Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Daily Silliness

okay, off to film 12 Angry Jurors and then to Roddy Tree to film the River Rats and Elvis . . . pics and stuff to come soon . . .


Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Daily Silliness

Ingram final 64-0, Tivy lost too 41-16, OLH unknown, me freezing, not chillin' . . .


Labels: , , , ,

ATH: Johnny Manziel

From Dave Campbell's Texas Football

Week 8 Player of the Week: Kerrville Tivy's Johnny Manziel

Kerrville Tivy quarterback Johnny Manziel had his best game of the season in a crucial District 27-4A matchup against Cibolo Steele.

Manziel passed for 319 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards and three touchdowns to help Tivy escape with a 38-34 win.

Manziel's performance was huge because Steele running back Malcolm Brown had a big night of his own: 329 yards and four rushing touchdowns.

For the season, Manziel has rushed for 763 yards and passed for 1,329 yards. Tivy is now 4-1 in district play after starting the season 0-2.

Tags: , ,

Labels: , , ,

ATH: FIFA Nominees

Wambach Nominated For FIFA Award

US Women's National Team and Washington Freedom forward Abby Wambach is the only American nominated for the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year Award. Freedom teammate Sonia Bompastor is also on the list of ten nominees. There are 23 nominees on the Men's side, with both lists reduced to five in early December. The winners will be announced at the FIFA World Player Gala on December 21st.

WOMEN: Nadine Angerer (Germany), Sonia Bompastor (France), Cristiane (Brazil), Inka Grings (Germany), Mana Iwabuchi (Japan), Simone Laudehr (Germany), Marta (Brazil), Birgit Prinz (Germany), Kelly Smith (England) and Abby Wambach (USA).

MEN: Michael Ballack (Germany), Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Iker Casillas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Diego (Brazil), Didier Drogba (Côte d'Ivoire), Michael Essien (Ghana), Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon), Steven Gerrard (England), Thierry Henry (France), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Andrés Iniesta (Spain), Kaká (Brazil), Frank Lampard (England), Luis Fabiano (Brazil), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Carles Puyol (Spain), Franck Ribéry (France), Wayne Rooney (England), John Terry (England), Fernando Torres (Spain), David Villa (Spain) and Xavi (Spain).

Tags: , , ,

Labels: , ,

ATH: US Women's Team

Germany 0 - USA Women 1

The United States Women's National Team beat Germany 1-0 at Impuls Arena in Augsburg, Germany. Washington Freedom forward Abby Wambach got the game's only goal in the 35th-minute, heading in a cross from Yael Averbuch. Hope Solo picked up the shutout for the United States with one save.

“I think interestingly enough what has happened the last few times I’ve played Germany is that the team that had the run of play, ended up losing," Wambach said. "Germany had so many great chances, they kept the ball really well and got in behind us a few times. But I think what happens when you have a back five that are as relentless in defending as our defense, it’s just so tough to score. I know from experience because I have to practice against them every day.”

Tags: , , ,

Labels: ,

The Daily Silliness

Last ITM game of the year . . . Go Warriors!!! . . . and Tivy battling for sole position of First . . . Go Antlers!!! . . . and me, chillin' . . . Go Me!


Labels: , ,

The Daily Silliness

you gotta love the psychopaths of the world, for they give us something to talk about around the water cooler . . .


Labels: ,

ENV: Goshawks and Birdopathts

Well, after my brief experiment yesterday in calling out phantom Goshawks, which i may or may not blog about later, i got a sweet email from Ken Cave on dealing properly with idiots . . . it was put together as a work-related thing, and i want to say right now this has NOTHING to do with my work, but i'm passing it on because, well . . . it's funny . . .

Cussing at Work

Dear Employees:

It has been brought to management's attention that some individuals throughout the company have been using foul language during the course of normal conversation with their co-workers.

Due to complaints received from some employees who may be easily offended, this type of language will no longer be tolerated.

We do, however, realize the critical importance of being able to accurately express your feelings when communicating with co-workers.

Therefore,a list of 18 New and Innovative 'TRY SAYING' phrases have been provided so that proper exchange of ideas and information can continue in an effective manner.

Number 1
TRY SAYING: I think you could use more training.
INSTEAD OF: You don't know what the f___ you're doing.

Number 2
TRY SAYING: She's an aggressive go-getter.
INSTEAD OF: She's a f___ing bit__.

Number 3
TRY SAYING: Perhaps I can work late.
INSTEAD OF: And when the f___ do you expect me to do this?

Number 4
TRY SAYING: I'm certain that isn't feasible.
INSTEAD OF: No f___ing way.

Number 5
INSTEAD OF: You've got to be sh___ing me!

Number 6
TRY SAYING: Perhaps you should check with...
INSTEAD OF: Tell someone who gives a sh__.

Number 7
TRY SAYING: I wasn't involved in the project.
INSTEAD OF: It's not my f___ing problem.

Number 8
TRY SAYING: That's interesting.
INSTEAD OF: What the f___?

Number 9
TRY SAYING: I'm not sure this can be implemented.
INSTEAD OF: This sh__ won't work.

Number 10
TRY SAYING: I'll try to schedule that.
INSTEAD OF: Why the f___ didn't you tell me sooner?

Number 11
TRY SAYING: He's not familiar with the issues...
INSTEAD OF: He's got his head up his a__.

Number 12
TRY SAYING: Excuse me, sir.
INSTEAD OF: Eat sh__ and die.

Number 13
TRY SAYING: So you weren't happy with it?
INSTEAD OF: Kiss my a__.

Number 14
TRY SAYING: I'm a bit overloaded at the moment.
INSTEAD OF: F__ it, I'm on salary.

Number 15
TRY SAYING: I don't think you understand.
INSTEAD OF: Shove it up your a__.

Number 16
TRY SAYING: I love a challenge.
INSTEAD OF: This f___ing job sucks.

Number 17
TRY SAYING: You want me to take care of that?
INSTEAD OF: Who the f___ died and made you boss?

Number 18
TRY SAYING: He's somewhat insensitive.
INSTEAD OF: He's a pr_ck.

Thank You,

Human Resources

Tags: , , , , ,

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Daily Silliness

leave it to me to, once again, stir up a huge online controversy when i don't have the time to adequately/properly answer all the responses!


Labels: , , ,

OBT: About John Tveten . . .

Gary Clark, Dave Dauphin, Greg Lasley, Fred Collins, Mim Eisenberg, LeeAnn Sharp, The Montgomery County Courier, The Baytown Sun, The Houston Chronicle, Texas A&M Press and Houston Audubon Society posted these beautiful tributes to John on the TexBirds listserv, in comments, or on their own spaces . . . i hope i'll be forgiven my collecting & reposting of them here . . .

My own tribute for the memorial service follows Gary's announcement here:

The original report from Gary Clark (and thanks to Kelly Bryan, dear friend of mine and the Tvetens, for alerting me to his ill health that morning)

I am sad to report that John Tveten passed away this afternoon of cancer. He died peacefully while surrounded by friends and family. Our love goes out to his wife, Gloria, and his son, Michael.

John was among the greatest of naturalists ever to trod the earth. His knowledge was encyclopedic, and his generosity in sharing that knowledge was without equal. Through his newspaper columns, his many books, and his informative and engaging presentations, we all learned an immeasurable amount about birds, butterflies, moths, wildflowers, and countless other wonders of the natural world. Moreover, we were always inspired by his endless curiosity and enthusiasm.

My wife, Kathy, and I are working with the family to arrange a celebration of John’s life and work and will give you details within a week or so about when and where that celebration will be.

Gary Clark
The Woodlands, Texas


The passing of John Tveten leaves all of us who knew him with a heavy heart.

