More interesting stuff about pigeons and people

After my post on dovecotes ran a few days ago, my friend, colleague, and fellow blogger Sally Cissna published a really fascinating blog post about the relationship between humans and pigeons a century ago. Her post contains several old newspaper articles about how to raise pigeons for food and as a commercial “product,” how pigeons were used by fishermen in New England, how pigeons were used by the military, especially in late-1800s Germany, and how they were used almost as a form of texting back in the day. Read on for some really intriguing insights, especially if you’re a history buff.

via Pigeons and People 1880-1910

Posted in Food, History, Popular culture, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Cool Google Docs “Insert Symbol” Feature

I was just working on something in Google Docs and needed to insert a letter “a” with a circumflex. I clicked on “insert symbol” and searched for “a,” but none of the options were what I needed. Then I noticed that there was a box where you could use your finger to draw the symbol you needed. (I’m working on a tablet; wouldn’t work with an older computer.)

Well, worth a try, I thought.

Definitely worth a try! Look what I got when I drew a picture of what I was looking for. Thanks, Google!

Posted in Creativity, Grammar, punctuation, usage, mechanics, Learning, Technology, Writing, blogging | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Of dovecotes and pigeonholes and ortolans and extinction

In reading a novel set in England around 1815 this past week, I followed two characters into a “dovecote” that had fallen into disrepair.

I’d heard that term before and vaguely associated it with some kind of architectural feature similar to a cupola. I probably would have glossed right over it, as I’ve been doing with unfamiliar words in novels my entire life (and which, ironically, is how I’ve built up a pretty strong vocabulary), except that one of the characters looked up and commented on how the thick walls were full of pigeonholes going all the way up to the roof.

Pigeonholes?

Like the pigeonholes in desks? Yes, but the actual originals upon which the desks’ tiny compartments for storing papers are based. I like pigeonholes in desks, but I don’t like to be “pigeonholed,” that is, labeled/categorized in such a way that my opportunities are limited. Beyond the desk cubbies and the labeling, though, I’ve never really considered what a pigeonhole actually is.

So I did a little quick background reading and found some cool info on dovecotes. Basically they were medieval chicken coops, except for doves and pigeons. Birds like these were an important food source centuries ago. For example, “squab,” which I sort of knew was some kind of game bird dish, is actually a young pigeon. Similar, I guess, to the way a chicken can be a broiler/fryer (young), a roaster (older), or a stewer (even older).

Anyway, the dovecotes were often built as towers with an opening in the roof. The birds would go off on their own to forage during the day and then come home to roost at night, sleeping in their little pigeonholes, safe and sound from predators. Until the day came for them to make a menu appearance, of course.

Oh, yuck. I just remembered that scene in Gigi where Leslie Caron has to learn how to eat ortolans correctly. You eat the whole bird apparently (except the feet). The whole bird. I guess that would be somewhat similar to eating doves and pigeons back in the day. Eating ortolans is illegal now in France, but not because it’s disgusting or inhumane, only because the little birds were so popular a delicacy that they’re endangered as a species.

Now that I think about it, the passenger pigeon became extinct in America because it was hunted in such massive numbers as a commercial food source (and also apparently for recreational target shooting, trapshooting with real birds instead of clay pigeons). Passenger pigeons were shot in the Midwest and shipped by train to Eastern cities.

Did you know, coincidentally, that one of the last surviving flocks of passenger pigeons was kept by an amateur ornithologist in Milwaukee named David Whittaker? I didn’t, not till I read one of the Slate articles linked to below. Now I have a new little research adventure to tackle. If /when I discover anything more about this flock, I’ll be sure to share 🙂

Meanwhile, here are some links to additional articles on dovecotes and pigeons, in case you’re interested in learning more:

Posted in architecture, Food, History, Milwaukee | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Reliving the famous “Ice Bowl” 50 years later

Today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contains a fascinating oral history of the December 31, 1967, “Ice Bowl” NFL Championship Game between Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers and Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys.

Link to the article here.

Several thoughts come to mind after reading the article. Most most prominent is the realization that this game should NEVER have been played in the first place. Several of the players suffered lasting effects from frostbite and injuries related to the bitter cold and icy conditions on the field that day. Blame goes to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, who more or less ignored his own players’ wellbeing while concentrating his attention instead on the AFL Championship Game he decided to attend in Oakland, California.

Along with wondering why the NFL commissioner would attend another league’s championship instead of literally minding his own business and attending the one he was responsible for, I guess my main takeaway insight from Rozelle’s radio silence that day is that people in the top jobs are morally obligated to maintain a laserlike focus on the people they serve. Although communications technology fifty years ago was not what it is today, and although the huge drop in temperature from the mid-twenties to -16 degrees took everyone by surprise, Rozelle still should have been on top of weather conditions (December 31 in Wisconsin, after all😄) and been ready to call the game off if necessary.

On the other hand, my second takeaway from this article is how AMAZING these players were, not to mention the referees and coaching staffs and all the fans (those 50,861 hardy souls!) who filled the stadium that day. We need stories like this, the stuff of legend really, to illustrate the extremely stern stuff of which humans are made and the astonishing, incredible greatness of which we’re capable when faced with an insurmountable challenge.

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Reflecting on the Importance of Imperfection

It’s hard to believe now, but it must have rained last week. That’s when I snapped this photograph of/in a puddle on the sidewalk in front of MSOE’s Campus Center.

This recurring puddle has been a remarkably fertile source of photos for me, including this one of the Plaza East office building as raindrops were just starting to fall again . . .

. . . and this one of the Grohmann Museum, a favorite that wound up in the alumni art exhibition celebrating my undergraduate school’s fiftieth anniversary.

Where will I turn to for inspiration once the city someday repaves and improves this sidewalk’s drainage?

P.S. ~ Thank you to my friend and fellow blogger Karen Spivey for her poem/post today that got me thinking about how negatives may actually be positive forces in our lives 🙂

Posted in Life, Milwaukee, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Snowdusted Leaf


Taken this afternoon as a light, powdery snow fell across Milwaukee.

Posted in Milwaukee, Nature, Photography | 4 Comments

Yes, every minute matters!

Made a Starbucks run during a two-hour break in between meetings and dinner with a job candidate last Thursday. Stopped on the way back to take the first photo when I noticed the striking shadows cast against the lower level of MSOE’s Campus Center across the street.

Photo taken at 3:45 p.m.

Then, practically as soon as I’d put my gloves back on and picked up my coffee again, I noticed that those shadows had already changed. So down once more went coffee to the sidewalk; off again came the gloves. Snapped the second photo, put myself back together, and started walking up the hill to the Grohmann Museum (where my office is).

Photo taken at 3:46 p.m.

Once again noted a shift in the shadows, this time far more noticeable, before taking just a few additional steps. Gone were the interesting shadows I’d seen just a couple of minutes earlier. Notice, too, how the area between the windows is now completely shadowed and the shadow of the sign on the left has disappeared.

Photo taken at 3:48 p.m.

On the other hand, you can now start to make out the shadow of a harp light. Even as the interesting shadows that first caught my eye exited the scene, a new one had made its entrance. If only I’d been alert enough to notice, I could have waited one more minute and taken another photo once it sharpened and became more defined.

Then again, though, once that shadow began to fade, another would probably have begun materializing, and I might never have gotten back to my office 🙂

Posted in Life, Milwaukee, Photography | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments