Constructive Creativity

Thursday, June 23, 2005

An Unexpected Guest

A few weeks ago, I was returning from some shopping when I noticed a rather curious brown and yellow lump in the road. I pulled in, parked my car, and walked toward it to take a closer look. As I approached, I could clearly see that it was a baby duck. It didn't seem to be moving and I thought it might have been hit by a passing car. In that instant, I felt sad and a bit angry that another person could be so careless. However, as I knelt down to take a closer look, I saw that the baby was breathing. It was lying on its back with its little feet pointed skyward. I reached down with my hand and stroked it gently along its side. At my touch, the baby opened its eyes and started flailing its legs in the air. I guess that it was startled and scared. I looked around, but there was no sign of its mother anywhere. It was definitely abandoned. I felt really sorry for the baby duck and I really wanted to help it if I could. I thought for a moment and then decided to try and set the duckling on its feet. I carefully turned it over while it squirmed and made excited baby duck sounds. Once on its feet, it attempted to walk, but it immediately fell over and ended up on its back once again. This was definitely not a good sign! I tried again to put it on its feet, but again it fell over. It seemed to me that the duckling was not injured so I wasn't sure what was wrong. It was pretty warm outside and rather hot on the asphalt, so I decided to take the baby and get it out of the sun. I picked it up and found a small box to put it in. Then I set it in the shade.

I went straight to my computer and did a search on the care of ducklings. I found a short article and read it. It said to keep the baby duck warm and give it water to drink. Also, it said that the baby duck could be fed something called "duck starter". Well, I had no idea what duck starter was. I assumed that it was something that duck farmers could buy. I thought that the first priority should be to try and get the baby duck to drink some water. It also occurred to me that the baby might have gotten overheated laying in the road. I decided that I would try putting the duckling in a shallow pan of warm water. This would cool it a bit if it was too hot and allow it to drink. When I placed the squirming duckling in the water, to my consternation, it failed to float in a properly upright position and rolled over. I reached in and gently righted the ducking, making sure to keep its head above water. I didn't know if it drank any water, although it certainly had the opportunity when it was upside down! So, I sprinkled a little water on its head and bill. It seemed to swallow a bit which I was glad to see. I took the soaking wet duckling out of the water and held it in my hands. It was shivering. Well, obviously now the duck was too cold. I put it back in the small box and went looking for a larger box. I found one and then cut a few bunches of tall grass that had gone to seed and used these to line the bottom of the box. I placed the duckling on the grass and it proceeded to fall over on its back once again. I put the large box in the sun to try and warm the duckling back up again. It lay quietly on the grass with its eyes closed.

I left the duckling in the sun for about 15 minutes and then I went back to check it. I lifted it in my hands and it was still soaking wet and shivering. I became worried that my little duckling bath was probably not a good idea and I decided that I needed to do something quickly to warm it up and dry its downy feathers. I put it back in the box and took it inside. I got out my hair dryer, set it on low, and blew warm air towards the duckling from about three feet away. The duckling seemed to like the warm air and it relaxed and closed its eyes. After about ten minutes, the duckling was mostly dry and fluffy. I placed a small bowl of water in the box and put the box under a table lamp so the duck would get some radiant heat from the bulb. I wanted to try to get the duckling to drink some more, as I suspected that dehydration could be the cause of its inability to stand up properly. I put the bowl in front of it, but it didn't try to drink. So, I scooped the duckling into my hand and placed its bill in the water bowl. I was very happy to see that it took a sip, lifted its head, and swallowed. I put the duck back down on the grass and left it to continue warming under the lamp. Over the next several hours, I helped it drink a little water about every half hour and it gradually seemed to be doing better. It was starting to waddle around the box. and it kicked lots of grass into its water bowl. At least it was energetic! Finally, it started to burrow under the grass and sort of hide in the corner of the box. This was kind of cute. I would talk to it some and it would answer with little peeps from under the grass. :)

