to right: Jed Burtt (front), Jack Stenger, myself, and Sean Williams. Bonus points if you can identify what species this flock is made up of. Hint: those are “horns” on our heads. 

Jed also makes superb spice cake, which may or may not have been the main reason I agreed to come back and mentor the freshman tutorial as an upper classman.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I can be motivated to do a great deal for food. Especially Jed’s spice cake.

Please include a current photo with your reunion note. 

presque isle state park owl banding

Northern Saw-whet Owl. In my hand. Best day ever. Erie, PA, 2011. Yes, I know my “current” photo is from 2011. This was just the best headshot I could find. And it has an owl in it. Does your reunion picture have an owl in it? I think not. 


Let’s go OWU!

My sister the Thrifting Queen

My sister Megan is the Queen of Goodwill. That’s a fact.

Abba even did a song about her:


Ooooo she’s a Thrifting Queen, young and sweet, only seventeen*,

Thrifting Queen, feel the beat from the tambourine (oh yeaaaaahhhh)

You can shop, you can buy, having the time of your life, (oooooo ooooo oooo)

See that girl, watch that scene, digging the Thrifting Queen.” **

*The song was written a few years ago, she’s not 17 anymore. 
** These might not be exactly the lyrics to the song. But they should be. 


And now hopefully you have that extremely catchy tune stuck in your head. You’re welcome.

Lauren and Megan

Lauren and Megan, back in the day. In addition to sharing genetic material, we share smiles and a taste for Minnie Mouse apparel. 


She took part in the Something to be Found blog’s  March Reader Thrift Challenge. Check out her entry, and then vote for your favorite! (Which is #4, Megan. Obviously.)

Here are a couple pictures of her entry:

Something to be Found blog March Thrift Challenge

Here it is! Her masterpiece! A 3-tiered stand, with a wedding theme. All thrifted. And that’s our backyard! Yay!

Something to be Found March thrift challenge

Another view, this time in the front yard. Still looks sweet. The tray, not the yard. Though the yard is nice too.

And here is the link:

March {Reader} Thrift Challenge REVEAL: DIY 3-Tiered Stands


Vote for Megan!

Cause she’s awesome and finds cool junk at Goodwill and makes it look pretty!

Which does indeed take some skill, let me tell you.

Meg, you rock!




Why I Hate Hiking with Boys

Blue River Oregon Oregon State University

 a few reasons why I hate hiking with boys

* disclaimer:

I have quite a number of close friends who are male, and, for the most part, I really enjoy hiking with them. This list isn’t pointing fingers at any one person (okay, maybe it is a little bit– or a lot a bit. I’m sure some of you can probably figure out who I’m talking about here…).  But I’m not naming any names. 

I know some girls who are guilty of a number of these as well.

You are also annoying to hike with. 

Jackson Hole Wyoming

I know just how you feel, Eric.
Hiking around in the mountains at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming.

  • They walk too fast.

They have longer legs and therefore a slightly bigger stride, which is annoying. I’m a tall gal, and I still can’t keep up. Maybe I need to find some shorter hiking companions. Or just more people like me who like to shift into first gear and stay there. What’s the rush anyway?

Some of us prefer to walk downhill, not Buzz Lightyear it, aka ‘falling, with style:’ a combination of running/controlled falling down the trail. I hurt myself when I go that fast. Slow down!

Utah leaping

Well, that’s one way to get across that gap.
Dead Horse State Park, Utah.

  • They wait, but not really.

You know that thing where they get way ahead of you on the trail, eventually stop and wait until you catch up, and then as soon as you reach them they take off again?


I’d punch you if I had the breath, and if you stopped long enough for me to catch you. Just because it took me more time to get to where you are doesn’t mean it was less effort. Maybe I’d like a break too. And if I stop to take a breather while you keep going there will still be a gap between us on the trail. That gap will not go away the more you do this, either. But let’s keep trying it, shall we?

southern Utah Paria area

See that black spot that’s not a fence post? That would be my hiking companion.
Paria Canyon area, Utah.