John's books, field guides, newspaper articles, field trips and programs filled us with knowledge, the desire to see more, and the need savor nature slowly. John always used 35mm slides in his programs, and I don't think anyone else could go through as many slides during a given time period, as John could. Jan once told John that watching any of his programs was like sitting beside him on a comfortable couch while he read you a story and explained all the pictures in a book. Gloria was always by his side at every program, and John never forgot to mention that they were partners in every venture they took.

I met John in the late 60's when we both went to work for a major petrochemical research company. I stayed forever; John left shortly to fulfill his dream with a camera. John was an animal rehabilitator and a bird bander. Although we lived just a few miles from each other, we never netted each other's birds. John was an artist, also, and his drawings could rival anyone's.

He was one of the very few naturalists I have ever met. I will never forget when myself and three other young birders invited John on a Big Day run--worst mistake we could make. When we were always wanting to go for the next birding location, we always had to go find John and take him away from watching a praying mantis or watching a snake eating a frog.

John got Jan and I to appreciate all aspects of nature. I jokingly blamed him for exposing Jan to butterflies to such an extent that we moved all the way to the Valley so she could chase bugs.

John was a good friend, a kind man, a gentle man, a loving husband and father; I don't ever remember a frown on his face. Jan and I loved him, and will miss him. We send good thoughts and lots of prayers to Gloria, Michael, and Michael's family.

David Dauphin
Mission, Texas

I just must say a few words about John Tveten's passing. Dave Dauphin, Martin Hagne, Fred Collins, Gary Clark, and others have spoken eloquently of this man and my words cannot covey my own personal sense of loss. I met John at Bolivar Flats in the late 1970's. He and Gloria and I became friends and I'm proud to have called John a good friend for more than 30 years. We both shared a passion for birds, for nature in general , and for photography and I remember many discussions about our natural world with John. He enlightened others with his depth of knowledge of the natural world and was always ready to help with anything he was asked to do. John was a true gentleman in every sense of the word and I do not use that term casually. He was one of the finest persons it has been my privilege to know and I will miss him greatly. The writings about birds, butterflies, moths and other natural history subjects that John and Gloria produced over the years have enriched us all and leave a legacy for us to cherish. My thoughts and prayers are with Gloria and the family.

Greg Lasley
Austin, Texas

I am a native born and bred Texan, I have wandered the fields, bayous, bays and woods of southeast Texas for all of my sixty years. Early on I ask my father about the green lizards around the house and could not understand why he didn't know every aspect of their lives. I ask my grandfather what that white foam was on the dewberry vines in spring and he told me it was snake spit. I was just a kid, I knew I didn't know anything, but couldn't figure out why my talented and wise fathers did not know the answers to my questions about things all around them.

I didn't know it then, but I was already a naturalist. I have spent the rest of my life learning answers to these and other questions I conjure up each time I take a moment to notice nature whether at my back door or in the remote wilds of the Big Thicket, Galveston Bay, or far flung Big Bend. During my life I have learned much about nature, but there still seems to be more that I don't know, than I know. I met John Tveten in 1969 and as I came to know him as a friend during the next forty years I found John to be the person I could ask questions about any subject in nature and get a straight and full answer. If by occasion he would not know the answer, he would invariably put me on the right track to find the answer. When we resumed a conversation weeks or months later, he would often remind me of my question and was as interested as I in the answer. He never lost his passion for discovering any secret of nature.

I cannot see a moth (which I see daily) without anxiously wanting to know "When will the moth book be out, John?" John was incredibly generous with his time and knowledge. He was conversant in any topic of natural history or ecology. He was interested in everything. He loved all of nature. No plant or animal was too small, dull, or non-descript for John. He knew they all had a role to play, and without knowing the players, how can we know the play?

John and all of us were cheated out of the best years of a great naturalist's life. He gave us so much. So many books that are my constant companions. He wrote a nature column for 24 years. But his reflections of a life watching nature was still in his future. One of his last works was the final compilation of his columns; it is titled "Nature at Your Doorstep." That was John's life message, nature is at your doorstep if you will only open your senses and minds to observe and appreciate it.

That is a passion I share with John. I will miss him. Every naturalist in Texas will miss him.

Texas has lost one of its greatest treasures.

Fred Collins
Katy, Texas

I met John in 1980, when he led a Smithsonian Institution tour of Bryce, Zion and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I had the good fortune to go on several other trips he led, and we became good friends. He was the one who inspired me to study natural history and become a photographer. My thoughts are with Gloria and Mike as they, like we, adjust to a world without him. He was a consummate teacher and changed the lives of thousands of people in whom his legacy will live on.

This is my tribute to John:

Mim Eisenberg

I heard the report Tuesday about the passing of a birder, naturalist, author, photographer, and great friend. John Tveten wrote a weekly column called "Nature Trails" for the Houston Chronicle for over 25 years. We worked together at Nature Quest for 10 years. I've known John & Gloria since the first Nature Quest in 1999. He came to my mother's place searching for butterflies that first year. And I had the pleasure of introducing him for many of his NQ Programs. We were blessed to have gone butterflying & birding with him many times.
We only saw John once a year during Nature Quest, but always felt very close to him & Gloria. I am honored that they took the time to come visit our Nature Center this year. I am so proud to have several of his signed books. When they came for Nature Quest, they stayed at the Yaklins cabins. I know the Yaklins, as well as many others in our area, will miss him. We will truly miss John, his warmth & gift of sharing with others. And our hearts go out to his wife, Gloria.

LeAnn Sharp
Utopia, Texas

In memory of John L. Tveten: enjoy your nature trails

Updated: 10.20.09

This article will be the hardest one to write in my 10-year tenure of writing articles for the Conroe/Montgomery County Courier.

A dear friend and wonderful naturalist, John Tveten, passed away on October 12, 2009, from a rapidly developing cancer. For all of us interested in nature, a void now exists that will never be filled.

I first met John in 1990. Met him at a now closed nature store called The Chickadee in Houston. Within minutes of meeting John I knew he was special. I just didn’t realize how special John was until years later.

A friendship and mentor-student relationship evolved over the years. It was very special. John was a very interesting, intelligent and well-rounded person. He was a walking encyclopedia regarding nature. He and his lovely wife, Gloria, authored numerous wonderful books about nature in Texas. Books about birds, butterflies, wildflowers, mammals, journeys to places near and far.

John was a great photographer and talented artist. John and Gloria wrote “Nature Trails,” a column about nature that ran weekly in the Houston Chronicle. For over 20 years their fascinating article ran. As a kid I used to quickly rifle through the local paper for three things. The sports page including the fishing report and the comics section. As an older kid (over 40) I couldn’t wait to read what John and Gloria wrote about in Nature Trails each week!

In addition to John’s wealth of knowledge and generous attitude of sharing nature with others of all ages, he loved football. We would talk football every fall and winter season. John played high school football. I bet he was just as tenacious on the playing field as he was stalking a once in a lifetime photo opportunity from a photography blind in the Valley of South Texas.

John and Gloria always were there when you needed them. For a book signing, presentation, to lead a nature walk and more. To be your friends. They were always there when asked. Something unfortunately rare these days. You could always count on John and Gloria Tveten.

To me, John was the older brother I never had. Not old enough to be my father, I often was caught in the middle thinking of John as somewhere between an older brother and “Dad.” John and I often laughed about this. I can still hear his precious laugh.

John is gone now. There will be no more presentations, field trips, books, book signings, nature festivals, photographs or drawings. We that share John’s love of the natural world have suffered an irreplaceable loss. Also, the wild creatures that John so often studied have lost a wonderful friend and advocate.

And selfishly speaking, I have lost the only brother I ever really had. My love goes out to John, Gloria and Michael, their son.

The Tveten family requests that in memory of John, donations be made to any organization that works towards protecting nature and all its natural wonders.

This was published in the Montgomery County Courier, written either by Gary or Kathy Clark, i am uncertain which as it was unsigned . . .

