Saturday, December 30, 2006

one down one to go

Made it through Christmas, actually quite easy on account that the mate's medication schedule is such a great excuse for showing up, dropping off gifts, ripping open gifts, eating turkey and driving home all within four hours. Now the 31st is up, which is at least more fun.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

are you ready?

We bought the last gift last night, tomorrow we wrap, Monday we drive down to see the various parents, Tuesday we drive back up. This is actually far better planned than previous years when we were still shopping on the eve... my god, does this mean we're mature? Heaven (and nature) forbid.

Some Jehovahs came by the house today, and not thinking at all, I said, "Hey, Merry Christmas! Enjoy the holiday!" Oh well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

don't trust rich brats

There's this kid I've known since he was 14. I helped him get started in falconry when his parents weren't being real helpful. They were wealthy and tried to get me to pick up and drop him off like I was a nanny. I'd drop him at his home but I made his parents bring him over. When the family moved to another state I talked to some falconry contacts and got him set up over there.

Fast forward six or seven years. Kid is now an adult and a licensed falconer. He catches snakes for fun and has promised about five times to send me a rattlesnake head in gratitude for my help. After a very lengthy apprenticeship he's finally turned general. He's gonna trap a tiercel Harris because that's what I flew and he had some great times with that bird, so he asks me to make a tiercel hood for him. I usually charge $60 for this but for him I knock ten bucks off. As luck of the draw goes, he traps a female, so he can't use the hood.

Also, kid is going to get married. He's just barely 21 but apparently he's really in love, they've been living together a couple years. I get an invitation for the wedding and I immediately a) fire off a couple gifts off their registry and b) buy a plane ticket.

Two weeks before the wedding, crisis. She breaks up with him -- wedding cancelled. Kid is in emotional hell but he promises to pay back part of my nonrefundable ticket and return the gifts. Several weeks after this he's promised about 4 times to pay me for the hood as well. His life is upside down from the breakup and he tells me he's going to do this and that, something different each time. He loses the check he'd written to me, he finds it, and yet somehow it never actually has made it into the mail.

At this point, my generosity of friendship is over. It's not the money per se, but the promises that get made over and over and never actually happen, and it had been going on long before the wedding fell apart, so that isn't really an excuse. It bothers me to lose a friend, but it's just gone too far this time.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

two weeks no cigs

And doing surprisingly well, too. I've talked with friends who were smoking in front of me, and not been tempted. I've talked with my mom and a cigarette didn't even occur to me. I'm feeling good, incredibly good about myself.

A few days ago, I got extremely close to caving because of some phone calls over my friend who died. Dealing with sad people is tense! The nic fit lasted a couple hours and the mate was instrumental in keeping me away. "Wait until after dinner." "Have some coffee first." :)

The interesting thing about that night was my internal negotiation. I sensed I was somehow pumping up the tension and thinking that only a cigarette would resolve it. The more I pumped the tension the more certain I was that the cigarette was the answer.

At that point I would have had no nicotine in my system, no chemical basis for the urge. It was a habit or dependency urge, something mental.

But getting past that one has blown me the other way and now my confidence that I've really and truly quit for good this time has strengthened. What didn't kill me made me stronger, so to speak. I've dealt with one of the most tension-causing events around, the death of a good friend, and I've done it without a cigarette. Most other things pale in comparison.

A very mysterious side effect is that I'm much more willing to leave food on the plate than before. I do enjoy my food, and my taste buds were usually able to override my stomach, but not anymore, it seems. It's like my stomach's "full" button actually works now. While I have put on some weight due to nonsmoking, if this keeps up I should be able to lose it pretty easily.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

warming hearts for the season

Holiday Snowglobe is not for the faint of heart, or the complex of mind. This is a virtual snowglobe populated by little people going about their winter pleasures. If you shake it up, they go flying around screaming, bouncing against the glass, until you let go of it.

But there's more to it than that. Right-click on the globe and select Zoom in, and watch it undisturbed for a while. The man with the shovel will smack the snowboarder; the bird will shit on the shovel man's head, and the snowman being built by the girl will eventually grab her, swallow her and explode.

It's strangely addictive...

junk mail heuristics

Here's one of these lovely "do anything to get them to open the envelope" adverts. Of course it has to have "Important Material Enclosed" in large bold letters (a near-guarantee of recycle-bin fodder these days.) Geico goes a step further -- they print dirty marks on the envelope to make it appear as though there's a credit card inside that scuffed the envelope on the outside. This is lithographed dirt: look close and you can see the dots. And they enclose a card-like object for recipients who need that real-credit-card feel to be convinced to open. The card, naturally, does not resemble the printed dirt very closely.

I want to know why anyone would go with a company (worse yet, an insurance company) that goes to such great lengths to LIE to you?

The gecko can take his Quick Quote card, tri-fold it and stick it up his ass.

The heuristics for junk mail, I think, runs something like this:
- Sender is not clearly identified on the envelope: 40%
- "Important" or "time sensitive" or similar urgent phrasing: 60%
- "Special delivery" phrasing when it came by USPS regular delivery: 100%
- "Personal," "private," or such phrasing indicating exclusivity: 20%
- Brightly colored envelope - 30%

Friday, December 08, 2006

death of a friend

My falconry sponsor was just found dead. I don't have any details yet. Today his son called me in a panic because they hadn't talked for several days. It wasn't terribly unusual for G to go somewhere without telling anyone, but it was usually going with other falconers. The son had asked the police to do a welfare check but they didn't seem to think it was time to actually break down the door. And he really wanted them to.

I phoned another falconer friend, which apparently kick-started a network of phone calls. One of these friends did get the police to break down the door. Another pair of friends will be going out there tomorrow to pick up the dog and any animals still alive.

I feel kinda bad about it because I hadn't emailed him in weeks. I kept meaning to drop him a note, and never got around to it. To me he was both a father and a brother with none of the attendant conflicts. But he was also boring, with old-man complaints about his health and his bleak outlook on its lack of improvement. It seemed like he could talk about nothing else. About 6 weeks ago I was out in his direction and asked him to join me hawking. I was surprised he refused, but he wasn't feeling well. And what can you say to that?

When does verbal bleakness become depression or a sign of real illness? You can say, Hey G, you should go see a doctor (which I did.) But if he doesn't go, I trust his judgement. I don't have the right to drive to his house, kidnap him and take him in. That's a little too invasive, too personal.

insignificant notes

Despite the above, it's still possible to laugh, especially when playing Pimp My Nutcracker, whose name alone sparks the quirky eyeroll of mock dread. And despite the above, and the fact that the mate and I have spent the entire week going through transplant evaluation tests (well, she's gone through the tests, I've been bored to stultification waiting), I still haven't smoked a single cigarette. More about that later.

Monday, December 04, 2006

vietnamese shrimp cake

After Googling without success for a recipe, I put a plea out on what seemed to be the only Vietnamese discussion board I could find and got a reply a few days later. Then I had to ask for the reply in English :D but I got the basic recipe.

Here's what I did and it turned out great.
1 lb shrimp - processed half into paste and the other half into a coarse chop
2 cloves garlic, minced
half a can water chestnuts, coarse chop
3 green onion sprigs sliced fine
1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp sesame oil

Combine all ingredients, spread a half-inch layer on bean curd sheets, wrap the sheet around the top and fry or deep-fry about 6 minutes or so, just long enough to cook the shrimp.