  • Peeing. It’s just so easy for you.

Some males don’t understand that for women, peeing involves more than just standing to the side of the trail for two seconds. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come up on my hiking partner, about to ask what he was looking at, and then realised he was peeing. For girls, it’s a process: taking your pack off, searching out a discreet place, positioning so you don’t pee on your shoes/pants.

So hearing “you take forever” is not helpful. I can’t just whip it out, so take a chill pill.

Also, I’m amazed at how small their bladders can be. Maybe I’m just really good at holding it, but still. Five times in two hours– you might want to get that checked out.

southern Utah, Castleton Tower

On the way back down from Castleton Tower, Utah. He’s actually eating lunch, not peeing. I’m not that perverted that I take pictures of people urinating. Geesh. That’s gross.

  • They really know how to enhance any spectacular vista.

“Wow, look at that view of the Himalayas. It’s breathtaking. I can’t believe we’re actually standing up here at Annapurna Base Camp.”


“Nice. You’re really enhancing my experience here. Wait. Oh God. Was that you? Dude, my nose hairs are burning. You really need to take some Beano or something, your farts are potent. Holy crap, I think I’m gonna pass out. Man, I think your farts are 10 times worse at altitude.”

Nepal trek Annapurna Base Camp

Luckily, this picture only captures the view, not the stench.
Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal.

  • In general, they smell funky.

Sometimes it’s a semi-pleasing funky, other times not so much. There is something to be said for pheromones, but there comes a point where the B.O. is overpowering.

There are two parts to this.


1. They don’t sweat at all, which makes you feel way out of shape, and like a nasty, disgusting slob of goop. Whoever said “Girls don’t sweat, they glisten” has obviously never hiked to Annapurna Base Camp. Or done field work in South Carolina in the summer.


2. They sweat too much, and then you feel weird for not being as gross as they are. As I generally seem to only go hiking with boys who are in much better shape than I am, I get distrustful when they’re sweatier than I am. Why is this not as strenuous for me?

Also, the sweat increases the funk smell. Like dogs, most boys tend to smell worse when wet. Deodorant is not a bad thing, just sayin. If you’re worried about the aluminum, get some Tom’s of Maine. They make super-fancy natural aluminum-free stuff. USE IT.

use deodorant smelly

To modify a phrase my mother likes to use:
“And that’s why God invented deodorant.”

  • No, I don’t want to look at your poop.

I don’t want to see your poo when we’re indoors, what makes you think that I’d be interested now that we’re outside?

And heck no am I ever ever EVER doing this with you, so stop asking:

how to poop in the woods positions

And there are more: check out this link–>  Here are the best positions for pooping in the woods

Not only is it gross, but I don’t think there is anyone on this planet I trust enough to link arms with while I poop in the woods. There are just too many things that could go wrong with that picture. Especially if one person doesn’t have the greatest balance…

I enjoy my privacy and alone time, thank you very much.

Nova Scotia national park hiking trail

I go to the woods to be alone. Not to watch you poo.
Cape Breton National Park, Nova Scotia.

  • Blowing snot rockets is disgusting.

I don’t care that we’re outside, it’s still gross. Especially because you’re so far ahead of me that I get to walk past all of them. Nasty.

Alexander Graham Bell and Mrs. Bell statue Nova Scotia

I’ll bet Mrs. Graham Bell didn’t put up with any of that nastiness.
Statue of Alexander Graham Bell and his wife in Baddeck, Nova Scotia.

And now, to leave you with a joke:

From the website The Trailmaster

How to Cross a River

One day three men were hiking along and came upon a wide, raging river. They needed to get to the other side, but it looked impossible to ford, and they had no idea how to do it.

The first man prayed: “Please God, give me the strength to cross this river.”

