Sunday, June 28, 2009

Creating a Healthy Yard for Birds and You

The Sacramento Audubon Society has a wonderful and very detailed website about making your yard and garden more bird and human friendly based on excerpts from Bringing Nature Home by Tallamy. The premise is that you should introduce more native plants. The challenge has been issued: Take action! Minimize lawn.

The pictures show part of my flower/vegetable garden. But what about the rest of the yard? (Twenty square feet down and 200 to go). We have lived in our home for 25 years, and believe me, I have tried many things to make my yard bird and human friendly (some things have succeeded, some have failed):
1. remove grass: easier said than done when you're dealing with Bermuda grass. Even in my flower beds and garden, I have to continuously go back and dig out more of the pernicious roots. In the book Epitaph for a Peach, the author describes how his farming family for generations has been struggling with Bermuda grass.
2. less invasive plants: we moved in to a well-established suburb and got our quarter acre. The problem is that quarter acre was filled with very invasive plants: ivy (chop and hack, but make sure you dig out the roots) and bamboo (you would be amazed what the roots of bamboo can do to plumbing 15 feet away!).
3. replace with native plants appropriate to the site: this is where it gets tricky. The problem with an old suburban plot is that you don't know where the soil has been! These old suburbs had soil brought in originally from elsewhere. I swear there are parts of my front yard that are toxic to anything, even weeds. My daughter convinced me to do a soil test. In one spot, the alkalinity tested so high that it was off the chart! (No wonder my peppers never grew there).
I think I'm going to have to replace soil before I can replace any more plants.
I like the next suggestion that was made:
4. take it easy. "The transformation from lawn to wildlife habitat takes time. Tackle only as much as you can, remembering that removal must be paired with replacement."
To be continued...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You are what you Tweet (or blog, post, etc.)

Having finished 27Things, I was investigating Facebook to decide whether or not to join, and my first thought was: "Does anyone want to know what I'm eating for dinner?" This was the initial question I had about Twitter. I am now an avid user of Twitter and have come to realize that blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc. are tools to use as you will. I am trying to use these tools to find connections and links to things I enjoy and for self-education.

There was a thought-provoking article posted by arstechnica (a tweeter) that concluded from a HubSpot study that the majority of Web users like to sit on the sideline, especially when it comes to user generated content . To be more specific: only 0.2% of Flickr users uploaded pictures; only 0.16% of YouTube traffic uploaded video. Of Twitter's 4.5 million accounts, 54.9% have never tweeted and 52.7% have no followers.
In a survey of Facebook users done by frogloop, the conclusion was that Facebook users don't pay much attention to most of their online friends. Only a small fraction of the 179,000 nonprofits that use Facebook Causes have brought in $1,000; and less than1% of Facebook members who have joined a Cause actually have donated money.
I don't know what statistics are out there for blogs, but I can't imagine that all 56 million of them are active and exciting.

The conclusion I have reached is that we are humans, and not all humans have the same interests or abilities or levels of involvement. These web tools enable us to find to find other humans with similar interests to form a community (that's a great part of Web 2.0). Wikipedia defines community as a "group of people with a complex net of overlapping commonalities". I'll tweet to that!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Twitter---21st Century Carrier Pigeon

I just happened to sign up for Twitter at a history-making time. As a commentator stated, "...Twitter is much, much more than a celebrity vanity tool. The Iranian uprising has shattered that myth...In the hands of freedom-loving dissidents, the micro-blogging social network...undermines the information blockades one Tweet at a time."

Even though the press and internet was blocked in Iran, photos got out by Tweets and Facebook. I got pulled into this movement by first discovering on BoingBoing the Cyber War Guide for Iran. I was amazed that Twitter users in the US were setting up proxies for Tweets from Iran, were re-tweeting messages, etc. There is also a very human, emotional connection made. I am now following a tweeter in Iran along with over 27,000 others. His Tweets are riveting and are always made on the move; it is a life and death situation for some there. Someone in the State Department on Monday even requested that Twitter defer maintenance to keep channels open for Iran.

History is being made now and demonstrates that Twitter can be used as a powerful social network that disseminates information and hope when the larger cyber networks and press are shut down.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Heading for the Finish Line of 27Things

Well, it's been fun; I really mean that! I have enjoyed learning the tools of Library/Web 2.0. The focus of Web 2.0 is the community and sharing (everything from the "social" Delicious to sharing links in Twitter).

My whole concept of learning was changed. My son used to call me a "Luddite" because I had an aversion to technology. I sent him my blog URL after about ten posts, and he commented "my world has turned upside down!". My world altered dramatically, too: I deleted "I can't" and "I won't" from my vocabulary and used instead "I'll try". After I've tried it, I can choose to use it or not.

Granted, there were a few mishaps, but the computer and/or my head didn't explode. Just don't ask me to retrace my steps, because I took many circuitous routes (although if asked, I'm sure someone at Google could trace my steps). I'll probably forget some things anyway (passwords included) or the tools will change; but at least I learned how to learn on the computer and how to be a little more patient (remember the slower, earlier days of computers when a patron or I would impatiently press the print key too many times and get 20 copies?).

As I said earlier, some of the 27Things will be ongoing. Just when I thought I was almost done, I read an article about Web 3.0 (I'm not done with 2.0 yet!) which gave examples like iGoogle. I googled "iGoogle", and believe it or not, my own iGoogle page was ready for fine-tuning at Google. I have already replaced Bloglines with the Google reader; next I want to try Google Documents instead of Zoho. And then there is Facebook to consider to get access to friends' photos... There really isn't a finish line, is there?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Something for everyone?

Well, according to the text in Thing number 26, I should be feeling like a "real tech pro". I'm feeling more like the fledgling pictured on the key board. Did you notice in this picture, the bird is on the backspace key? I also seem to spend a lot of my time there, as well as in edit mode.

I was quite amazed by the amount of information and pictures one should be able to squeeze into Thingfo! After a few false starts, I managed to get some content into my Thingfo. The control over your Thingfo input seems to vary by your choice of medium: in Twitter, you have to list each specific Twitterer (user name) whereas in Flickr, you just list a tag or category (same goes for Delicious). I wanted to add posts under Blogger, but the URL's I added didn't work (it said RSS URL which must be different from regular URL?). I put my Thingfo on my blog without Blogger input. I can always go back and edit and add; and there's always the backspace key.

P.S. I discovered in my second entry into Thingfo that it is under Twitter management---no wonder it was so easy to feed Tweets!
P.P.S. An RSS URL is different than the regular URL; at the blog site, you have to click on the RSS key and copy and paste that URL to Thingfo to get the RSS feeds. Note that I now have posts in my Thingfo.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Magpies, Unite!

On my morning magpie count, I heard a lot of squawking, and I found two juvenile magpies teasing a cat. It got a little better when one of the birds actually pecked the cat. The cat showed great forbearance and didn't reduce the magpie population by two.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Good Tiding of Magpies

Yes, a group of magpies is a tiding. I was out at seven this morning counting magpies as part of the June5-8 Audubon magpie survey. Magpies are easy to find since they are large and noisy.

The reason I'm sharing this is to show you the progress I have made in overcoming my computer phobia: I had to report my observations on eBird, including using google maps to zoom in on my location. Thank you 27Things.
P.S. I just realized that I have 27 posts already and I still have 2 more Things to do; oh well, learning is supposed to be an on-going Thing.