Monday, August 04, 2014

Emily's first job

Emily has been pollinating this summer at Monsanto.  It is fun to see her working with the other kids.  It has been a fun pollinating season.  She works with another crew, but I will ever be her proud father.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Nighthawk chick in the corn field

This year, as we started pollinating, there were four nighthawks flying above our second planting.  I spooked the female when I was pulling outcrosses in the doubled haploids.  I kept an eye out for their nest, but didn't find it right away.  One of the guys working with me found one of the eggs up near the front, right near the path between rows.  One egg was smashed, by some ignorant pollinator probably.  There was no nest, no pile of feathers or arrangement to identify the nest, just the camouflaged egg and mother.  I put flagging tape around those rows to keep people from stepping on the egg.  The mother would be there in the morning and flew nervously overhead as we worked in the corn.  The crew leader told the kids that if they stepped on any eggs or chicks they were fired.  Kidding, kind of. 

After 21 days, the chick hatched!  This totally made my day. We gathered the kids around and each took a peek at the tiny fluffball as it stumbled around the corn stubble.  It must have hatched early Saturday morning, and was already walking around by 7:30 AM.  We widened the protected area and everyone was very careful to not step on the tiny chick.  

For perspective, the shootcap - the white paper in the picture, is two inches wide.  The egg was small and the chick was a little more than an inch long.  

The mother was not buzzing us like normal - they make a whirring, almost mechanical sound when they dive, but as we were pulling out of the field around lunchtime I saw her circling the field. 

Friday, August 01, 2014

"And the Mountains Echoed" review

I bought this book in the airport while waiting for yet another delayed flight out of Denver.  We planned to fly home from Boise through Denver, but our plane was late coming to Boise and by the time we were in the air the wind and storms were bad enough in Denver that we were not able to land.  This was not good because, as the flight attendant told me and the panicky woman next to me - the plane had not fueled up in Boise and we only had 20 minutes left of fuel.  The pilot announced after that that we would be in a holding pattern for more than 30 minutes and that we were going to try and land at another airport.  The panicking woman next to me was really panicking now that she did the math that we needed to be in the air 10 minutes longer than we had fuel.

Luckily, the plane landed in safely in Wyoming at a tiny airport and after waiting for three hours we finally made it to Denver, two hours after the last flight to Des Moines.  We waited in line until 1:00 AM trying to get a hotel or a flight, but gave up and slept in a cubicle next to the central food court.  That morning I checked in with customer service and got us on a 9 AM flight to Des Moines, which was immediately delayed until 11:30 AM.  Angry and frustrated, I told the girls I would buy them books.

Above the science fiction section was a stack of "And the Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini. I couldn't reach them, but the bit of the cover looked interesting.  I asked the tall guy standing next to me if he could get me one down.  It wasn't what I expected.  It wasn't Sci-Fi for one thing.  It started with a story about a poor man whose child is stolen by an evil djinn.  He tracks the djinn down to find that his child is alive and happy, but has forgotten him.  The djinn makes a deal with him to erase his memory of the lost child.  Then it jumps to a father walking to town pulling his two children in a wagon.  It is told from the perspective of the older brother who has raised his little sister since his mother died.  His father remarried, but it fell upon the brother to care for his sister.  His family is extremely poor and they are going to visit their cousin that works for a rich man in town as his driver.  What the boy doesn't know is that the rich family and his father have made a deal to adopt his little sister.  The rest of the book tells the story of the echoes of this act forward through to the present time.  Each section is from the perspective of a different character.  Some are directly related to the family, other's affected by them in unexpected ways.

I loved this book.  I could not put it down, even though it made me cry on the plane.  I was so absorbed in the book that I didn't think about the people around me, until the flight attendant tenderly patted me on the shoulder as she walked by.  But, it was OK.  I was coming back from visiting my family - we had a funeral for my father and a reunion to celebrate the 90th birthday of my grandmother and this book was exactly what I needed as I reflected on the echoes of my father and my grandmother through our generations, my family, and my life.