Poof! God gave him big strong arms and legs and he was able to swim across the river, though it took him two hours to do it.

Seeing this, the second man prayed: “Please God, give me the strength and ability to cross this river.”

Poof! God gave him a rowboat and he was able to row across the river, though it took him three hours to do it.

The third man had observed how this had worked out for his two hiking buddies, so he also prayed, saying, “Please God, give me the strength, ability and intelligence to cross this river.”

Poof! God turned him into a woman. He looked at the trail map, and in a minute walked across the bridge.


Or unless I got hungry.

Kids (and Grownups) Say the Darndest Things

I spent last summer in Wyoming, where I was working with the Teton Science Schools to band birds. I won’t go into too much about what that entailed, but see Bird Banding With the Teton Science Schools; What Is A Mist Net?; How To Catch A Bird in A Mist Net; and Feathered Friday Article for more details.

Sometimes we would have visitors to our banding stations, educational groups made up of school-aged children and/or adults. It was great fun, sharing all the birds we caught with them, and hopefully passing on some of the passion that we all have for nature and birds. I’m going back again this May, and am very much looking forward to it. Songbirds and the Tetons, what more could one possibly want in a summer?


Sometimes people say some, shall we say, interesting things.

I’d written down some of these gems, and then forgotten about them. To stumble upon them now brings back all sorts of wonderful memories of summer in the Tetons. I can’t say I dislike winter in Colorado, but it’s not quite the same. There’s a little more snow, for one. And it’s slightly colder. Like, I don’t know, maybe by 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit or so (my car told me it was negative 9 here in Boulder last week when I got up to go climbing at 6 a.m. Yeah, I’m not sure why I thought that was a good idea either. At least it was inside. Climbing and birds are two of the only things I’m willing to wake up that early for). Though the snow did stick around up in the mountains fairly late into the summer last year.

The Flatirons are awesome, but it’s hard to beat the Tetons. I mean, come on. They’re the Tetons.

Jackson Wyoming

My first view of the Tetons last May.

People Say the Darndest Things:

Bird Banding Edition

  • The kid who kept insisting that they were “Warbling Videos” and “Cheddar Waxwings.”

I said, it’s “Vir-e-o,” there’s no ‘d,’ and “Ce-dar,” like the tree, not “Ched-dar” like the cheese. He insisted I was wrong. First time it was cute. Second, third, fourth, etc. times, not so much. He just would not let it go, and wasn’t willing to be corrected.

Jackson Wyoming Teton Science School

Cheddar Waxwing… or a Cedar Waxwing. Whichever you prefer.

Yeah, okay kid. You’re right, I probably don’t know what I’m talking about, and probably can’t read properly either. It’s not like I majored in both zoology and English or anything.

Warbling Vireo_565x461

A Warbling Video (not a Warbling Vireo, as the rest of the ornithological community seems to think).

  • “Look, I can make your scale say Error!”

Definitely one of the worst things to hear someone say about your research equipment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was a little boy. We quickly went over (again) the no-touching policy. Again.

And then I said, in that fake-happy tone you quickly learn when working with children,  “Go look at the bird that Sarah has!” (translation: Get Away From My Equipment You Little Cretin).

bird banding scales and weigh tubes

One of the scales and a set of weighing tubes. We stick the birds, head down, in the tubes to weigh them. It’s pretty funny looking. Turns out though that I don’t have any good pictures. Sorry.

  • “So what is there to do around here other than climb and stuff?”

This was a question from a high school student (also male) visiting from Miami, Florida.

I responded to that one with a blank look.

I don’t understand the question. You’re in the Tetons. What else could you possibly want to do?

rock climbing jackson wyoming hoback shield

Bo crushing at Hoback Shield.

  • “Do birds get periods?”

This question came from one of the adult chaperones, because she noticed the rather red stains on some of the bird bags I was holding. A bit of explanation: After we remove the birds from the mist net, we place them in small cotton drawstring bags and securely close them in order to transport the birds safely to the banding station. This keeps the birds from hurting themselves, and from stressing out too much as we carry them back for processing.