By evening, I was thinking that I needed to get the duckling something to eat. So, I went to a huge pet warehouse store called PetsMart. I figured that if any store would have some duck food, they would. I got there and walked all around the store. There was a section for feeding various birds, but nothing was labeled as duck food. So, I walked around some more. At this point, I was looking for an employee. I walked past the small animal section, past the dog and cat section, and found to my great surprise that there was a very extensive horse department. Now this store is located in a very suburban section of Indianapolis, not way out in the middle of farm country. So, this was really quite astonishing! The department even had its own dedicated employee, who happened to be on duty. So, I walked up to her and asked her if the store had any food that a baby duck could eat. She said, not surprisingly, that she really didn't know, but she kindly invited me to follow her as she went looking for a particular person who would know. She found him, I told him the situation, and he said that the store didn't carry anything that a baby duck could eat. He told me that if I did start feeding it that it would become quite tame, but that it would be dependant on people for the rest of its life. I said that I didn't particularly want a pet duck. What I really wanted was to help the duckling to survive. He suggested that I take the duckling to a wildlife rehabilitation specialist. I said that I would be willing to do that and asked if he could give me the phone number of one. We went back to his office and he spent a few minutes sifting through a large number of papers and cards. This guy wasn't exactly well organized! Finally, he wrote down the number of an animal shelter and said that they could put me in touch with a rehabilitator.

When I got home, I decided to try and give the duckling a bit of food. I chopped up an assortment of mixed fruit and vegetables: carrots, lettuce, apple, and spinach. I offered it to the baby, but it didn't seem interested. So, I just left the small plate in the box. Over the next few hours, I helped the duckling drink a few more times. I don't know if it ate anything, but there was plenty of grass kicked up onto the food. The duckling was still burying itself under the grass. I would walk up, look in the box, and say, "Baby duck? Where are you?", and the baby would answer with cute little peeps. :) Well, finally, I was tired and I went to sleep. I left the lamp on to keep the duckling warm over night.

In the morning, I went to check on the duckling. I called to it and it peeped back from under the grass. I got it out and held it in my hands. It seemed well and did not fall over as I held it. I petted it and put it back in the box. I looked at the food plate and I didn't think any of it had been eaten. Walked in yes, but not eaten! I called the number the pet store man had given me, but I discovered that it had been disconnected! This was quite irritating! I got out the phone book and found the number for the City Animal Control Department. I called them and explained the situation. The woman I talked to said that they could send an animal control officer out the next day to pick up the duckling. I was rather surprised to hear that a city employee would arrive in a city vehicle at my door to pick up one tiny duckling! However, I told her that I was worried that the duckling might not make it if I waited. I thought it really needed to eat something. I asked if I could bring the duckling to them. She said that I could, but then hesitated and asked me where I lived. I told her and she said that there was an animal shelter for birds and exotic animals that was actually closer to me. She went on to say that was the place where they would take the duckling anyway. So, I asked for the number of the shelter and I called them. The woman who answer the phone said that they had already received quite a few ducklings and that I could bring the duckling on over. She also mentioned that a wildlife rehabilitator was scheduled to come by that afternoon and that she would take the duckling and care for it. Well, I was quite pleased! I ate a quick breakfast and then I took a few pictures of my little feathered friend (please see below :) ). Then I drove to the animal shelter. I handed the duckling over in the grass filled box to the woman I had spoken with on the phone. She picked it up and looked at it while it wiggled and peeped in her hand. She thought it looked pretty healthy and strong. I was glad to hear her say that! I asked her if I could call and check up on how the duckling was doing. She said that the rehabilitator had already been given about 200 baby ducks and that it would be pretty hard to tell one from another. After a brief moment of incredulity at the number of abandoned ducklings that had already been brought to the shelter, I said that I could certainly understand! She then joked that maybe we could paint a colored dot on the duckling. I smiled and said not to worry about it. I thanked her and left feeling good and that I had done my best to give the duckling a chance to survive.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Do You Ebay?

First, I would like to apologize to my guests for my rather lengthy absence. As many of you know, I have not disappeared altogether. I have managed to drop in here and there to say hello and sometimes a bit more. :) I would like to explain where I have been spending much of my free time of late. You see, I have acquired a new hobby of sorts. Actually, it has become somewhat of an addictive habit! I have discovered the world of Ebay auctions and I have been rather busy attempting to buy various items of interest and utility.

This all started about two months ago. Some of you will recall the post that I devoted to the passing of famed science fiction author Andre Norton. Well, I was exploring her official web site one day and I discovered that Andre and her caregiver Sue Stewart had started a small business of making and selling bead necklace jewelry. Apparently, in the last year of Andre's life, she wasn't able to write any more and she was rather depressed about that. Sue, who is an accomplished craftsperson, suggested that Andre might like to try doing some craft work as an outlet for her creativity. Andre agreed and got very involved in the project. She enjoyed shopping for interesting beads, as well as designing and making the necklaces. After reading about Andre and Sue's Ebay store, I was intrigued and decided to check it out. I thought that it would really be neat if I could buy something that had been hand made by one of my favorite authors. (Just to be clear, I had no intention of actually wearing one of the necklaces! :) ) Unfortunately, by the time I arrived at the Ebay store, all of the necklaces that had been personally handmade by Andre had already been sold. However, I noticed that there were a few small items of Andre's personal jewelry available for sale. One of these items, the cat pin pictured below, caught my eye. I really liked it! I knew that cats were very special to Andre and that they figured prominently in some of her books. Somehow, it seemed to me that the cat in this pin had a certain character, perhaps an air of superior intelligence and an attitude to match! I wondered if Andre had selected this pin because she saw something similar when she looked at it.