I have no previous experience with beancurd sheets and learned I shouldn't soak them overnight... next time I'll try the flat kind, the scrunchy kind just doesn't work.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

becoming a non smoker

It seems to be happening. Following the ALA method, I quit on December 1st (so it would be really easy to tell how long) and have not failed yet. I've had cravings but they go away if I distract myself. The hardest so far has been the phone call with my mom, which is usually irritating this time of year.

Three days isn't a whole lot, but it's better than not being able to make it a single day without a cigarette.

Last time I tried, the boyfriend of a co-worker said, "Oh, you'll start again, everyone does." I probably should have punched the fucker in the mouth right then, because with that banal-evil statement, he deflated the confidence that had kept me off cigarettes for 3 months. I won't let that kind of thing shake me again.

Here goes. I'm proud of myself so far. I hope in a week I'll still be proud.

Friday, December 01, 2006


I'm a sucker for chestnuts at Christmas. Blame it on Bing Crosby, or perhaps on the northern Chinese guys who sell them on the street this time of year. But almost every year, I buy a bag of chestnuts, slice their skins, stick them in the oven, and here are the results:
Of a 2 pound bag of chestnuts,
  • half will have meat that is 1/3 black :P

  • two will burn your fingers

  • all but six will be hard to shell

  • there will be exactly one that shells perfectly, is just the right color, is sweet and not dry. The memory of this one chestnut will fix itself in your brain for next year's suckerage

silly thing by the numbers

This thing's been going around the blogs on my other home, Nordinho... just nonsense for fun

1. First Best Friend: Mike, grade 2
2. First Pet: 4 goldfish and 2 red-eared turtles
3. First Piercing: left and last ear
4. First high school crush: English exchange student who EVERYONE had a crush on
5. First CD: Ella Fitzgerald Songbooks
6. First Car: 1968 Cutlass Supreme
7. First Love: never
8. First Stuffed Animal: Pooh
9. First Concert: David Bowie, Let's Dance
10. First Time Drunk: freshman year @ university, can you imagine?!

1. Last Beverage: coffee
2. Last Vehicle Ride: grocery store
3. Last Movie Seen: Donnie Darko
4. Last Phone Call: business
5. Last CD Played: Jean Luc Ponty, No Absolute Time
6. Last Bubble Bath: I'm waiting for the first one
7. Last Time You Cried: last year
8. Last Kiss: 2 hours ago
9. Last Concert attended: Ponty, ages ago

1. Have you ever dated one of your best friends? Yes my g/f
2. Have you ever been arrested: No
3. Have you ever skinny dipped: Yeah, and it was about this big
4. Have you ever been on TV: no
5. Have you ever kissed someone and regretted it: yup
6. Have you ever had a sex dream about someone you know: like Dazed said.
7. Have you ever been sent to the emergency room: sent, no.
8. Have you ever been in a fist fight: yeah

1. Nikes
2. Socks
3. Jeans
4. Whities
5. Shirt
6. Ring
7. A frown

1. business phone calls
2. Drew a picture
3. Drank coffee
4. Realized that NaNoWriMo is over
5. Gave a dollar to a beggar
6. Bought an enormous box of chocolates for my g/f

1. Sleeping late
2. Having a perfect hawking day
3. Doing some particularly studly programming
4. Seeing justice triumph
5. Sex

1. my g/f
2. no
3. one
4. else

1. Eat or Drink: eat
2. Blonde or Brunette: who cares
3. Pink or Black: black

1. Publish my novel
2. Find the angel

1. One??!!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

shrimp and bean curd sheet thing

When you order a grilled meat dish in a Vietnamese restaurant, often you'll get a slice of this shrimp pie thing on the side. It's ground and chopped shrimp, has some bits of something white (water chestnuts, maybe?), in between layers of bean curd sheet. The whole thing is fried and I am having a major hankering for some.

Anyone got a recipe for that?

Edit: I caved and bought some... but I still want to learn how to make it

Friday, November 24, 2006

toshiba tech support - thumbs up

I've said bad things about foreign tech support in the past, but I have just had a very good experience from Toshiba. I had two issues and at least one of them has been resolved (the other needs some testing, being one of those "sometimes" problems, but it hasn't shown itself in the last 4 hours of computing).

The lady at the other end was odd to listen to in the way that indicated she was reading the database for answers. And she had only a little ability to adjust to the fact that I know what a tab is, and that as soon as she mentions something, I'm there. But those were very minor. The call was answered in less than five minutes, which is always sunshine. She had this studied, extreme politeness of speech: "Will you please be so kind as to..." and apologizing when asking me to do things. It was a little aggravating to listen to, and would have been more so had I been in a hurry, but politeness is always a pleasant surprise, and today was a holiday.

My first issue was that single-clicking (or tapping) on a button/scrollbar/anywhere but the title bar would cause the window to maximize or restore, as if I'd double-clicked the title bar. This would happen several times in an hour, sometimes getting "stuck" in this mode so that if I didn't actually move the pointer elsewhere, it would toggle all day between maximized and restored size. Apparently there's a new device setting called tap zones. You can assign corners of the touchpad to specific actions. The default has it on, and has actions assigned to every corner. We turned all those off, and we'll see if that fixes it.

Half an issue is that my mouse button, which was ultra-stiff when I bought the thing, is now mushy and doesn't give a tactile click anymore. It still functions though, and Toshiba doesn't consider this a problem.

Second issue has to do with Media Center Edition (MCE). When I stick a new CDRW in the drive it would want to format it. This formatting would take 20-25 minutes. I'm used to the old style where you drop files into the window and then tell it to write the lot. The new style allows you to read and write directly like a floppy disk -- but you need to format it first. We went into the CD drive Properties:Recording and changed it to a CD drive, and that fixed it. The annoying part of this is that once you switch over, MCE will keep hassling you about the fact you can't write a DVD. Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure? YES I am fucking sure! Shut up already!

I'd been thinking of bringing the laptop back to Best Buy, but was dreading it because the shopping season has just started, and BB wants a $200 deposit even though it's warranty work. So I'm feeling pretty good right now with all my problems solved in a quick and non-aggravating phone call.

I just had a new error while backing up and later restoring some of my files. One of the CDRWs had a bad spot or something that caused a CRC error. This caused Explorer to start crawling and not respond. If this happens, do not try to close Explorer or eject the disc. Windows will hang so badly that the taskbar disappears and you have to reboot by yanking both power and the battery. If you wait long enough (about 5 minutes) control will eventually be restored to Explorer.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

the hawk god watches

Interesting thing on Sunday. We're out hawking (the mate came along too yes!!) and had a couple good chases, but no catches yet. Out of the blue comes a young woman who told us she'd seen an injured hawk flopping around on the edge of I-5. She'd been heading toward the City but saw this bird, and simply had to turn around for it.

We're talking about 5 miles to the next place to turn south, 5 miles back, and another 4 miles to the next place to turn north again, so we're talking some dedication here.

And as she's taking her northward turn, she just so happens to spot a person walking around a field with a hawk on the glove. Yrs truly. So she trots out into the field and asks us what she should do.

We hashed around a bit. Honestly I wanted to catch something first and consider the hawking finished, but my better sense, a.k.a. better half, took over. The girl had a special thing for hawks, the mate said, so I should respect that. I packed up the hawk with a couple quail legs as compensation, and we followed the girl's car.