John Tveten: A remembrance

By Gary Clark, Oct. 23, 2009, 3:59PM


Kathy Adams Clark

John Tveten, shown here with his wife, Gloria, touched many with his writing, photography, and public speaking.

I never knew a naturalist quite like John Tveten, who passed away Oct . 12 after a brief bout with cancer just before his 75th birthday.

John, with help from his talented wife, Gloria, wrote the Houston Chronicle's Nature Trails column for 24 years, until 1999. I devoured that column with the eagerness of a hummingbird devouring nectar. And like nectar to a hummingbird, John's columns nourished me as a naturalist.

The author of numerous books, including Nature at Your Doorstep (Texas A&M University Press, 2008), Butterflies of Houston and Southeast Texas (University of Texas Press, 1996) and The Birds of Texas (Shearer Publishing, 1993), John also led nature tours for the Smithsonian Institution's travel program, the National Audubon Society, the Houston Museum of Natural Science and Spring Branch Nature Center.

His photographs appeared in hundreds of magazines, books, calendars and filmstrips. He also wrote hundreds of articles for publications such as Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine and Smithsonian.

When my wife, Kathy, began her career as a professional nature photographer, she turned to John to nourish her with his legendary photographic skill. John taught her to know a critter or a flower and to know it well before taking a picture. Kathy now drums that lesson into other photographers.

Legions of naturalists, including birders, butterfly watchers and wildflower enthusiasts, can trace their inspiration and early teachings to John. He led people not only to appreciate but to study the beauty of nature.

Tributes to John have been pouring in.

John's former neighbor and birder David Dauphin said, “John was a good friend, a kind man, a gentle man, a loving husband and father. I don't ever remember a frown on his face.”

Kenn Kaufman, internationally known author of bird and butterfly guides, said, “I've never met a finer naturalist than John. His knowledge of everything in the outdoors, and his enthusiasm for it, were just extraordinary, but despite that he was amazingly humble.”

I thought of John as a scientist in mind and a poet in heart. He scrutinized nature with an inquisitive but exacting mind. But when he talked about nature, he did so with the heart of a poet.

John's scientific bent began as a boy when he collected butterflies, a collection that helped restore those of Germany and Japan after World War II. He later became a research chemist for an oil company but left in the early 1970s to pursue his passion for studying, writing about and photographing nature.

I believe John will be ranked among the greatest naturalists ever to trod the Earth. His knowledge was encyclopedic, and his generosity and vitality in sharing that knowledge were without equal.

John's survivors include Gloria, who's a retired mathematics professor; and their son, Michael Tveten, a biology professor at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz.

Tveten, famed nature photographer, dies
From staff reports, Baytown Sun, Published October 15, 2009

A longtime Baytown resident and former Exxon research chemist who turned a love for photography and nature into an illustrious second career died Monday.

Dr. John L. Tveten, 75, was originally from Minnesota but came to Baytown in the 1960s to take a job as with Exxon. After 13 years with the petrochemical giant, he left the company to attempt a career as a freelance outdoor and nature photographer.

That move led to a successful new career and lifestyle. Tveten became a noted author, along with wife Gloria penning a nature column for a Houston newspaper for 24 years and writing and photographing for innumerable magazine articles, eight books and field guides that shared his and Gloria’s knowledge and love of nature with others in the field and with the public. He became a noted authority in his field.

Tveten’s photographs were seen in the pages of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine, National Wildlife magazine, Audubon, the children’s magazine of the National Wildlife Federation; Birder’s World, Bird Watcher’s Digest, the Encyclopedia Americana, Encyclopedia Britannica and many other publications.

Tveten presented uncountable slide shows and programs at numerous colleges and universities and to gatherings held by a variety of organizations, such as birding, gardening and social clubs and at hundreds of nature festivals. He led photo tours to many of America’s national parks in association with the Smithsonian, as well as other organizations.

Tveten will be cremated.

A Celebration of Life will be held at Armand Bayou Nature Center on Thursday, Oct. 29.

Tveten is survived by his wife Gloria, a son and daughter-in-law Michael and Lisa; granddaughter Amanda; and step-grandson Brett. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Armand Bayou Nature Center or the conservation organization of choice.

Services are under the direction of Navarre Funeral Home.

John L. Tveten, longtime Chronicle columnist

By Kathy Huber, Houston Chronicle, Oct. 17, 2009, 9:06PM

John L. Tveten, a naturalist, author, photographer and longtime Houston Chronicle columnist, died of cancer Monday. He was 74.

For more than 30 years, Tveten wrote about and photographed creatures of nature and wildflowers. He wrote numerous books and co-authored five with his wife of 51 years, Gloria. The Baytown couple traveled widely in pursuit of nature and shared their adventures in Wildflowers of Houston and Southeast Texas and Butterflies of Houston and Southeast Texas, both published by University of Texas Press. He also wrote The Birds of Texas (Shearer Publishing, $24.95).

Nature Trails column
The couple's weekly Nature Trails column ran in the Chronicle for nearly 25 years. The last of a three-volume anthology of those columns, Nature at Your Doorstep (Texas A&M University Press, $24.95), was published last year. A frequent speaker and field guide, Tveten presented four programs with his wife at the Rockport hummingbird festival in September.

“John was among the greatest of naturalists,” said friend Gary Clark. “His knowledge was encyclopedic, and his generosity in sharing that knowledge was without equal. Through his newspaper columns, his many books and his informative and engaging presentations, we all learned an immeasurable amount about wonders of the natural world. Moreover, we were always inspired by his endless curiosity and enthusiasm.”

When the Tvetens decided to end their weekly column in 1999 for more book projects, Clark took over.

His Nature column appears in the Chronicle's Saturday Star section with photographs by his wife, Kathy Adams Clark.

“I would not be the nature photographer I am without John's advice,” Kathy Clark said. “His photographs taught me how to shoot, and he taught me how to be a naturalist.”

In their final column for the Chronicle, the Tvetens wrote that “the hobby that began as ‘birdwatching' is now called ‘birding' by most of its participants. Those birders are more skilled and more informed than ever before, and most will travel great distances to add new species to their lists.

“We share that enthusiasm, but we still consider ourselves birdwatchers. We enjoy seeing rare birds, but we also enjoy seeing common birds doing uncommon things. And then, we just enjoy seeing birds being birds uncommonly well.”
Originally a chemist

A Minnesota native, Tveten moved to Texas in 1960 after graduate school at the University of Illinois. He was a research organic chemist with Exxon before retiring in 1973 to become a full-time nature photographer and writer. In addition to his books and columns, his work appeared in national publications, calendars, film strips and educational material.

He also was a naturalist and tour leader for the Smithsonian Institution, National Audubon Society, Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Spring Branch Nature Center.

Tveten is survived by his wife; a son, Michael Tveten, of Tucson, Ariz.; and two grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at Armand Bayou Nature Center, 8500 Bay Area Blvd., Pasadena.

Texas A&M University Press mourns the recent loss of John Tveten

avid naturalist, renowned photographer, freelance writer, and author of many books with his wife, Gloria

For nearly a quarter of a century, John and Gloria wrote a weekly column, called "Nature Trails," for the Houston Chronicle. Their writings, which ranged both in subject matter and geography, reflected a rewarding life of travel, study, and observation in nature, including many memorable encounters with birds.

Also, John's photographs have graced the pages of National Wildlife, Audubon, Ranger Rick, Birder's World, Bird Watcher's Digest, Texas Parks & Wildlife, and Texas Highways since 1973.

He's written and photographed eight books ─ many with Gloria ─ including his nature trails books, Adventures Afar (2006), Our Life with Birds (2004), and Nature at Your Doorstep (2008) with Texas A&M Press.

Shannon Davies, Louise Lindsey Merrick Editor for the Natural Environment for Texas A&M Press, worked closely with John for many years.

"The first time I walked through a vacant lot with John, he taught me that there is no such thing. Perhaps the last of Texas's great naturalists, he taught all of us about plants, birds, mammals, snakes, lizards, frogs, butterflies, moths, and insects of all kinds with unmatched facility and generosity. He was a generalist in the truest, best possible meaning of the word--he loved nature wherever he found it, and he found it everywhere. A writer, an artist, and a photographer, John knew so much, and gave so much, never losing his sense of wonder and of fun."

". . . Each person who met him will remember John's perfect presentations and exquisite photos. All of us who called him friend will remember his
strong love of this planet and optimistic spirit. I cherish every moment I spent with him and will always remember him,"─Kathy Adams Clark, photographer, Enjoying Big Bend National Park: A Friendly Guide to Adventures for Everyone (2009)

". . . my words cannot convey my own personal sense of loss. . . We both shared a passion for birds, for nature in general , and for photography and I remember many discussions about our natural world with John. He enlightened others with his depth of knowledge of the natural world and was always ready to help with anything he was asked to do. John was a true gentleman in every sense of the word and I do not use that term casually. He was one of the finest persons it has been my privilege to know and I will miss him greatly. The writings about birds, butterflies, moths and other natural history subjects that John and Gloria produced over the years have enriched us all and leave a legacy for us to cherish. My thoughts and prayers are with Gloria and the family."─Greg Lasley, author of Greg Lasley's Texas Wildlife Portraits (2008)

Houston Audubon Society
Texas birders and conservationists say goodbye to long-time friend and naturalist, John Tveten, who passed away peacefully while surrounded by family and friends.

John was among the greatest of naturalists ever to trod the earth. His knowledge was encyclopedic, and his generosity in sharing that knowledge was without equal. Through his newspaper columns, his many books, and his informative and engaging presentations, we all learned an immeasurable amount about birds, butterflies, moths, wildflowers, and countless other wonders of the natural world. Moreover, we were always inspired by his endless curiosity and enthusiasm.

Kathy and Gary Clark have worked with the Tveten family to arrange a celebration of John’s life and work. The celebration will be held on October 29, 2009 at 6:30 p.m. at Armand Bayou Nature Center.

Our love and support goes out to John’s wife, Gloria, and son, Michael.

For my Teacher, Friend, Mentor
John Tveten

This is preaching to the choir
I know
Because what i know about John Tveten
Is what you know

But i feel compelled to tell it in my own way

John spent his lifetime
First and foremost as a teacher
Sure he took photographs
But they were framed as visual lessons
Sure he raised caterpillars
But not for himself
Sure he wrote books
But to spread what he had learned himself

He was A Teacher, The Teacher
And in telling my couple of stories about John
It is to honor him as My teacher

I lived on Bolivar Peninsula for a while
As a grad student
In my brother’s car
At a banding station
Greg Lasley and i started there

Now i “knew” John from a decade’s worth
Of Freeport Christmas Counts
But it was his visits to see me on Bolivar
Where i truly learned the depth of who he was

It started with a casual stop to bird and take photos
One day in April, back in that last millennium

While there, and on later trips
He “borrowed” the myriad birds
We took from the nets
And took headshots of them in hand

You will recognize many of those photos
From his stories and books over the years
Painted Bunting
Hooded Warbler
Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I remember seeing a slide show once
Recognizing my fingers in it
And thinking how he had photographed
My dirty nails as lovingly as
He had photographed those birds

At the time of these visits he was deeply engaged
In photographing mammals for
One of David Schmidly’s books
And because we had a family of Swamp Rabbits
Hanging about the station
And daily visits from a family of River Otters
Which Greg had found and was photographing too
John made it a regular stop to partake in the
Disneylike craziness happening around us
I wondered the other day
About how many generations of those
Critters have now passed on the peninsula
And marveled at how we humans
Would give most anything to have portraits
Of our ancestors so far back
And to have had them made permanent by such a master

On the peninsula i once netted what i thought was a Hoary Bat
Called John, and he rushed straight down
As it was a species missing from his series
That bat, which he took home to photograph
In controlled lighting
Was then passed on to Texas A&M and it
Then became the first coastal record
Of that critter in Texas
He often pointed out to me how important
That series of photos was
I often show people that map dot in Schmidly
And Davis’ books on the mammals of Texas
And tell that story

We spent many hours talking . . .
Besides those things about John
You already know
And which i’ll detail in a moment
There are two things
I remember most fondly
From those sessions with him

First, that he brought me copies of the pictures
Of those special critters
I imagine he thought of them as small gestures
To me they amounted to being put on a pedestal
I still have them
I run across them on occasion
And they conjure such deeply-felt memories
Of those wildest . . .
And funnest, and most educational
Of my days on this planet

Second, and i do not want to minimize the
Contributions of others, because there were others
Who did this and are much cherished
But John i think was first
And for all i know he conspired with,
Enlisted others

To leave money hidden about the car
And banding station
Like Easter eggs
Spread out perhaps not so much as a game
But so i could find some now and again
Whenever i reached desperation
In the way that poor grad students
Do for whatever compulsion binds them

Some years later, when i was beginning
To get serious about butterflies
I netted a small sulphur that i puzzled over
For quite a while
But finally decided had to be a Barred Yellow
Something i had never seen before
Beaming, i took it to John
Who took a quick look and said Dainty Sulphur
My lifer morphed suddenly into something
I saw abundantly
I blushed, but John did what John always did
He found a way to turn it into something special
That i had been confounded by its being an unusual form
And then off he was into the John Tveten world
Of amazing stories about Dainty Sulphurs

Did you ever notice how he always
Found a way to make you feel like the expert and
He the observer?

And that smile!
And that infectious laugh!

I am preaching to the choir aren’t i?

I know this
His heart knew no bounds

Over the years we shared some birds
His books tell some of those stories
But i seldom saw him
Kelly Bryan, our mutual connection
Updated me occasionally
Via the world of hummingbird festivals

But as we all do, much to our later chagrin,
I not so much lost track of,
As failed to keep in touch with

But as happens lately in our eco-touristic
Plugged-in times
I was able to re-establish contact
With him and Gloria in the last few years
As we shared some moments in between
Leading trips for Nature Quest
And i am so much richer for
Having had a chance to soak up
His wisdom again
After too much lost time

It was always just a few moments
But a few moments of perfection
John telling exciting stories
Of his day’s finds
The caterpillars cooking in chrysali back home
The latest trip to someplace he savored

And now this . . .

I consider it somewhat prescient
That Nature Quest ran for the last time
Last spring
Maybe it was telling us all “it’s time”

In remembering
That last time i spoke with him
I remembered too that he had signed some books
For our kids here at the ranch
And realized that he’s still teaching
Will always be teaching
Right here in my own backyard

tony gallucci
ingram, texas

The Service

We hope you can attend a celebration of John’s extraordinary life on October 29 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Armand Bayou Nature Center, 8500 Bay Area Blvd, Pasadena, TX. If you would like to bring cookies, snacks, or beverages, please do. We obviously do not want John’s family to provide refreshments. This will be an informal but important occasion for all of us to share our memories of John. Please inform anyone you know who may not be on Texbirds of the celebration.

Gary Clark
The Woodlands, TX

Tags: , , , , , ,

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

COM: Thanks Melissa & John!

Gourmet dinner for a cause
, , Published October 28, 2009

Rails — a Cafe at the Depot’s fundraiser for Hill Country Youth Ranch may seem inviting when someone hears it will be limited to 50 guests, accompanied by local classical guitarist Kevin McCormick and held in the restaurant’s hall, a recently renovated 1889 lumberyard with oak floors.

Add the chef-prepared meal of four courses, each paired with a different wine.

“Delicious, delightful, delectable,” said Melissa Southern, who together with her husband, John Hagerla, own Rails. “We always try to find fun, different things.”

The event will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, at Rails, 615 Schreiner St. Tickets are $75.