The stains were in fact poop stains, because we had been catching a number of American Robins and Gray Catbirds that had been dining on organic locally fresh berries, and when birds get freaked out (as happens when they suddenly and unexplainedly find themselves caught in a mist net) they tend to void their bowels, either in our hands, or in the bags, or all over our log books, or any combination of those places. Or, if you’re extremely unfortunate, in a projectile way all over your face/in your eyes/mouth. Poor Sarah. I’ve never had bird poop in my eye, but I imagine it wouldn’t feel very good. Or be fun to clean off contacts.

Yes, it’s kinda gross, but you get used to being pooped on. Bird bags make excellent poop-wiping hankies, in case you were wondering. I can personally attest that whatever those berries are, they make an excellent dye, both on clothes and skin.

So no, birds don’t get periods. That’s a mammal thing, and birds, as you (hopefully) know, are not mammals. Those red stains are poop, not blood. Also, those stains are huge, and if a bird lost that much blood during the few minutes it was in the bird bag it’d probably be in trouble and I sure as heck wouldn’t be this nonchalant about it.

We take bird safety very seriously, and if there’s so much as a speck of blood on a bird, we notice and do what we can to stop the bleeding before releasing the bird. However, injuries are very rare, and less than 1% of all the birds we capture in our nets are injured. There have been a number of studies about bird safety, and if you want to read one of them there’s a link on my post What is a mist net?

bird banding Teton Science Schools

Bird bags. These have been freshly laundered, but note the permanent poop stains on the bottoms. After a while, bird poo just doesn’t come out in the laundry anymore.

  • “So who can tell me what this bird is?”

“Oooo, I know, I know, it’s a House Wren!”

“Um… actually, wrens are a little bit smaller, and they’re all brown and kind of mottled looking. This one has a few different colors. It’s actually an American Robin.”

This was an older woman, who was really excited to be out banding with us (she was practically bouncing up and down with excitement). I was worried that she would feel bad that I had to correct her, so I tried to be very nice about it. She didn’t mind at all, because she was just so thrilled to be out with us seeing the birds. It was sweet, and her energy was infectious. I loved having people out to the banding stations who were this excited about everything. Though I tend to be pretty even-keeled, this is how I feel about just about every bird I handle– jump-up-and-down-excited. I just hide it well. That, and it would startle the birds, so I reign it in.

In case you were wondering:

American Robins weigh about 77-85 grams, and are usually 7.9-11 inches long, with a wingspan of 12.2-15.7 inches. House Wrens weigh 10-12 grams, are usually 4.3-5.1 inches long, with a wingspan of 5.9 inches. There’s a bit of a size difference there…

Hatch Year American Robin Jackson WY_461x615

Hatch Year (aka baby) American Robin. Note the size in relation to my hand. However, this bird is the same size as a full-grown Robin. Once they fledge, or leave the nest, they are fully grown, and won’t get any bigger. They’ll just grown in different feathers.

Jackson Wyoming Teton Science School bird banding

A not-very-good picture of a House Wren. Again, note the size of the bird in relation to the hand (this time, it’s not my hand, because it would be quite a feat to take a picture with both of my hands occupied by bird).

  • “I’ll bet this metal pole will float.”

That gem is from my brother, while helping me take down nets after banding and apparently contemplating throwing one of the poles in the river. He’s got quite a number of these profound comments, which you can see if you follow the link above.

My dad says, “Yeah Eric, I’ll bet they would.”

My mom says, “Don’t encourage him!” to my dad.

I said, “Eric, if you throw that pole in the river you have to go fish it out, and then explain to Keegan (the crew lead) why the poles are all wet.”

spreading the net_461x615

Spreading the mist net out on the pole. See my blog post What Is A Mist Net? for more info.

And one more:

  • “I’ll bet you can’t carry all 20 mist net poles up to the van.”

Said Sarah, the banding educator, to Keegan, the crew lead, because it was the last day of banding and she didn’t want to carry any of the poles.

To which he replied, “I’ll bet I can.”

And he did.

Up from the riparian area down by Blacktail Ponds Overlook, which involves wading through a few streams and then climbing up a pretty steep, though short, embankment to the parking lot. From the banding site to the parking lot is maybe a 10 or 15 minute walk, through uneven terrain, carrying a heavy load of banding equipment in backpacks and these awkward poles.

I found this video someone took of the overlook (see link below). We had nets set in the first clump of willows you see on the right, and then in the willows to the left of the giant open area. Basically, we were scattered around between the camera viewpoint and the pines along the river. Not real sure why the video is 4 minutes long, but if you just watch the first minute or so you can get a good idea of what Blacktail Ponds looks like.

Tetons from the Blacktail Ponds Overlook video

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Watch out for the moose!

Mist net poles are metal electrical conduit pipes, which can be bought at Lowes or Home Depot (which I have done). They are 10 feet long, and not particularly heavy if you have only one or two, but they quickly start to hurt the shoulder after walking any sort of distance. My limit is 10, which I can only carry for a max of 15/20 minutes before I have to take a break (after which I have no desire to resume carrying said poles).

Also, it’s not at all easy to keep them all together if you have any more than 10: they start to go all over the place, like giant Pick-Up-Sticks. There’s a reason Pick-Up-Sticks aren’t 10 feet long and made out of metal.

After he successfully carried all the poles up to the van (and proved, definitively, that he is much more of a man than Sarah, Bo, or myself– who are all female), we stopped at Dairy Queen and bought him a Blizzard. It should be noted though that he did this before he knew we were going to buy his Blizzard, from which I have learned that if you start any request with the phrase “I’ll bet you can’t [task you don’t want to complete]” you can probably get a guy to do it for you.

Anyone who wants to be my designated pole-carryer this summer, I’ll pay you in Blizzards.

The King of Drama hiking in Death Canyon.

I’m guessing Eric isn’t going to be volunteering to carry my mist net poles any time soon. Especially considering that this picture was taken about a mile up the trail.

Super Bowl Sundae

Boulder Colorado Baseline

In honor of the Super Bowl today, I’ve decided to rename some of the ice cream flavors at Glacier Ice Cream. 

(I have to leave for work in 15 minutes, so this is the best I could come up with on such short notice. I’m sure I’ll have more to add later)

  • Cookies and Cream the Seahawks
  • Death by Chocolate Broncos
  • Sea Salt Seattle Caramel 
  • Pistachio Peyton Manning Gelato
  • Russell Wilson Raspberry Chocolate Melt 
  • Bronco Birthday Cake

or, you could order a Super Bowl Sundae (I might try to get crafty with broken ice cream cones and try to put a Bronco on a sundae. I’m not convinced of my artistic abilities, so you might have to use your imagination a bit). 

While I don’t particularly care one way or the other who wins, I am wearing Broncos colors. I thought it might be wise, since I am in Colorado. And, I don’t know what the Seahawks colors are. I had to Google them to see who their quarterback is. I mean, I might be more inclined to cheer them on, since I do like birds better than horses, but I live with a bunch of Broncos fans and in order to maintain harmony I’ll go Broncos. 

You would think, as I’ve been going to football games since before I was born (my mom is a marching band director, and apparently I would kick along to the bass drums while in the womb), and I spent four years of high school in marching band and a year in pep band in college, I would have some idea of how this whole football thing works. All I know is that you want to get the ball to the endzone (something called a touchdown) and then you want to kick it through the big tuning-fork thingies (goal posts, I believe they’re called). And everything takes forever,because they keep stopping the clock for no apparent reason. 