We pulled off just past the bird. I knew it was dead, but we all came over and had a look. A clean-looking tiercel redtail, and still even a tiny bit warm. A real shame to be cut down like that. I babbled some nonsense about him having had a good life. He did have good-looking feet, reminded me a lot of my first tiercel RT. I picked him up and gave him to the girl, who took him off the road and laid him in some brush. We had a few moments of silence.

The mate gave her one of P's feathers, which luckily happened to be tucked into my car visor. It seemed to give her a little sunshine in this sad moment. Then we all smiled at each other and she drove onward into the dark.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

giving again

It's the charitable time of year again. For us webhounds, donation is so much easier when charities have a site and a method of online payment. It took less than 10 minutes to take care of my two favorite agencies, Grameen Foundation and Samaritan House.

Grameen specializes in micro-loans to individuals in third world countries. Samaritan House is a local that provides various types of assistance and medical care to people in San Mateo county.

I like charities that don't waste a lot of money telling me what a great job they do while simultaneously asking for more. Grameen sends stuff maybe four times a year; Samaritan House twice. Years ago when I had less money to spare for charity I gave a small amount to Doctors Without Borders, Sierra Club, and CARE. In response they deluged my mailbox with beg-letters twice a month, and sold my name to other charities.

Before a year was out CARE's mailed brochures had pretty much used up what I had given, and over the next 3 years I got stuff from about 25 charities I'd never heard of. I wrote to CARE asking them for an envelope once a year because that's how often I was going to give. They ignored this and began phoning in addition to mailing. I asked them to take me off their phone list and mailing list. It took almost a year before the phone calls stopped. They use every trick in the book, from post-it notes that appear handwritten but aren't, to "personal" notes from the president of CARE. It's all bullshit, and I don't tolerate bullshit.

The only thing that really gets you removed from their list is not donating. I still get the occasional thing from CARE but I am not about get myself subjected to the deluge again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

window switch nixed

Back on the carhawking cause. I bought a window control for the CRV, hoping I could hardwire it in. Unfortunately, the electrical connectors hang off the switch to the right in the same plane, rather than off the back, so even though the switch set itself is only 2.5" wide, the connectors add another 1.5". Way too big to hold in the hand comfortably and still have fingers left over to grip the steering wheel. Thirty bucks, and it's off to the trash. Heck, maybe I should just resell it on Ebay.

Next option: remote control. There are alarm systems that will roll your windows up and down in addition to arming your car. My mechanic brought me to a stereo installer, who researched a bit and called me back with a system and a price.

Seven hundred fifty bucks! Ouch!

I was expecting a couple hundred, maybe $400 tops. Alarm systems are not expensive, and I've seen a remote window module for $35 that hooks into an alarm system. I realize there may be a little tweaking involved because I don't want it to work in the normal way of rolling up your windows and alarming the car. I want to roll the windows up and down and have it unrelated to the alarm. That shouldn't be that difficult, though. But it certainly shouldn't cost that much.

Back to shopping...

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Went up to the City to buy hawk food yesterday and came home with something I haven't had in a coon's age. Americans call it a Chinese tamale, and it's called a ‘joong' (with a short double o like book), probably 'jung' or something like that in Pinyin.

It's a lump of sticky rice containing a layer of mung beans, some pieces of Chinese sweet sausage, a little roasted pork (sometimes more fat than pork depending on who you get it from) and a preserved egg yolk (which I usually flick out). All is wrapped in a layer of ti leaves, tied with string and boiled to death. We got them from Eastern Bakery on Grant St, which makes the best joong, with non-fatty pork and sausage that's juicy and not too sweet. They're big, bland, starchy and will stick to your ribs all day.

When I was a kid my parents would occasionally take a day trip up to the City and visit Eastern Bakery, Li John the butcher's, and a fresh noodle factory that was in one of those ubiquitous alleys. It was a long drive for a kid. As we passed the lake at the Monterey/Seaside border mom would unfailingly whip out her rosary and start praying. I grew up wondering if there was something specially holy about that lake, that she'd always do it there. Gilroy was a long straight stretch, except for the bit through Coyote: a left then right up what was called Blood Alley. One time we passed a semi-truck toppled from taking the turn too quickly, and a passenger car under it -- my kid's eyes naturally zoomed in on the blood inside the driver's window.

Miles on -- San Jose apparently never registered -- we'd be on a bouncy road, bouncy enough to make the riding fun. This was San Mateo, I would learn as an adult. The mental mark of "are we there yet" is passing the overflow inlet in Brisbane; in my imagination the road skims inches over a shining flat sea, like a path to an ancient castle. Finally, we would take the "Last SF Exit" and crawl onto Jackson Street.

Dad would park in the Portsmouth Square Garage, we'd cut through a gift store and into a sudden jam of jabbering shoppers, many of them wafting the menthol of Salonpas arthritis patches. I'd squeeze between throngs and past stinky Chinese herb stores to check out the boxes of toys and trinkets in front of the gift stores. I usually got one or two little things, as well as a guaranteed box of Botan rice candy (toy inside!) We'd come home loaded with pastries, joong, sausages, char-siu, Virginia ham, noodles, all kinds of Chinese veggies, and dim sum -- things that simply didn't exist where we lived. Many of them still don't.

We went places other than Chinatown, too. Where was not always clear, but they impressed themselves on my memory, waiting to be rediscovered. Some 30 years later I wandered into Justin Herman Plaza in pursuit of fledging peregrines, and was flabbergasted to find the strange blocky fountain I'd played on, where I'd almost fallen in. My dad said it was called "The Dog's Square Intestine," and I believed him. Where that name came from I have not the faintest, but he must have had a sense of humor back then.

Things change. Chinatown expanded another street up, the stringy old men spit a little more discreetly, and the pedestrians actually obey walk signals. Li John's is gone, Blood Alley is bypassed, Salonpas has gone unscented. But the stinky herb stores are still there (in fact, I think they've mated and multiplied), and fortunately, Eastern Bakery.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Layman's genius

I've said it before, I'll say it again: jump-ups really do work. Since my actual hunting has slowed down, I've been giving P 100-150 jumps every other day. The exercise translates into a beautiful crisp snap to the wings, and lengthier and more interesting chases. Catching game is a breeze and his attitude is so much better -- less sulking accipiter, more "let's go" Harris. Hawking like this is nothing but fun.

The exercise I believe really does have an effect on the psychology, not just the muscles. Even though it's just up to the glove, the repeated effort which may not (or may) result in a food reward seems to tell the hawk to keep trying. Ending the session with a larger chunk of meat tells the hawk this is the result. And I don't know how, but it translates into the field seamlessly.

folks as foolish as Bush

exist, however. This arrived today, a Nigerian 419 from England on actual paper. Some idiot paid 50P to mail this beauty. No letterhead, clearly mail-merged (my name and address in 18-point bold, jpegged signature that doesn't remotely resemble the name). It reads exactly like every other 419 (i.e. barely literate). "A dead foreigner Late Mr. P A Whatever who died in 1999" has me rolling on the floor for the poor guy who's died three times in a single breath. Anyone who goes for this deserves a Darwin award.

That phone number is +44 785 828 0496 and the fax is +44 871 264 8062.