Southern still hasn’t decided what will be served as the first and last course. The first could be a salad, but the colder weather may inspire a soup, she said.

“I’m still torn on that one,” Southern said.

Dessert most likely will involve chocolate.

The two courses she has pinned down are the second course — a crab cake with grilled shrimp — and the third course — beef tenderloin wrapped in phyllo dough and stuffed with goat cheese and red bell pepper.

Southern said the crab cakes mostly are made of crab meat and the restaurant’s trademark Creole seasoning and only a slight amount of stuffing. The cake will be circled by grilled shrimp and served with a zesty lime peppadew sauce. The peppadew is a South African fruit and the last one discovered after the kiwi, she said.

“It’s almost like a small red pepper, but it’s not super spicy. It just has a nice piquant flavor,” Southern said. “It’s a customer favorite.”

The third course she picked for a couple of reasons — the weather and the quality of the cuts.

“We have a wonderful beef supplier, so I know I’ll have nice beef tenders,” Southern said about the natural, hormone-free meat. “It’s just the season for beef and mashed potatoes and things like that, as it starts getting cooler.”

The beef dish will be served with horseradish, red-skinned potatoes.

“All the recipes we do at the restaurant, we get from our experience,” said Southern, who has traveled and lived in as far away places as Belize, Guatemala and Sudan. “I try to put pieces together of things I think people enjoy.”

Southern, 42, earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Trinity University and worked overseas with refugees, until she returned to school to study nutrition. She then earned master’s and doctorate degrees from the Graduate Institute Geneva in Switzerland. She completed her dietetic internship at the Houston Medical Center and is a licensed and registered dietitian.

“There’s always that dietitian influence in the back of my mind,” Southern said, noting the Rails’ menu includes a variety of salads and the restaurant doesn’t use a fryer. “Sometimes, I think people think something healthy isn’t going to taste good. I like to prove you can do both.”

Hagerla, 47, has worked more than 25 years in food marketing. This includes seven years as assistant vice president of the National Pork Board, where Hagerla developed the “other white meat” pork campaign.

Peter Beeman, who has traveled extensively through wine-producing areas and has owned The Main liquor store, will pair a wine with each of the courses.

Southern said they chose HCYR for the charity dinner because of the commitment of those involved with the foster center for youth.

“I just think they’re doing so much for the children in a caring, loving way,” Southern said. “They’re really making a difference in the lives of children.”

Dining guests at the HCYR fundraiser also will get special treats — homemade sorbets — to cleanse their palettes between courses, said Southern, who noted the first and last course details most likely will come to her at a random moment.

“The menus are always dancing around in my head,” Southern said. “Suddenly, it all comes together.”

What: HCYR fundraiser at Rails
When: Thursday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m.
Where: Events hall at Rails — a Cafe at the Depot, 615 Schreiner St.
Cost: $75, limit 50 guests
Contact: 257-3877

Guitarist and composer Kevin McCormick earned a diploma in guitar performance from Indiana University School of Music and has studied under classical guitar greats, such as Ernesto Bitetti and Sergio Notaro, according to his biography.

McCormick has performed with the Symphony of the Hills, Schreiner University choirs, San Antonio Master Singers, the Children’s Chorus and many other groups. He has received awards from the Guitar Foundation of America and served as a guest lecturer at the Hillsdale College and University of Texas at Austin.

He currently teaches guitar at Schreiner University and private lessons through his studio, Mirabilis.

Tags: , ,

Labels: , , , ,

The Daily Silliness

another of those things that just might make your evening special . . .


Labels: , ,

The Daily Excitement

Story as soon as i know what happened . . . but it involved multiple chases, spiked tires, and being handcuffed to the gurney . . .

okay here it is:

Man leads officers on high speed chase

Published October 29, 2009

A Phoenix man who spent Tuesday night in the Kerr County Jail on a misdemeanor theft charge was free only a couple of hours before leading local law enforcement on a high speed chase.

After posting a $1,000 bail on Wednesday morning, Matthew Joel Friedman, 27, went to pick up his vehicle at an impound yard located at 202 Kerrville Country Drive.

Instead of paying the charge to recover his vehicle, Friedman got into his car and left the scene without paying. The tow company alerted police, who saw the man and his Ford Explorer heading Westbound on Interstate 10.

The chase began at approximately 10 a.m., when Kerr County Sheriff’s Office deputies attempted to stop Friedman on Goat Creek Road. The suspect refused to stop and approached speeds of 80 mph, according to witnesses.

The suspect continued to lead police through Ingram and out Texas 39, when he made a sudden U-turn to avoid Ingram City Marshals, who had joined the chase near Goat Creek Cutoff.

The suspect weaved around and avoided multiple spike strips used to blow out tires on his vehicle in the Kelly Creek Road area before driving through a yard and causing one minor accident with a chase vehicle. He also narrowly avoided two head-on collisions with motorists on Texas 39 and nearly ran over a man on a bicycle in Ingram.

The chase continued from Ingram toward Kerrville, when a Department of Public Safety officer, fearing for a loss of life, discharged a shotgun round into the suspects’ back right tire, causing him to swerve off of Junction Highway, through a fence at the Guadalupe RV Park and continue into a cedar-filled ditch, where his vehicle came to a hault.

According to Department of Public Safety officials at the scene, the man was alone in the vehicle, and was arrested without resistance after the crash.

He likely will be charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and additional charges stemming from the chase.

He was transported to Peterson Regional Medical Center with a broken leg and possible internal injuries.

Tags: , ,

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Daily Silliness

wants the rain back, and all the memories that go with it . . . and winning the lottery would be okay too . . .


Labels: , , ,

ATH: US Junior World Cup

U-17 World Cup: USA 1 - Spain 2

Spain scored two short-handed goals to come back and win in Group E on Monday. With just over a minute played, Spain defender Sergi Gomez was sent off. The United States responded with Jack McInerney's goal in the fourth-minute, but that would be it for the US offense. Borja equalized for Spain in the 22nd and Pablo Sarabia scored what would be the winner in the 30th-minute.

Though the United States had periods of sustained pressure in the second-half, they couldn't beat Spain keeper Edgar. The US put nine of their 14 shots on goal to Spain's five from nine and led six to three on corners.

"I think it was a very good match," US coach Wilmer Cabrera said. "We had to play against one of the favorite teams, and we started off with some positive things, we scored quickly. They reacted very well, they had a brilliant 10 minutes and they put themselves in a good position. After that obviously our kids started to react, to put pressure on Spain and start to come back, but they did a very good job defending. We tried to play and we created options but we didn’t score. When they had the opportunities, they were clinical with their finishing. That’s why they are at that level right now."

In the second-half, the game had to be suspended for several minutes to fix lighting problems. On two occasions, one of the four lighting towers at the Sani Abacha Stadium went out.

Tough Luck

By J Hutcherson, US National Team Players Association

-- Yesterday, the United States opened group play in the Under-17 World Cup. They also opened themselves up to the expected criticism that comes with giving up two short-handed goals and losing the game. It's hard to come around on a 2-1 loss. At the same time, you don't have to be an apologist to opt against putting this squarely on the team.

I'm not all that enthusiastic about running through the issues with an Under-17 team to begin with, but... a man up and a goal up within four minutes? The United States pushed forward, but they had no in-game concept of how to break down Spain's defense. Clogging the box, forcing tough positions, and basically making it too difficult for the United States.

Had the US gotten a break on positioning, they should've scored at least one more goal and forced Spain to open up. There's only so many balls into the box any team should expect not to fall correctly. The US saw very little hitting the shooting foot with enough time to put the shot in a tough position. That's about as basic as it gets. The defender always being in the way.

Look, you can gesture in the direction of coaching and halftime adjustments all you want. The response was the correct one. The US tried to play wide, they tried center, and they tried from distance. With Spain only pushing up on the counter - and even then not in numbers - there was never going to be the space to get through balls working. This wasn't a testament to Spain's game plan if they happened to fall down a man and a goal within five minutes.

