Witt’s End

It's Not About Stories People Tell, It's About …

We’ve set the clocks back to Real Time, the obnoxious music is playing in the stores, and most of my Halloween candy has been consumed. That can only mean one thing: Winter. Not that I object all that much to the cold weather, it’s all the inconveniences that come along with the package.

Yesterday I was staring out the window, watching squirrels prepare for winter; how they hide nuts, yet manage to find enough to survive the winter when the snow falls. It says much about self-preservation and long-term survival. (And by the way, even when a writer is staring out the window he’s still working.)

It got me to thinking and searching my mental database for how comparable things in nature might be reflected in the business world. In business it’s all about teamwork and cooperation for survival. That’s survival of the company, of course, at the expense of the individual.

I thought of a group of European Starlings I watched recently. A Cooper’s Hawk approached the loosely flying flock. Immediately the flock of hundreds of birds took on the appearance of a distant thunder cloud. No bird wanted to be on the outside of the cluster. It was every bird for itself. Someone on the outside was going to be Mr. Cooper’s lunch.

So much for security in numbers, teamwork and all that group survival stuff. The question becomes, which, or what matters most? Maybe the squirrels have it right–we’re all in this alone.


Remember last winter? So, where’s the peanuts stashed?


It was a dark and stormy night … (I really enjoy using that line, except, it was not that dark and only a slight drizzle.) We were headed to a concert with friend Bill and he made the comment on how much he enjoys the fall colors, even when the sun is not shining. I held back because I think, when the sun is not shining, northeast Ohio looks kinda dull.

This morning, while consuming some good coffee and attempting to read a rain-soaked newspaper, I glanced out at the continuing drizzle and noticed the sun was making a feeble attempt to brighten our day.

Ah, a win-win, I thought. Unless this is yet another attempt by Mother Nature to thrash us with holiday decorations when we haven’t fully digested all of our Halloween candy.

It’s that time of the year, again, when the leaves fall and the birders’ hopes soar. It’s good news and bad news. First, the bad news: It looks like the conifer seed crop in Canada is not so good this year. The good news: Consequently, many of the northern finch species should be flocking to the northeast of the U.S. searching for food. We can always hope for some of those rarities to come to our feeders, however, most will find the supply of natural food more to their liking in places like the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

According to Ron Pittaway, a guru of the first order, and a member of the Ontario Field Ornithologists, this is an irruption (flight) year for winter finches in the East. Cone and birch seed crops are poor to low in most of Ontario and the Northeast, with a few exceptions such as Newfoundland which has an excellent spruce crop. It will be a quiet winter in the North Woods. Expect flights of winter finches into southern Ontario, southern Quebec, Maritime Provinces, New York and New England States, with some finches going farther south into the United States. Stock your bird feeders because many birds will have a difficult time finding natural foods this winter.

We’ve some early evidence of this invasion. One of our favorites, the diminutive Red-breasted Nuthatch has shown up this week. In fact, we counted three birds today at and around our feeder array. Fingers crossed for Pine Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings.

RBNU.3 10.30.18

(This blog was originally posted in December 2012)

It was one of those evenings, two nights ago. Half my brain said, “No way can you get that shot.” Another half of my brain said, “Tough, but doable.” And the third half of my brain said, “Better to live life as a wolf than a shitty sheep dog.”

It was a classic three-day moon; the old moon in the new moon’s arms; earthshine helped define the nearby sphere.

When the Moon appears as a slender crescent, a chewed off fingernail, a dazzlingly bright, nearly full Earth can be seen, reflected on the surface of the moon. The Earth’s brightness, due to reflected sunlight, is strongly influenced by cloud cover and recent studies of Earthshineindicate that it is more pronounced during April and May. A description of Earthshine, in terms of sunlight reflected by Earth’s oceans, in turn illuminating the Moon’s dark surface, was written more than 500 years ago by Leonardo da Vinci.

It’s called ashen glow, Earthshine, even Da Vinci Glow. It’s possible at this time of the lunation cycle when the moon is at the same relative distance from the sun, but waning.

Pretty, but so what. Well, scientists observe this reflection to measure the so called ‘albedo’ of the Earth, to determine the global cloud cover. This is so because oceans reflect less light than continents, approximately 10 percent, while land masses reflect from 10 to 25 percent, and clouds up to 50 percent. These calculations are helpful to determine differences in cloud covers throughout long periods of time, used principally in measuring the effects of climate change. The overall results obtained are still somewhat unclear, but nevertheless important to learn more secrets about this place we call home.

Jumpin’ Jupiter, Geminid Meteors, luny Moons. On clear nights in northeast Ohio, the astronomy hobby is looking up. Even the coyotes are happy. Just listen: Hooooooowooooo.

Moon 11.20.2017

(This blog was originally posted 8 September 2006)

Some days are not meant for working. Today is one such.

6:28 AM. Dark. Head north to the bus stop. Challenges of the office tax my brain.

6:30 AM. Moon-roof open. Dylan crooning on the CD player. Zip across the architecturally spectacular bridge that spans the Cuyahoga River. Helps us commuters sail through the air along Route 82. Cleveland, if not in my sights, is in my mind.

6:31 AM. There hangs the moon—just hours past its full stage. Closing in on apogee in a couple of weeks. Only 238,855 miles away today. I could reach out and touch her. We measure her orbit against the stars. Humans try to do the same with themselves. Our future is in the stars.

6:32 AM. Now is when I need to run out of gas. Maybe a flat tire. Please Ra! Grant me this one wish and I’ll never again … Luck is not with me. More unanswered prayers.

6:33 AM. The river, somewhere down there 145 feet below, looks like it’s smokin’. I’m a wishin’ and a hopin’. If this is not the top of the world, I can, at least, see the top of the world from here.

6:33.5 AM. Luna’s golden buttery color belies her minus-387-degree- and maximum-253-degree temperatures.

6:34 AM. Who decided it was a “man” in the moon, then gave it a feminine name? Sorry Luna, white guys rule—or at least they used to—which is how we got to where we are.

6:34.5 AM. Summer’s over. You want the world to just let you be. Let the fog wrap you in its coolness. Cool sheets. Whispered good-byes.

6:35 AM. A flock of geese honking. Heading south. No! It’s the line of cars behind me. Forming the letter I, not the letter V. Follow.

6:35.5 AM. Some day I’ll learn to read lips in the rearview mirror. For today, however, I’m going to work on my internal compass; contemplate an attitude adjustment and figure a way to break Luna’s gravitational pull to achieve an escape velocity of 5,324 miles per hour.

6:36 AM. Or, maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.