Being a good citizen, I tried to give a heads-up to Woodland Financial Planning in Ireland to let them know their company name was being taken advantage of, and now I'm wondering why I bothered. The email address on the site bounces, and their Enquiries page lacks a Submit button. That's right, you can fill in your information but you cannot send it anywhere. ARG or just laughably bad programming? My bets are on the latter.

BTW, I did not make up the post time below. :)

no winners

Yesterday the Reverend Byron Williams wrote a column titled "How would war in Iraq look if it was going well?" While I often enjoy his columns, this one left me a bit befuddled. He delves into the details of the number of troop casualties, waterboarding torture, and lengthy prisoner detention, and translates that into its effect on American disapproval of the war. Had it gone well, he fears we could have become ideologically and politically complacent, that we would accept these things as normal and even good. Williams has a point, but this skates dangerously close to saying that the war's failure is a good thing.

Certainly those are the current realities, but Williams needs to take into account the years we spent treading water. We set up a Kafka-esque bureaucracy that made actual rebuilding impossible. We put a bunch of uncut children in charge of handing out grants and, apparently drawing from their own scant experience, they made the money impossible to get. However, the politics of the kids was properly right-wing; all were hired because they'd applied for jobs at the Hoover Institution. Choosing not to buy concrete from the former regime's factory because it was government-owned and thus ideologically incorrect was disastrous: there were no privately-owned concrete factories, so no concrete. We didn't give our troops enough of {name your military resource}. Because we didn't have enough troop to begin with, we shifted them out of places just when progress was starting to be made. After all this time Baghdad still doesn't have electricity 24 hours a day.

In short, if the war in Iraq was going well, we would either be long gone already, or withdrawing now. The casualty count, the torture, and possibly the detention would have been reduced. The insurgency certainly would have kept their heads down if we'd restored order sooner. We came in, broke their cities, and didn't fix them; we have not given them any practical improvements over the regime. In theory, they are free, as Bush likes to tout. In practice, they hide behind a cracked wall worrying about the next bullet.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

ED [election day ;) ] results

"Chaos, panic and disorder: my work here is done."

Those could have been Rumsfeld's parting words. Should have. The departure's far later than it should have been, but at least the guy's gone.

As if to maintain the nation's balance of stupidity, California has approved all of Propositions 1A through 1E, a broad swatch of bond measures totaling 37.2 billion dollars. This is just what we need in a state already debt-ridden from the government level to the personal level. I guess people just willfully blind themselves to all those zeroes when they take out loans based on equity they barely have, or hand over the credit card for a marvelous piece of technology they don't need. A million, a billion, what's the difference? In fact, I suspect Californians are proud of their debt. We get more money to spend than anyone else, and leave it to some future generation to pay it off.

The other approved measures paint a picture of a fearful people: 83 (GPS monitoring of sex offenders and prohibition of residency near schools/parks, maybe half a billion) and 84 (water quality and safety, another 10.5 billion). What surprised me was the cigarette tax and alternative energy research measures both went down. The energy measure was not as well written as it should have been, but research needs funding nonetheless, and research by definition may not have results.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

ehh shunny

Over dinner we were talking about the eye doctors I'd consulted in the past couple weeks, and I started reading a flyer the retinal specialist had given me. It was all about which foods contain nutrients helpful to eyes: eggs in particular, and any brightly colored or dark green veggie. Most all of which I like already, so very good.

Then it struck me: I'm reading a health newsletter. Reading the stuff and nodding sagely. God Christ riding a rocket, my mother does this, and when she reads me the most irrelevant nonsense from it, I have a propensity to drop the phone, usually into the wastebasket. Goddamn, every single one of those 41 birthdays flashed before my eyes, I felt my sagely beard crawling over my knobby knees, and I started to morph into one of the 3 wise guys, in particular the hydrocephalic head who holds a peach in one hand and a staff in the other. I think that one's supposed to be longevity.

Very rarely do I feel my age, but I notice a reluctance to search for things under the couch or lift furniture. These things have simply gone off the radar. Lose a screw under the couch? Well, there's still three, so it'll be all right.

Yes, we do turn into our parents. At the very least we get as old as they once were. Hopefully we discard all the annoying bits and keep all the good ones, and try not to forget what being a kid is like.

Friday, November 03, 2006

fastrak doesn't cause speeding, sheesh

This article showed up in our paper the other day.

Fastrak's primary function is automated toll-taking across any of our seven or so bridges. You set up an account, load it with your credit card, and they send you a nifty box, a transponder, which you stick to your dash or front glass. When you go through a toll gate, something in the gate says hello to your transponder and deducts your account. If your account falls below $20 it will automatically charge your card an amount based on your average use for the month. In exchange you never have to hunt the floor for $3 to pony up, and you go through gates specially devoted to Fastrak users, which even in rush hour rarely have more than 2 cars backed up. You still slow down to about 10-15mph, but at least you're not coming to a dead stop.

As it turns out, the transponders are being read for the light boards that display travel times to various destinations. You can see the readers as you drive along the freeway. Presumably if you pass two readers, they pick up your transponder's ID, calculate the time between them, and add yours to the average. It's designed specifically to not actually identify you as a driver, so if you get caught speeding it's because you didn't see the black-and-white, not because Fastrak fingered you.

I think it's a great system. The first time I saw something like this was in 1998 in Paris, and I wondered why the hell Silicon Valley, technology center of the universe, hadn't done it. You can look at the board and see how late or how early you're going to be, so you can make appropriate phone calls (using your hands-free phone, mind you.) This is also tied into 511, the number you dial to get road conditions. That one's also voice activated, so you just tell it what freeway you want to know about, and it'll play information relating to that: accidents and min/max speed. Like I said, a great system.

But the article poses the question, Do the light boards make people speed? I really don't think so. I don't think people look at that time and say to themselves, I wanna beat the machine. This is an average time, for heaven's sake, and if traffic is bogged, you're not going to be speeding that good anyway. And how much satisfaction can a person derive from getting to Palo Alto one minute sooner than the board said? If people are that dumb, then by the time they get to Palo Alto they've probably forgotten what the board said anyway.

What I think is more dangerous are those pads on surface streets that control the stop lights. They change the light from green to red if nothing hits it for a certain amount of time. Some of these pads have very short switch times, so people trying to get through a light will be right on the tail of the car in front. This is IMHO much more likely to cause an accident than someone speeding, because there is a clear and immediate benefit to getting through that light. Admittedly, a high-speed accident is more dangerous, but a fender bender isn't much fun either.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

house on hold

An update to the house: my neighbor has come through and has generously offered to provide water to my property. I'm incredibly grateful, I have no idea how to pay the guy back. We have to get a pipe up there and install a reservoir tank, and a fire sprinkler pressure system. Since the pipe is going across the street, the street needs to be dug up to lay it, and permits are needed to dig up the street. It seems like things are going incredibly slowly. One firm gave a verbal estimate, but has not yet provided a written one as requested. Have to call them yet again. I'm working on getting an estimate from another firm, too, and that means another drive down south. It should cost somewhere between $13 and $15K, which is still far cheaper than digging our own well ($25-45K, no certainty that clear water will be found, way more maintenance.)

This, of course, benefits my neighbor as much as me. Achieving full independence from one neighbor means full dependence on another. We'll be laying at least a 4" pipe, which will be sufficient for ag use as well as domestic, though we're working on serving only domestic for now with only 1 tank. To do ag we'd need maybe 2 or 3, but I'll leave that cost up to the tenant farmer.