As my dad used to say, everyone really only goes for the halftime show, but it’s nice that they have those guys run around and entertain people before and after. 

If you’re in the area, come visit me at Glacier on Baseline. I’m working from 2pm until close, which is 9pm. There might be field goals made of milkshake straws for some paper football. The Glacier Bowl, I’m calling it. Should be a good time. 

Books I Read* This Weekend

*I can pretend I read each of these in their entirety, but that wouldn’t be true. Some of them I finished, others I just read a few chapters. Though it may not appear so, I do in fact have other responsibilities, and wasn’t able to just spend the entire weekend on the couch. I had to like, get up and eat a few times. And attend to the well-being of three little dogs and one little sister (none of which are technically mine, I’ve just unofficially adopted them all).

As you might be able to tell from this list, I tend to read a variety of subject matters. It’s important to be a well-rounded reader. Makes life much more interesting that way, don’t you think?

Jackson Hole Wyoming

Embrace knowledge and reading.
Or at least large rocks.


Books I Read This Weekend: 

The first two I finished, the second two I continued/officially started. Almost done with The Night Circus. It’s excellent: a darkly colored tale of magic and romance and striped circus tents. I’ll probably finish that one in the next day or so, it’s hard to put down.  The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is also a good one, though slightly different subject matter (as you could probably tell by the full title). I had seen it in various bookstores when I was traveling in Vietnam, but didn’t want to spend the money and then have to haul it around during my travels. Found it at Goodwill once I got home, so I snapped it up for 50 cents. Very, very interesting. Also recommended, if you’re looking for a non-fiction read about the medical field.

Lots of cups of tea, lots of books, lots of reading.

It was a very good weekend.

An adventure rightly considered

trek to Annapurna Base Camp

(Above): Considering, rightly or wrongly, the integrity of the bridge on the way to Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal. 

(Below): One of the guest houses along the trail. 

Nepal guesthouse ABC

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.

An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

— G.K. Chesterton

trekking to ABC Nepal

Joby, Lauren, and Max on their trek to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal.

Yeah, I’m a Source on Wikipedia

Not to brag or anything, but when you search on Wikipedia for “psittacofulvin” and “Bacillus licheniformis,” a scientific paper I co-authored is cited in the sources. How about that? I think it’s pretty nifty.

Yeah Ohio Wesleyan University and degrading parrot feathers!

(Click on the links to read articles about our research.)

The degrading parrot feather crew at the North American Ornithology Conference in Veracruz, Mexico in 2006: (left to right) Dr. Kevin McGraw, Max Schroeder, Jenna (Sroka) Smith, Lauren Smith, and Dr. Jed Burtt.

In case you were wondering (and I know you were), psittacofulvins are the red, orange, and yellow pigments in parrot feathers. Bacillus licheniformis is a soil bacterium that degrades bird feathers. Click on the green links up in the first paragraph and read about it on Wikipedia.

If you’d like to read this world-famous paper, here it is:

Colourful Parrot Feathers Resist Bacterial Degradation


Degrading parrot feathers from our experiment. In case you were wondering, cutting up a very precise amount of differently colored parrot feathers and sticking them in vials is a rather delicate and tedious task, and generally ends with there being bits of feather stuck to every available surface. 

Siberia, Ohio, and the Moon


Recently, a friend of mine asked me what I say when people ask where I’m from.

Ohio, I promptly replied. That’s easy.

It’s where I was born and raised, and where my car is licensed, and where my family lives. I still consider it home base, even though I haven’t lived there in a few years. That keeps the answer simple, since I’ve been moving around so much and have lived in something like eight different states and a Canadian province in the past five years. The longest I’ve ever stayed in one place since finishing my undergraduate degree was six months.

Which makes the upcoming prospect of grad school, and being stuck in the same place for two years, somewhat daunting. I try not to think about it that much.

I’m also trying to work on my vocabulary, and to use works like “have the privilege of living in ___ place” instead of “stuck.”

It’s all about the vocab.

And speaking of vocab…

Ian Frazier

For the past few weeks I’ve been reading my way through Siberia, via Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier. It’s a great read, the only reason it’s been taking me so long to finish is that I keep getting distracted by other things, like Christmas (just one more page Mom, then I’ll come down and open presents!), New Years, family, driving back to Colorado from Ohio, starting a new job at an ice cream store here in Boulder… I know, I know, excuses, excuses. (But if you’re in Boulder you should come visit me at Glacier Ice Cream, I work at the Baseline store).

Outside Magazine 25th Anniversary

I’d read some of Frazier’s other writing in various magazines (most recently in Outside Magazine’s 25th anniversary book, which came out in 2002- since I get my books at used bookstores and Goodwill, they’re not usually recent releases. But good writing is timeless, so who cares?), and so when I saw this book at Goodwill, I snatched it up.

And yes, the guy on the front cover is in fact missing a few clothing items from the waist down. Which I imagine would be a bit chilly, given that he’s hiking in snow-covered mountains. Good thing he has boots on. And no, I didn’t pick the book based on the cover photo. I didn’t even notice until I got home, actually.


Now, you’d think a book called Travels in Siberia wouldn’t mention Ohio all that often (or maybe never), but you’d be wrong. Frazier grew up in Ohio, and mentions it a number of times throughout the book, including comparing the smell of Russia to that of Akron, Ohio in the 50’s. He also mentions Hinckley, which was part of my school district, and Buzzard Day:

Then one day I remembered a notable fact about the small rural town of Hinckley, Ohio. Every year in March, on or near the same day, flocks of buzzards [turkey vultures, for those who need to be scientifically accurate] arrive in Hinckley. Tourists gather annually to watch this event, and over the years it has given the town some small fame. People in Hinckley say that this convocation of buzzards began back in the nineteenth century, when Hinckley was a frontier town. The local farmers, wanting to tame the still-wild neighborhood, staged a big encirclement and drove all the predators to the center, where they killed them in heaps. Soon news of this bonanza reached buzzards all over, and they came to Hinckley and feasted. They’ve been coming back in March ever since, just in case.”

Ian Frazier, Travels in Siberia

Hinckley Ohio Buzzard Day

Frazier also remarks on the frequency of Ohioans who ended up in Siberia and wrote books about it:

In these early railroad years, when the Trans-Siberian was being built and just after, a lot of people from the American Midwest traveled in and wrote books about Siberia. As a Midwesterner myself, I pause to take note of this phenomenon. Adventurous sorts from Illinois and Indiana made trips by land, river, and rail, mostly for business but some for pleasure. The number of travelers from the state of Ohio alone is statistically off the charts… [lists Ohioans who have traveled to Siberia and written books about it, which I’m not going to bother typing out as it’s about half a page]…

That’s five people from Ohio visiting and writing about Siberia in the space of fifteen years, or an average of one Ohioan every three years. How can this oddity be explained?…

…perhaps something unknown in the flat, open landscape of the middle of America produces in a few of its citizens a strange affinity for the vastness of Russia.”

 Ian Frazier, Travels in Siberia

Or, perhaps there’s another explanation.

Remember the picture going around the internet about the number of astronauts from Ohio?

ohio astronaunt meme

Before the moon was an option, there was Siberia…

Now I love Ohio, I really do, but I am writing this from Colorado. It’s not Siberia, or the moon, but it’s not exactly next door, either.

Don’t be offended Ohio, but you don’t have any real mountains, so I can’t stay. Sorry.The mountains are calling, and I must go. Or stay, rather, as I’m already here and can see the Flatirons out the kitchen window from where I sit here at the counter.

And to leave you with a song that always makes me think of home:

Ohio, by Over the Rhine

Hello Ohio, the backroads, 

I know Ohio, like the back of my hand

Alone Ohio, where the river bends

And it’s strange to see your story end