Where Spain outplayed the US was in maximizing limited opportunities. The US gave up two quick goals in the 22nd and 30th minutes. Probably at least a little shocked they were ahead at the half hour mark, Spain did the smart thing and bunkered.

That put the US in an odd position. Bunker themselves in the hope that Spain began to lose shape or try to test Spain's defense locked up in the final third. The US went with controlling possession and trying to disrupt what Spain was doing in and around the box.

At some point, the Spanish defenders (all nine of them), had to be wondering how long their luck would hold. 85 minutes plus stoppage time, as it turned out. But it was hardly an indictment of what the US was trying to do.

This is a competitive team that should get results against the rest of the group. Another shot at a good team in the knockout stage, and it's hard to believe anything resembling the opener plays out.

Monday night in Nigeria doesn't speak to lack of experience. No U-17 team, even one with as many games together as the United States, should be expected to always respond. The game doesn't work that way at any level. At best, they should play themselves into a position where they're doing enough to expect to score.

Even a man up, there's just not much any team is going to do when that last touch isn't working. The United States got a tournament's worth of bad luck in one game. Hopefully, they have the confidence not to make that the story.

Tags: , , ,

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Daily Silliness

Aggies . . . oops . . .


Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Daily Silliness



Labels: , ,


hohohohoho, front page headline in the online Daily Times . . .

Ingram grabs first victory in five seasons
Fredericksburg wins 42-12 over ITM

Here's a hint to the daily times . . . i worked hard to send a note to someone about this shameful mistake, but your contact pages are near impossible to find, and cumbersome to use . . . if you want the occasional folk to help you out of your egregiousness, how about a front page "Contact Us" or "Report an Error" link and a simple anonymous email shoot . . . sure, you'll have to wade through a little garbage, but you might also gain something . . . although i quite like catching you in these amazing errors, they make for good blogging . . . just sayin' . . . on the other hand this one hurt a lot of fine kids who are trying to do so much for their school with little appreciation . . . and because of that i made an effort and then gave up . . . and guess what this was posted a full two days online . . . maybe you just need to check your own site on occasion . . .

Tags: ,

Labels: , , , , ,

The Daily Silliness

ITM plays well but can't beat Fbg . . . Tivy pulls off the big upset . . . any word on OLH . . . anybody?


Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, October 23, 2009

ATH: Some US History

Twenty Years Ago
By Clemente Lisi, US National Team Players Association

- NEW YORK, NY (Oct 23, 2009) USSoccerPlayers -- It was twenty years ago next month that a young US team traveled to Trinidad & Tobago and earned an improbable berth to the 1990 World Cup. Twenty years later, winning that game is considered the starting point for the new era of American soccer.

After reaching Italia '90, the US successfully hosted the 1994 World Cup (where the team reached the round of 16) and a pro league, Major League Soccer, was launched two years later. Since then, the US has qualified for another four straight World Cup finals and was just 45 minutes away this past June from stunning Brazil and winning the Confederations Cup.

Indeed, Paul Caligiuri’s goal – later dubbed “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World – helped forever change the sports landscape in this country for soccer. Since the USA’s 1-0 win over T&T on November 19, 1989, that generation of players have moved into retirement. Many of them continue to build the game.
Paul Krumpe, a midfielder who started for Bob Gansler’s side that day, has been head coach of the men’s team at Loyola Marymount University for the past 12 years. Over that time, Krumpe hasn’t just been a successful coach, but has groomed a new generation of players to enter the pro ranks.

“I feel this group in 1990 was at the start of burgeoning mushroom of soccer players in America,” said Krumpe. “I had only played for one coach prior to college who had played the game of soccer before and I think that was true of most of the US players at that time.

“Now, there are very few players who reach a Division I college program who have not played club soccer and even high school soccer for years for coaches who have played the game at a very high level. It was simply a matter of time before the US exploded on the international scene. MLS has certainly been the main catalyst in that regard."

Seven players Krumpe has coached have gone on to play for Major League Soccer clubs. Among the most notable are Arturo Torres (Los Angeles Galaxy), Andres Murriagui (Columbus Crew) and Kevin Novak (Real Salt Lake).

Other members of that 1989 team have moved on to the upper echelons of the game. Former defender John Doyle currently serves as general manager of the San Jose Earthquakes, striker Peter Vermes is the interim coach of the Kansas City Wizards, and defender Brian Bliss is the technical director for the Columbus Crew. Others, like midfielder John Harkes, have gone into broadcasting. Harkes is a regular during US National Team broadcasts on ESPN.

Forward Bruce Murray served as an assistant coach at Harvard for two seasons starting in 2004. He now works as a director at the North Carolina-based Capital Area Soccer Club, running youth leagues and camps.

“I am involved in the game because I love the game,” said Murray, who scored 21 goals in 86 games for the United States. “I miss the team environment the most.”

Murray said the 1989 team “put the US on the soccer map.”

“Qualifying is hard business and the fact that we would be an automatic qualifier for 1994 made it imperative that we get a World Cup under our belts before 1994 here in the States,” he said. “The US team did well in 1994 and most of the key guys were veterans of 1990. To emphasize my point: Where is Trinidad and Tobago today?”

Unlike today’s team loaded with pros playing both at home and abroad, the players at the time were mostly college kids and semi-professionals. Most of that experience came through playing in recreational leagues or the indoor MISL. For that generation, the North American Soccer League was already a distant memory.

The squad featured future stars Tony Meola (who played until 2007 for the New Jersey Ironmen in the MISL) and Tab Ramos (who currently runs his own soccer camps in New Jersey). The only full-time professional was Caligiuri, who played with West German club SV Meppen.

There’s no doubt that a lot has changed since 1989. The US is the equal of Mexico in CONCACAF, and beat their rivals in the knockout stage of the 2002 World Cup. Next summer, a far more experienced US team will want to use the World Cup to show everyone how far the program has come over the past two decades.

“I still think we would become a competitive soccer country without qualifying in 1990, but we would certainly be behind where we are now,” said Krumpe, who scored one goal and earned 25 caps for the US.

He said it was “simply a matter of time before the US exploded on the international scene. MLS has certainly been the main catalyst in that regard.”

Tags: , , ,

Labels: , ,

CMO: Cool Photo Blog that's New to Me!

Tags: , , , , , ,

Labels: , , , ,

The Daily Silliness

work, rehearsal, show, photos, football, chai, film editing, zombieland, show, sleep . . . let's get this weekend rolling . . .


Labels: , ,

Thursday, October 22, 2009

NAT: Alberta Languages

Siksika youth embrace future, while learning words of the past
By Jamie Komarnicki, Calgary Herald, October 11, 2009

Ko, mo, no, po, so to, wo, yo.

Alvine Eagle Speaker stands at the front of her classroom, introducing a group of teenagers to her language.

The teacher's yardstick taps a pattern on a whiteboard upon which 126 Blackfoot syllables are scribbled.

Her dark eyes peering from thick-framed glasses, Eagle Speaker surveys the 30-odd students mumbling the Blackfoot fragments.

Kih, mih, nih, pih, sih, tih, wih, yih.

"I want you to say them, don't hum them. You're not bees," Eagle Speaker says, chuckling.

"You need to figure out what your tongue is doing in your mouth. If you have gum, swallow it, or it will fall out. If you have dentures, I hope you have Polident."

Her words are sharp but often humorous as she guides the Blackfoot for Beginners class through the syllables on the whiteboard.

The chart, which she created herself, takes a native language known for its lengthy words and breaks it down into its most basic building blocks.

"There's a reason I put this up there," Eagle Speaker says, pointing to the rows of syllables. "I'm teaching you how to preserve your language, how you should be as a Siksika member.