Once we have the water, then we can get started installing the house. Getting a house estimate done first was putting the cart before the horse, but then again, I wasn't expecting to run into water supply problems. The house estimate was funny in that sickening kind of way. We went through all the details of dressing the house (cabinet faces, floor coverings, countertops, door styles, roof years, joists), all of which have specified costs. When the estimate arrived I cross-checked every item, and found over $4000 unaccounted for. The modular home industry is well known for overflowing with thieves. So was it the manufacturer (Fuqua Homes) or the reseller?

Turned out to be the reseller. They "accidentally" added a page with the $4K which mysteriously never got attached to the estimate they sent me. Unfortunately, they have the area sewn down. There's another reseller 30 miles up the road, but their contract with the manufacturer restricts them to building in mobile home parks. But I let them know that I wasn't afraid to walk away from the deal. Never mess with a Chinese Jewish computer guy with a calculator. :)

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Yeah, we think about it all the time. Thinking about sex is the water between the rocks, the mortar between the bricks that pass for higher thinking in a guy's head. When a guy encounters an unfamiliar object, the first thought is, would I have sex with this? The answer more often than not is ‘yes,' even when the object is not organic. Guys are particularly fond of paper, especially the kind with pictures of women on it.

Guys are not picky. They do not prefer blondes. There are things all women, whether young, old, fat, thin, smart, or dumb, possess. Guys don't have these things. And they want them attached to their own bodies. But not in the grafting kind of way.

Sex is the default thought when other thoughts are not getting in the way. Consider the man a car. The RPMs at idling speed is the sexual thought level. If the engine is running (i.e. the man is not dead) there is RPM. When you press on the gas, the engine revs and you start doing something else, e.g. ignoring repeated requests to stop and ask for directions. However, the RPMs are still spinning at least at the idling level. Actual cogitation is just a layer on top of it.

Chart of male sexual thought activity. Note that the percent of preoccupation rarely falls below 30.
(Click for visible version.)

When guys are not getting sex they get tetchy. Feminists consider 'tetchy' to be an abbreviation for ‘testosterone poisoning,' but men prefer to refer to it as excess dander (around women).
Group date situation:
Girl 1: Where's Guy 3?
Guy 1: Oh, he said he was gonna be a little late
Girl 1: What's he doing?
Guy 1: {taking an opportunity} He's got a little dander, that's all.
Girls 1, 2 & 3: Dandruff? EWW!
Guy 2: Uh, yeah. {sidling up to Guy 1} Score.
Guy 1: Well, he's not getting any, he can wait a little longer

Short men and guys with small dicks tend to get tetchy sooner because there's less space for hormonal distribution. But whether small or large, guys suffering from excess dander will find a sexual metaphor in anything that meets their senses. Examples beyond the obvious include open windows, any large machine particularly those with arms, whining animals, bar graphs, coffee mugs, the vibrating stick shift, and tossing rocks in ponds. If allowed too much time to ponder these objects, guys will want them attached to their own bodies. But not in the grafting kind of way.

with a doff of the hat to Dave Barry

Friday, October 27, 2006

moving forward

The mate's doing better. Between Tobramyacin, Timentin, Cipro, saline, Mucomyst, albuterol, Advair, Spiriva, a little eucalyptus oil, breathing exercises 4 hours/day, and a half-hour percussion therapy, the fever has stayed between normal and 99.3 most of the time, and the white blood cell count has dropped from 28 to 13 thousand (normal range is 6-11 thousand). Energy is far more often up than down. The last 2 weeks have been very good comparatively speaking; she's done domestic stuff a few times, doesn't get out of breath walking around. Damn, if this keeps up, I might actually get some sometime soon. :D

Process-wise, we're in the waiting room: financing needs to be approved, and the involved sections of Stanford need to be organized to meet with us and continue doing tests. This includes not just the surgical team but the social worker and the shrink. They're putting all that time and effort into a transplant, they want to make sure that you're not gonna just layabout and piss it away. Then if we pass the tests, we get on the transplant list. And wait some more.

Appendix: what all this shit (and others) does
Tobramyacin, Timentin, Cipro, azithromycin: antibiotics taken via IV, inhaled, or orally
albuterol, Advair, Spiriva: opens breathing passages
saline: breathed in as vapor, it draws water to hardened mucus to soften
Mucomyst: breaks up sticky mucus
DNAse, aka Pulmozyme: breaks up dead DNA, which is sticky
eucalyptus oil: ingested; a folk remedy to make life just a bit more difficult for bacteria
breathing exercises and percussion therapy: shakes up the lungs to physically dislodge gunk
sodium nitrate: more commonly used as a preservative, it's fringy medicine that we couldn't determine any clear effect and have stopped using. Some CF bacteriae are gram-negative, which means they create a waxy coating to protect themselves. Sodium nitrate allegedly breaks down the coating, making them vulnerable to antibiotics.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

bush, obama

In 1980 we elected Reagan. In 2000, we got the monkey.

It always amazes me how Bush has never learned to disguise his frustration with penetrating questions. This happens at every press conference: a hectoring, angry tone creeps in, and peaks at a nasalness bordering on a whine.

Listening to Bush's press conference Wednesday morning, it's clear he believes that creating a fresh set of cliches will bring up his rock-bottom rating. The "new" direction he's taking is just a different wrapper on the same actions. After being mocked so badly for the "cut and run" broken record, he's fortunately finally succumbed to creating a timetable for withdrawal. He claims that this is a different action from the timetable for withdrawal the Democrats have been demanding for years, but is incapable of explaining the difference. But we will still have to remain in position until the Iraqis "step forward." So far the US has supplied the Iraqis equipment but hasn't trained them how to use or maintain it. This is not military equipment, but infrastructure: power generators, communications equipment, etc. How are they going to be able to run a country when none of them knows how to get the lights on again?

I can't wait for 2008.

Barack Obama has finally suggested he might run for the presidency. After watching him on Charlie Rose the other night, I would be happy to vote for him. He's articulate, thoughtful, and speaks intelligently. He has clear ideas about the role of politics and has a meta-view of it. He's the first person I've seen who doesn't seem to use ‘politics' as a dirty word. It would be damn nice to have someone who assumes the American people are capable of thinking in more than cliches.

Funny how Bush's role as cheerleader back in Yale hasn't really changed much. "Fight! Fight! Fight! We won't cut and run! Go team go! Stay the course! Rah!" This is how one directs mob energy. He'd be surprised to learn the US is not a mob of beer-soaked males in war paint.

I really can't wait for 2008.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

glass half full

The optometrist referred me to an ophthamologist, who found no sign of detachment. However, she found a thin spot on my retina. This concerned her more than the floater, so she referred me to a retinal specialist. (Finally, the ridiculous amount of money I give to my HMO every month might actually be spent. One month's worth that is.) He fortunately concluded that the thin spot is not a problem. But, oh, yeah, this was originally all about the floater. He looked at my eye again and said if I wanted to do a vitrectomy it would be routine and not likely to get complicated, but he approved that I was willing to wait a bit and see what becomes of it.

I'll give it a few months. The floater's getting bigger, but it also seems to be spreading out: the gaps between the clouds have widened. It's possible that it may break apart and fall to the bottom of my eye where it won't bother me anymore. In the meantime I've been trying to focus on what I can see, rather than the cloud itself.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

microfiction: glass

It started as an accident, or a series of accidents. Every time she went away, he had to wash the dishes, and every time he would accidentally break a glass. When she was around, he never broke them. Buying a replacement, even the expensive crystal, was never a problem, but the breaking itself was irritating, curious, and a little bit funny. The first few times, at least. It became a pattern: even taking extra care, he'd still lose one. Something would distract him: a bird flying past the kitchen window, the backup beep of a truck, something, and a glass would slip or tip. Just one glass, almost always after she'd been gone a couple weeks. Then everything would be normal and stay intact, and then she'd come home a few days later. Within a few months she'd have to go away again, and he'd break another one. Their tumblers were heavy, but often as not a seemingly light tap against a pot or the sink bottom would crack it, as if all the stresses they'd endured over the past months were finally enough.

When they first started living together, they had occasional fights like any other couple. Inside, she was often raging; she fought like an assassin, unexpectedly and from an angle he could never anticipate. One day he came home from work to find her dropping the paperweight on the floor. He'd bought it for her on a business trip years ago, a shining broad thing, voluptuous bubbles inside and a delicate web of cobalt strands randomly flung around the equator. It was one of the first gifts he'd given her, and she treasured it for its beauty and the love with which he'd given it. She'd kept dropping it until some of the strands snapped. She was angry at him for casually flirting with someone, even though at the time she'd said she didn't mind. After they'd made up, she was sorry for breaking the paperweight, but kept it. It became an object of regret.

But after those first few rocky years they grew into each other, teaching and learning. They became certain there was no better lover, no better love than theirs. Their friends envied the way they supported each other, never shouted at or insulted the other.

One day he had to take her to the hospital. She hadn't been well the past few days, and ended up staying for for three weeks. During that time he knocked over a glass next to the sink. The first one. The first of a long series.

I break a glass for every day she's gone.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Friday, October 20, 2006

north korean sanctions

The luxury-goods sanctions have some strong possibilities. While they won't stop him from getting drugs and weapons out, it'll at least make it harder to get Kim's favorite yummies in. Imagine some poor slob schlepping through the airport with a diplomatic bag of melting ice and restive lobsters ... the bag tips and a few grams from the half-kilo of meth spills (it was supposed to be going out, but the courier "mislaid" one) ... thus fortified, the lobsters snap the rubber bands on their claws, slash their way to freedom and tear through the airport, leaving behind them screaming children and a vacationing Maine fisherman with a mangled left ankle ... the lobsters present themselves at the American embassy, claiming to have been kidnapped to serve the regime ... the lobsters begin filling out the political asylum forms but get stymied at the part where they must declare they are not addicted to dangerous drugs ... but by then the meth high is wearing off ... the ambassador makes a phone call to his wife, then helps them complete the forms ... and thus these new American citizens are transported to the ambassador's residence, where they are promptly thrown into a pot of boiling water... the Korean courier loses his job and has to go back to drinking grain tea with his tree bark...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

not a proper blog entry

About 1 month ago I noticed I have trouble seeing details on the left side of my face. It looks foggy. Viewed through my left eye, words on the page look partially erased with sandpaper. Last weekend driving back from Napa I cannot see cars in the left mirror too well. There's a grey cloud there, opaque in place, maybe about 35%.

The pair of small floaters I've had in my left eye for a year or so have suddenly merged together and grown large. It's right in the middle, though there's a small space dead center that's clear. Right now, if I look at the opposite wall about 10 feet away, the cloud goes from the floor to the ceiling. I made a map of it a week ago, and it's bigger than that now.

I've had a headache for the past 3 days. Part of that was due to drinking a little too much beer yesterday, but the headache started before that. I wake up darkearly no matter what time I go to sleep. I don't like that.

The optometrist wants me to see an ophthamologist (sp?) and possibly a retinal specialist. He's worried I may be having a retinal detachment. The hypochondriac in me is worried the whole thing is detaching.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

ends and re-beginnings

Yesterday Karl said the anti-inflammatory (a steroid) was making Ishii so jumpy, so I took him off that and he did seem more mellow last night. Still, I found out that falcons hiss when they're feeling defensive. I've only heard them do the begging call (an awful yark, like a seagull). Ishii looked pretty vigorous and alert, and I had Karl come by. He was pretty pleased and took the bird home. I learned a little about falcons and have a new reason why I don't want one: it'd eat me out of house and home.

The visiting nurse that came yesterday was a dipwad. He was delayed once, rescheduled, and arrived hours later than that with no phone call and no apology. The antibiotics have to go on a schedule to lower the risk of the mate's bacteria turning resistant. We ended up hooking up the bag ourselves. This generally isn't difficult since we've done it many times before, but little details change and you have to figure out the new bits.

When the guy arrived, he proceeded to what we later decided were scare tactics designed to keep him employed. We weren't to change the dressing ourselves, he had to do it, and he changed it even though it was only 3 days old (Just billable hours. PICC dressings are normally changed once a week, and I've done it 4 or 5 times. It's easy.) He dissed the hospital nurses, claiming they did things we have never seen them do, like leaving the connector hanging uncapped, and they did a lot of things wrong. The way he wiped the connector was right. Alcohol doesn't sterilize, the prep pads just "push the dirt around." He was very big into keeping things sterile, yet he didn't wash his hands with the antiseptic scrub. Instead he used the gel, the active ingredient of which is alcohol. And he obviously didn't think our schedule was important. In short, he was one of those people who thinks his way is the only right way. And somewhere in our conversation, the issue of patient compliance came up. We got the impression that if we didn't do things his way, that the insurance would stop paying for a visiting nurse.

This kind of talk works on the old, and the mushy sort of patient who doesn't get involved in his or her own care. We are neither of these types. The mate called today and made her complaint to VNA, and they'll be giving us a different person.

Monday, October 09, 2006

coming home

Yep, the mate is coming home Tuesday morning. I'm counting the hours. :)

our charge, day 2

The little guy is a trip. He's 50 grams lighter than P, and looks about 2/3 the Harris's size, but eats about 2-3 times as much. He's a little furnace. I have no idea where all that pigeon (one of the richer foods you can feed a raptor) goes. Donations of pigeon are welcomed at St Marcus's.

They seem stupider than Harrises, but I'm thinking on the scale of human intelligence: the ability to interpret what the human is up to, and respond accordingly. Falcons seem more mechanistic, and their skills are in the command-and-control area. Ishii recognizes me certainly, but gives no impression of like or dislike.

He's being a little hellraiser this evening. He's bobbing his head everywhere, bating around to get onto a higher perch (the futon), rousing, and doing that crisp buzzing falcon tail-waggle. Quite a change from the greenish lump that plunked down onto the perch last night and just wanted to go to sleep. Hasn't taken a bath yet, but if I put him out in the sun tomorrow, perhaps he will. Then I'll really know he's a normal falcon.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Welcome to Saint Marcus's Refuge for Recovering Falcons. Here, brothers, is our newest arrival. His name is Ishii and while he was perched outside two days ago, he was attacked by a wild red-tailed hawk. The redtail had him by the head when his falconers rushed out to rescue him. Presently he's on an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory, and is generally dull-witted for the moment. However, as you can see, he's able to tuck into a quail leg, so chances of a full recovery are quite high. Brothers, come vespers we shall add his health to the prayers we say for all our charges.

I would have called it "Recovering Raptors" but thought SMRRF a bit more euphonious. And silly. Ishii's one of the vineyard birds, and Karl's so busy right now he can't take care of him, so he asked and I said yes. Ishii should be okay in about two weeks at the outside.

wifi nearby

muahahahaha... I'm a bandwidth thief. My new laptop has a better-powered antenna than the Linksys dongle I had for the old one, and it actually is picking up a distant someone with an 11 megabit connection. But thieves do have a code of honor, such as it is. I plan to hitchhike this goose only for the long journeys, in other words any downloads more than 7MB, like those ridiculous Windows Updates. That takes 20 minutes at 56K and maybe 3 minutes on the faster connection.

I don't know if the goose is tech-savvy enough to know he's got a rider. The fact that the network's unsecured makes me think so.

Before I found this, I was playing a point-and-click flash game called Onamis 2. It was completely painful at 56K, but the speed was not so much a problem as piss-poor programming. Every single scene seemed to be a separate chunk of Flash, and a big one each and every time. Let's say you're looking at a wall with two devices, and click on the one on the left. Fresh load of about 1MB or 4 minutes. The picture changes to viewing the device at an angle -- you've turned. Click on the device again, and again wait 4 minutes so you have the honest-to-god close-up of the device. Which you desperately hope is a puzzle so you can actually do some interaction.

It isn't. It's just a picture showing you that one machine of three are on.

Back out of the scene, and shift over to the device on the right. Two more scenes, 2 MB, eight minutes. It has a lever which you turn on. That's it.

See why that would make anyone click that little box with the X before they go bald? There were a grand total of three puzzles in this game that took me two hours to play due to load time. On the fast connection, I would have finished it less than 15 minutes. In short, there hardly any game there. In contrast, play some of the Submachine games by Mateusz Skutnik. Clean and tidy, you get the whole game in one load, and it has dozens of scenes and plenty of puzzles.

Bandwidth, like computer speed, tends to be something people take for granted. Once they have it, they don't think about how slow it runs for someone without. This (and also not trimming function libraries to exactly what you need) leads to major code bloat. An oldish version of Microsoft Word contains a pinball game. I'm sure the programmers found it clever, but to me it just increases the size of the program and the load time without any benefit.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

a pedestrian pleasure

Driving in the City is a schizophrenic combination of aggressiveness and gentleness. It's brisk, but drivers in SF are trained to stop on a dime for a pedestrian. In California pedestrians have the right of way in any marked crosswalk and the corner-to-corner intersection of any two streets (walking at right angles, not diagonals). Pedestrians are assertive here. You don't mess with one.

I'm walking out of the hospital this afternoon, a little depressed over the mate's fever, which is still flying up and down the scale like Beverly Sills. Across the street is the parking garage where my car is, and a 3-way stop. There's a baby-shit-green Honda at the stop, moving forward. I cross the street, in the crosswalk of course. We're on collision vectors, but he should stop, even in the intersection, because this is San Francisco.

He doesn't. He doesn't even acknowledge I'm there.

But he slows down just as he's passing 3 inches in front of me. That's opportunity.

I slam a good kick, hard as possible, to the rear-seat door. Pity I was wearing runners and not my boots. If I had more presence of mind I would have whipped out my keys to give him a more permanent reminder of how to treat pedestrians.

Monday, October 02, 2006

onto the holy cause

I would crow-hawk, but the designer of the CRV put the driver's window switch on the dash near my left knee. If that sounds facile, visualize. With a hawk on my left hand, I cannot steer and put the window down at the same time. If I steer with my left knee, I can't reach the switch. Believe me, it's a game of Twister with potentially fatal results. And I'm pretty coordinated, capable of smoking and talking on the cell phone while driving, and have more than once hooded a hawk perched on the back seat.

So, in the cause of crow-hawking, I'm putting in a window switch on a cord, so I can control it with my right hand and steer. It'll take some practice but I think I can learn to do it. Now I gotta find a CRV master switch...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

hawk giveaway

I'd been feeling a little bummed out about falconry because I'm not doing it often or well. Silly as it is, I like my hawks to express their like of me, and P doesn't do that. His ingrained habits (defense posture around his perch every morning, never calmly coming in and out of cars but always in a half-bate, random grumpiness, refusal to hood) are disconcerting and makes me not want to deal with him. S showed his love by trust: being willing to try anything I might offer. Like an old lover, I compare all hawks to him.

The mate used to love to come out hawking; we learned together and she knows everything I know about it. But the health situation complicates and awkwardizes, and these days it's all she can do to come with me and sit in the car while I hawk. Which makes me not want to go fly.

If a lung transplant is going to happen, I need to be very available. We're talking time off from work kind of available.

So I've been wanting to give P away and take a season off. Over the winter or spring the mate will have the transplant, and the lack of bird dander in the house can only be good. In the spring, start with a new eyas that I can shape, that is really my bird, not a transfer.

But days like today make falconry all fresh and new. P was 628 grams, a titch higher than I like, but he was hungry. I saw him sharpen up 10 miles before we got to our field: as we came into the flat land he's so familiar with, he was looking hard all around. It was 2:30 in the afternoon, but foggy, so the crows were still walking the lawns, which got a lot of attention. This was much earlier than we usually go, so his sharpness was remarkable, all over his posture. When we got into the field, he flew in ahead of me for once, and stopped on a fence post to case the joint. When I was ahead of him, he came to the glove. Three minutes into the field, a bunny got up and P was burning after it. And had it: the first flush was the first catch.

I slipped him off onto a quail leg, and tried to stuff the bunny in my pocket, but dropped it. P lunged, but was still holding tight to the glove and leg, so a little confusion resulted. When we got straightened up and the snack swallowed, he flew over to the bush where the bunny had gone. But he only looked for a few seconds before coming to the glove. Just perfect, perfect behavior.

We trotted along, got a few more flushes. One was impossible, just a butt disappearing under a bush, a couple others good and clear, but he got dusted. His flying was sharp, energetic, determined, a pleasure to see. Then we spotted one sneaking. P watched it a moment and it began moving away, but it was hampered slightly by the grass. That's opportunity, in the hawk book. A quick snap of the wings and he went straight for the target, and got it.

I gave him the other quail chunk and one front leg off the bunny, and kept aside the other front leg as reserve. Let him feed up there in the field, on the ground: they like that. Snapped his flying jesses to the glove, and when he was finished, showed him the other leg on the glove. Hop up, and back to the car. Like clockwork. This is the kind of hawking I like: you get to see the energy, the effort, and the hawk's satisfaction when he's rewarded. This is the way (my old lover) S used to behave all the time: full confidence and expertise with the bunnies.

If I can get him to be this way all the time, I won't feel so bad giving him away.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

doctors think they know everything

I don't mean the mate's doctor, just a lot of the rest of them.

Coffee is a morning essential and that brownish stuff provided by the cafeteria does not qualify. Good thing there's a Peet's downstairs in the lobby. Rushing for an elevator this morning, a wheel on the mate's IV rack got stuck in the door. The door was just barely held open by the wheel, which was jammed in the gap.

Some old fart doctor comes by, looks at the situation and immediately takes charge. "Those are really strong doors, you'll never be able to force them. Just wait a minute, I'll call security," he says, and strides off.