From Sue Stewart's description: "This item is from Andre's personal collection of jewelry, it belonged to her and was worn by her. The cat pin is made of copper. The eyes and nose are opals and the stones adorning the body are marcasite. It is about 3/4 inches wide and 2 inches tall. Andre was a lover of all animals, especially cats."

So, I had decided to bid on the cat pin, but first I needed to set up an Ebay account as well as a means to fund my purchases. I did a little reading on how to set up an account and then proceeded to do so. It was really quite easy, as Ebay is really user friendly! To fund my purchases, I decided to use Ebay's PayPal service and I signed up for an account. Basically, I gave them my credit card number on a secure web page and chose a user name and password for my account. When I make a purchase, PayPal does an electronic transfer to the seller and charges my credit card. The seller never sees my credit card number. Also, there is no charge for this service to the buyer. However, the seller pays a small fee to PayPal for the transaction.

Well, back to my story. I ended up placing several bids for the cat pin. It was between me and another bidder who seemed to really want the item. In fact, he or she had previously bought a number of the necklaces made by Andre and some of her personal jewelry. This person was either a serious fan collector or some sort of Sci-Fi business owner. Well, I decided to stop fooling around and plotted a strategy. I knew that the auction would end at a specified time. So, I decided to enter my maximum bid a few seconds before the end of the auction and hope that it was more than Mr. or Ms. Collector Pants was willing to pay. A few minutes before the end of the auction, I started a stop watch to time my final bid. One minute before the end, I entered the bid. The next step was to confirm the bid. I waited until there was 20 seconds left and then pressed confirm. It takes about five seconds for this to go through. I waited tensely and then got a screen saying I was the high bidder and that there were about ten seconds left until the end of the auction (I know, my timing was a bit off :) ). I waited, nervously expecting the other bidder to jump in with a higher bid. After ten seconds, I checked and found to my delight that I had won the auction! I used Ebay's simple checkout procedure which took me to my PayPal account and I paid for the item along with the seller's shipping charge. I exchanged a couple of friendly emails with Sue Stewart regarding the item and, about a week later, it arrived in the mail. I keep the pin next to my computer and look at it occasionally while wondering if this pin might have inspired any of Andre Norton's stories...

In the past two months, I have bought a number of old structural engineering books, which are of great interest to me considering my engineering education and work experiences. Below is a picture of one of the books. This book, published by the Bethlehem Steel Company in 1934, lists all of the various structural steel sections, like I-Beams for example, that the company manufactured at that time, along with various information intended to aid an engineer in the design of a steel structure. Today, this sort of book is very useful to engineers who work to rehabilitate old buildings. I have done some of that sort of work in the past and found those projects to be some of the most interesting things that I did as an engineer.

This next picture is of a very large and heavy old bench vice that I bought. I have no idea how old it is, but it I suspect that it could easily date to when my grandparents were young! I constructed my own work bench a few years ago and I had been thinking for some time that every good work bench needs a good vice. Well, this vice is one of the largest and heaviest that I have ever seen and, despite its age, it is still in very good working condition. It really is true that there was a time when things were just made right! Actually, I did a bit of research on the internet and found a few newly manufactured vises that are just as big as this old one. However, they cost about four times what I paid and probably wont last half as long! So, I am quite satisfied with the deal that I found.

So far, I have been quite pleased with my Ebay experiences. It is easy to tell if the sellers are reputable. Ebay provides a system whereby buyers and sellers can leave feedback on any given transaction. All this feedback is accessible to any Ebay user, buyer or seller. Thus, a buyer can see what previous buyers thought of a particular seller, and a seller can see what previous sellers thought about a particular buyer. It is really an excellent way to do business and I can certainly highly recommend it! It is very interesting to see that Ebay has grown into a worldwide business. I have seen items offered for sale in Canada, England, France, Germany, and Australia. I am sure that a number of other countries are involved, as well. Many sellers say that they will ship their items anywhere in the world. I have no doubt that Ebay is going to continue to grow into a true worldwide market place. I think that I may have to invest in Ebay, and the sooner the better! :)