"We're going to learn how to be humble, patient, respectful, because the language is all that."

For students at Siksika Nation High School, the 80-minute lesson is sandwiched between biology and math, and all the other trappings of school life.

For the past two years, Eagle Speaker has pioneered the class on the reserve about an hour's drive east of Calgary. By the time the students graduate from her Blackfoot 10, 20 and 30 classes, they should be able to hold simple conversations in the language.

Teaching students the words of their ancestors is one way to reconnect Siksika youth to the past, Eagle Speaker says.

But the real challenge is how to connect the historic language to their future.

When the class is over, iPods and cellphones get turned back on.

Backpacks slung over their shoulders, students troop out of the school and into a society where, for the most part, their language exists only among a few thousand elders.

Nineteen-year-old Elaine Poor Eagle is striving to straddle both worlds.

The trendy young lady, who wants to study animation at the University of Lethbridge, is constantly on her cellphone, texting to stay in touch with her family, friends and work.

Yet, Poor Eagle can also rattle off her family history in Blackfoot, including her traditional name-- Somiitkomi, or Strange Hollow, given her by her grandmother -- and carry on conversations in the language of her ancestors.

"Some students are like, 'Why are you saying that?' They're making fun of us because we're speaking and they don't know what we're speaking," says Poor Eagle, a graduate of Blackfoot 10, 20 and 30 classes.

"To me it shows where I've come from, and makes me more proud of where I come from."

Learning the language isn't all conjugation and memorization, though.

Poor Eagle swaps text messages with friends, sounding out the syllables on her cellphone, and writes Facebook messages in Blackfoot to her aunties, who are also fluent.

Even when she leaves Siksika to go to university, the teenager remains confident she can find ways to weave Blackfoot into everyday life.

Such attitudes provide hope to those striving to save native languages across Canada.

First Nations are now watching a massive baby boom unfold, and connecting youth to their history is critical to keeping native languages alive.

In Alberta, aboriginals are the fastest-growing segment of the population. More than one in three aboriginals in the province are 14 years old and younger. They're also the generation least likely to know how to speak native languages.

Experts estimate there are between 3,000 and 4,000 Blackfoot speakers of southern Alberta's three dialects spoken by the Siksika, Piikani and Blood tribes.

"They have a lot of older speakers of the language, but the kids aren't learning it," says Darin Flynn, a University of Calgary aboriginal language expert.

This dynamic "means very dramatically, the number of speakers will drop, unless they find some way."

Throughout the Blackfoot territories, educators are trying to do just that.

In southern Alberta, Blackfoot teachers are taking their knowledge into the schools, directly integrating their language into course curriculum.

There are also efforts to move Blackfoot language training out of the classroom and into the sweat lodge.

Norton (Spike) Eagle Speaker is a leader of the Horns, a sacred Blackfoot society.

The ceremonies that Eagle Speaker performs are as "ageless as the sun," he says.

"A lot of our ways, a lot of our translations from the Blackfoot language, there's no way (to say them) in the English language," says Eagle Speaker, sitting outside a sweat lodge in his backyard on the Siksika reserve, clad in the black that signifies his spiritual authority.

"When they come to the sweat lodge, to the ceremonies, all I do is speak Blackfoot."

About nine youths are under his tutelage in the mystical society of bundle-carriers that marks the highest level of Blackfoot spirituality.

"I'm training them how to build sweats, how to pick rocks, how to use tobacco, how to respect women--all of these things I'm teaching them, it's a long process," says Eagle Speaker, his words carrying across the plains as the sun sets.

"I use a lot of Blackfoot. I just go right ahead. . . . They in turn start realizing the value of our societies, they start realizing the value of how our people were back then."

His classroom is different than his wife's--Alvine Eagle Speaker, the high school teacher--but the two share similar goals: training the under-30 generation to carry on the language.

"It is a need. I'm thinking about my children, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren," says Alvine.

"I want the children here and in the future to have a nation. . . . Language and culture are like salt and pepper, cream and sugar. They have to be together."

Blackfoot - An Algonquin Language - Known For Its Extremely Long Words - In Canada, Three Dialects Spoken Among The Siksika, Piikani And Blood Tribes, Also Spoken By The Blackfeet Of Montana. - Speakers: About 3,000 To 4,000

Source: Darin Flynn, University Of Calgary

Native communities fighting to keep traditional languages alive

By Jamie Komarnicki, Canwest News Service, October 11, 2009

TSUU T'INA NATION, Alta. -- Late-morning sun pours down on a group of children in a clearing on the Tsuu T'ina Nation, just west of Calgary.

Two native leaders kneel in the grass, tying together spruce teepee poles with twine. A large piece of canvas rests nearby.

Before all their eyes, the skeleton of a buffalo springs to life.

The teepee's towering structure represents the buffalo's silhouette, storyteller Gerald Meguinis explains to the youth, switching back and forth effortlessly between English and Tsuu T'ina words.

In the past, when such shelters were built, it was as if the disappearing buffalo had returned, he says.

Like the beast that was once nearly wiped out from the Canadian plains, the language of the Tsuu T'ina people is also vanishing.

Meguinis, the youngest Tsuu T'ina speaker, is 60.

"It's a big concern to us," says Bruce Starlight, director of the Tsuu T'ina Gunaha project, which arranged the cultural camp.

"We're all in this together, our language survival."

Indeed, the silence is creeping beyond Tsuu T'ina to other reserves.

The Stoneys to the west and the Blackfoot to the east are each facing their own worries to keep their languages alive.

"We're in dire straights," says Blackfoot educator Alvine Eagle Speaker.

By official count, there are more than 50 First Nations languages across Canada.

Some are thriving.

The Cree, for example, have as many as 80,000 everyday speakers. Dozens others, though, are in danger of disappearing. In 1998, the Assembly of First Nations declared a state of language emergency.

First Nations people aren't the only ones concerned about the vanishing words. Linguists frantic to preserve the historical tongues are furiously collecting and recording data before all those speak them pass away.

"There's a sense of desperation, of our data disappearing before our eyes," laments aboriginal language expert Darin Flynn from the University of Calgary.

Southern Alberta provides an example of the dangers facing First Nation languages across the country.

The Treaty 7 languages - Tsuu T'ina, Stoney Nakoda and Blackfoot - are each at different stages of decline.

With more than 1,500 speakers among 4,000 band members, the Siouan dialect spoken by the Stoneys is in the healthiest shape.

Their strong oral tradition, though, is beginning to show signs of fracture.

To the southeast of the Stoneys, the Blackfoot nations are believed to have as many as 4,000 speakers. But the children aren't learning the Algonquian language.

A generational breakdown looms, Flynn says.

The smallest of the bands, Tsuu T'ina, is in the roughest shape. Within a few decades, most speakers will have died.

Educators today have the challenge of convincing today's generation of "Facebookers" and texters that the native words aren't simply old-fashioned.

"The only way I see it is to teach it, teach it, teach it," says Eagle Speaker, who leads a culture and language class on the Siksika reserve east of Calgary.

"If there are people that don't think there's a need for it, well that's wrong," she says.

"If there are people out there that think it'll never be revived, that's wrong too."

Eagle Speaker is just one among many natives hopeful about their languages' future, but there's little doubt they're trying to reverse more than 100 years of history.

In Alberta, the historic Treaty 7 was signed at Blackfoot Crossing in 1877. History books say it brought peace to southern Alberta; oral tradition among the tribes suggests otherwise.

Several key moments during treaty-making were marred by faulty interpretation, according to Flynn, the linguistics professor.

The official translators' grasp on the native languages was fragile. Some words - such as surrender or cede - couldn't be translated from legal English into three native languages, he says.

"They're very unanimous on the basis of language, they feel they were tricked to cede, release and surrender the land," says Flynn.

Then there were the schools.

In the 1840s, church-operated, government-funded residential schools began taking aboriginal children from their homes.

Such residential schools operated until the 1970s and, in many cases, the education was a painful one. Among a number of punishable offences, speaking native languages was an easy mark.

"I got slammed right across the face," says Olive Davis, 73, recalling her first days at the St. Paul Residential School near Cardston, Alta., in the early 1940s.

"I didn't know I wasn't supposed to speak Blackfoot. I didn't know a word of English."

Growing up, she knew only the language of her parents and grandparents. A slap to the face taught the seven-year-old girl to keep her mouth shut.

Davis eventually learned the English of her teachers, but never lost her first words.

"You always think in Blackfoot. That's the way I am," says Davis. Her own children, though, hardly spoke the language, and her grandchildren, not at all.

Typically, those now in their 20 to 50s were hit hardest by the schools' impact, in many cases stopping speaking their languages altogether.

"People quickly bought into this idea that it could hinder their kids in the new economy," says Flynn.

A split often occurred "right in the same family," says Don Frantz, a California-born missionary and linguist who travelled to southern Alberta in the 1960s to save souls and languages.

"Two brothers in the same family . . . the older one would be a speaker and the younger one would hardly speak at all," said Frantz, who worked with the Siksika tribe in the 1960s and 1970s.

Other changes furthered the language decline.

Buses began transporting kids to public school. At the same time, electricity came to the reserves. Soon, most families had televisions.

"Between the two things, going to school, being a minority . . . then coming home and watching TV in English - we noticed a change right away," says Frantz, a University of Lethbridge linguist specializing in Blackfoot.

Today, new technology such as the Internet is adding to the hurdles.

Students who file into Eagle Speaker's class at the Siksika high school are likely more comfortable with a BlackBerry than learning Blackfoot.

As a teacher, Eagle Speaker, tries to find ways to make language relevant. Her goal is twofold: teaching children the worth of their cultural history, while instilling the value of carrying it forward.

The new wave of native speakers, she says, will be led by those who learned English first, indigenous tongues, second.

Her hope, and the optimism of others, is fuelling what experts see as a resurgence of native languages in the form of second-language speakers.

The days of aboriginal languages in the "nursery and living rooms," are gone, says Flynn, but across southern Alberta, the sense of loss is spurring a language "renaissance."

"There's no question that, technically, the aboriginal languages have become obsolete under the influence of English," says Flynn.

"There is a revival now underway that's trying to counteract this."

In Morley, the Nakoda Stoney Owabize group is creating a dictionary. The Blackfoot are teaching language classes in schools. On Tsuu T'ina, a determined few have launched an expansive new language program.

Their efforts are no guarantee of success, but that doesn't stop those who care from fighting for the native words.

"It's hard to predict what will happen," Flynn concludes.

"But once they (the languages) are gone, they're gone from the planet. It's irreversible."

Saving Tsuu T'Ina
Band hopes new program can revive language, tradition
By Jamie Komarnicki, Calgary Herald, October 12, 2009

Wooden arrows placed onto their bowstrings, a row of spindly-armed youths take aim at a target in the sky.

The willow sticks, carved by hand over the past few days, drop harmlessly on the ground.

"One more time," the shooters plead.

The "hoop-and-wheel" game is one of the highlights of a three-day culture camp put on by the Tsuu T'ina Gunaha program.

About 20 Tsuu T'ina kids have already wandered the woods looking for herbs, practised beadwork and been taught the art of storytelling.

At night, they've worked on a different skill: learning the hunting ways of their ancestors. Each task teaches them the traditions of the Tsuu T'ina.

Such lessons serve as a bridge between the young and old -- and provide another way to impart the Tsuu T'ina language on a small group of children.

At nine years old, Sonny Scout knows just a few Tsuu T'ina words, such as teepee and arrow.

But he wants to learn more Tsuu T'ina "so if my granny talks it, I can understand what she says," Sonny explains, his homemade bow slung over his shoulder.

As Bruce Starlight watches, the 62-year-old instructor can't help but feel satisfied.

"This gives them the one-on-one contact that is missing today. It's so important," says Starlight, who organized the summer camp.

"I'm happy. At my age, I need to give this knowledge to somebody -- whoever will listen."

The small southern Alberta reserve on Calgary's southwest edge is the only corner of the world where the Tsuu T'ina tongue exists.

Only the tiniest fraction of the 2,000 band members speak the language. Most are elderly.

The language is clearly on the verge of extinction, the trajectory moving downward as quickly as the falling arrow.

Aboriginal language expert Darin Flynn estimates fewer than 40 people speak the language, and Tsuu T'ina is indeed in "scary shape."

"That's a hard fact, that they just have very few fluent speakers left," says Flynn, a University of Calgary linguistics professor.

"On the other hand, they have some of the more exciting sort of teachings."

For example, Starlight approached the band council last year proposing a major new "gunaha," or language, program.

The initiative is far more sweeping than simply teaching the language through a textbook.

The Gunaha project strives to digitize, catalogue and archive Tsuu T'ina records.

The program, run in conjunction with the University of Alberta, also includes a printing press and audio sound studio, where members will soon be trained to come up with their own language recordings to be preserved for posterity.

A language certificate program on the reserve is also in the works, and the Tsuu T'ina dictionary is facing a major overhaul.

For nearly four decades, band members have tried in a number of ways to preserve the language, but haven't produced a single fluent speaker, says Starlight.

"As soon as you get something going, something stops it," he says.

The elder is hopeful the Gunaha program will be different.

The project, with startup funds of $800,000 from Tsuu T'ina's new casino, has 10 full-time and three part-time staff members on the payroll. Adults are already undergoing training twice a week.

"We're serious about it," says Starlight.

"If we don't do it now, it's never going to happen again."

It's difficult to say exactly why Tsuu T'ina got to this crisis point.

By the late 1960s, the tribe's youth had already lost their grasp of the language, says Ed Cook, author of a comprehensive analysis of Tsuu T'ina.

The situation became critical, he says, noting children are the "most important gauge" of a language's health.

"When the children are not learning the language as their first language, the language is beginning to die," says the former head of the University of Calgary linguistics department.

Isolation also played a role.

Legend has it that generations ago, a quarrel between two brothers prompted the Tsuu T'ina to part ways with their Dene family in northern Alberta to migrate to the province's southern region.

Regardless of how they arrived in the area, the tribe was surrounded by the drastically different language groups, the Blackfoot and Stoney.

Over time, band members married non-natives and spouses from other tribes who didn't speak Tsuu T'ina.

See video of initiatives to save native languages, plus a photo gallery from Calgaryarea reserves

Residential schools also took their toll last century.

When the tribe's population exploded in the past decade, "We weren't able to keep up," Starlight says.

Decades ago, Starlight learned linguistic analysis from Ed Cook at the U of C.

Today, he's combined academic knowledge with the traditional wisdom of the band.

When he considers the youth of Tsuu T'ina, Starlight knows the real work has just begun. About 41 per cent of band members are under the age of 18.

"You need to create the atmosphere that language is important, that identity is important, that Tsuu T'ina culture is important," he says.

Back at the culture camp, the kids have fun with their bows and arrows and other traditional games.

A fire smoulders near the four canvas teepees where the youth have camped out the past few nights. In a couple of hours, they'll break camp and head home.

Terence Starlight, 11, vows he'll try his best not to forget what he's learned about the language. His grandfather, Bruce Starlight, has taught him well.

"No one can really speak it," he says, before sprinting off to retrieve his arrow.

"It's important because (if we) forget everything about it, then no one will know how to speak Tsuu T'ina."

Tsuu T'Ina
An Athabascan Language - Other Athabascan languages in the United States include Navajo. - Speakers: between 40 and 60 - Characterized by a popping sound. A tonal language, like Chinese, the different pitch levels radically change meaning.

Source: Darin Flynn, University Of Calgary

Tags: , ,

Labels: , , , ,