While waiting, the mate tugs on the rack, but still no go. Then she remembers that elevator doors are designed to avoid biting hands, and give the doors a push. Voila, doors are open, and she didn't even need coffee. But she gets it anyway.

A nurse later says that security around here takes ages. That old doctor's seen too many disaster movies where it takes five soot-smudged guys ten minutes to open an elevator.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

and enough of that

About once or twice a week when I wake up in the morning, I have to stop and look to see the mate's still breathing. It used to be scary. She doesn't know I do this. Of course, I can't even come near feeling how she feels. It's probably like narrowly missing a six-car pileup, only all the time.

Today the mate went to the hospital for a tune-up. This is usually a 2-week-or-so stay where they pump you full of antibiotics and do chest percussion therapy four times a day (I can only do once or twice a day.) I feel better when she's in the hospital because I'm no doctor and I know she'll be in good hands there. At 3 times a year for the past four years, it's pretty routine except for the fact that post-hospital recovery takes a little longer each time.

While she's there, I clean house so it's back in shape for her return, fly the bird, see a friend or two, write, stay up super-late playing mindless computer games. Every 2 or 3 days I visit and bring fresh clothes. When the mate went to Stanford I visited every day, but Pacific Med is in the City, and the traffic and parking suck. But then again, Pacific Med doesn't have a bevy of constantly changing fellows and interns, a mixed bag containing talentlessness, sensibleness, aggression, and earnestness.

We discussed transplant more and are pretty firmly decided to go for it. Like I said before, there's not much choice: live maybe one more year in poor condition with high maintenance, or take the risk of surgery and rejection, and get five or more low maintenance years. She'll land near the top of the gimme list, which means a 2 to 4 month wait, waiting for someone else to die too soon. Strange feeling, that.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

hell yeah it hurts

I just re-read the last post. If I sound bloodless, like I'm unaffected by the mate's guaranteed impending death, it's because we've been through all this already. The DNR's been witnessed and filed. Cremate, by mutual agreement (I didn't want the mate's body going to science because I know the low-rent med students have to pick the maggots out before they mess with a cadaver.) Ceremony, nothing formal; ashes to the Pacific Ocean. I have all the computer passwords and know where to find the ID cards. The business end of dying is something you do with your eyes closed and your hand outstretched. Sometimes you have to tell yourself that slow death's better than sudden, because you can plan. But you pay for the ability.

The reality is that I'm going to lose the second great love of my life within 5 to 10 years, possibly earlier, possibly right on the operating table. This is the other half of my heart, the smart one of the pair, the good-looking one. The mate is childish at times, sometimes disconcertingly so, but brilliant, a mind like no other I know, jumps from A to Z without a blink, remembers countries, political situations, religions, and can put them all together into a 3-sentence pronunciation of what's going to happen next. And turns out right about 70% of the time. The mate can't remember her parents' area code, but remembers philosophers and writers and what I said to someone (whom I don't even remember) ten years ago. The mate starts reading about the stock market and within 3 months turns it into profits, beating alpha regularly. The mate reads through medical data on a hundred websites and puts it together to understand what CF does at the cellular level, and why people are trying this treatment or that. Scary smart.

I'll never find someone who can awe me like that, and still want to have anything to do with me. A person so emotionally aware and talented at bringing out the best in others is rare. If there's karma on this earth, the whole world's going to be a little lessened.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

deadly serious

When I started this blog I vowed never to talk about health issues or anything deeply personal, but I'm going to do it now. After being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 2001, the mate has been in and out of the hospital and grappling with antibiotics failing against increasingly resistant bacteria. We're now at the point where there are no antibiotics left. Even the one that was supposed to work specifically against antibiotic-resistant bactera has failed.

CF is an ultimately fatal genetic flaw that deters the body's ability to process salt, and thus creates problems mostly in the lungs. Many organs have tiny hair-like items that normally wiggle and move things around, but this action is stunted in CF people. Salt is normally absorbed and retains moisture; with CF the lungs get sticky with mucus, which hardens and reduces airflow. This mucus combined with the reduced ability to push out contaminants makes a rich breeding ground for bacteria, and an ecology develops.

Thirty years ago, it was lucky for a CF patient to live to twenty. By now it's a well-researched disease; the average person diagnosed as a child is likely to make it into his or her forties. The mate's version of CF is a mild one, but was diagnosed late, and had twenty years of smoking-related lung damage to add zip to the party. Of the last 2 months since the last stint in the hospital, about 15 were difficult days, meaning fevers over 100, serious malaise, depression, difficulty eating, and/or getting breathless by walking downstairs. There were three excellent days. Twenty adequate ones, meaning we stop walking every 25 paces to rest, but we can still get out of the house and walk. The remainder were slightly bad, meaning mild fevers and light malaise.

So we're now looking at the possibility of a lung transplant, which is also a very serious event with its own problems and maintenance issues. The doctor likened it to jumping out of a plane: there's no turning back. The good thing is that replacement lungs do not acquire the attributes of CF lungs by being inside a CF person -- it's completely different DNA and stays that way. The cycle of bacteria and mucus, and potential reinfection from the sinuses, will simply not happen. There's a 50% chance of living five more years, and a 25% chance of ten.

The bad parts, after the risks of the operation itself, are a mess of immunosuppressants to prevent rejection. In the first year there's a chance of immediate rejection, which will likely immediately kill you, and after that there's a possibility of chronic rejection, which is also debilitating while the doctors figure out how to balance things out. The anti-rejection drugs have their own side effects, from kidney damage to acid reflux, and suppressing your immune system is not safe during flu season. And all this when you're already been physically weakened by the CF itself.

The mate and I have had long talks about death. She's two weeks away, we say: if the mate was to slack off maintenance for that long, death is certain. We know her a little too well. At this point, there is pretty much no choice but to go for the transplant.

Friday, September 22, 2006

missed the show

With my friend on it. It was on tonight, and I missed it. Here's the link to the segment at ETOnline.

What was cool was that they showed Karl, and they let him talk. He has a good, mild tenor, and IRL he sounds just as he did in the clip. He's happy because they kept his banter: "Has there ever been an accident?" "We don't like to talk about it."

The other interesting thing was that the birds looked so fast in the video. Possibly because I see them fly that fast all the time, they always look quite a bit slower in person. It may be the confines of the frame, and the fact that the bird is out of it so quickly. Live, your head tracks it, keeps it within view at all times.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I just saw this very coolest thing on tv, a music animation from It's an instrument that looks like six different stringed instruments fell into a vat and melted together, got yanked out and set in a beautiful room that looks like something out of Myst. Wooden robotic fingers press the strings against the frets and more fingers pluck the strings.

The completeness of the room and the light/shadows were so realistic, it took some good long stares before I could say for certain that it was an animation and not some creation designed by the love child of Rube Goldberg and John McLaughlin.
The piece is called "Resonant Chamber" and is on the Animusic 2 DVD.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

fame for a friend

A friend of mine may be on TV pretty soon. Sometime in the next couple weeks, Teri Hatcher will have a segment on Entertainment Tonight, wherein she travels to the ridiculously hot Napa Valley to taste wine. My friend Karl flies falcons at this winery (he works at several; he told me its name, but I forgot immediately) to keep crop-predating birds from eating the grapes.

According to him, flying falcons works better than nets, flash tape, and various other methods. I've spent about 5 or 6 days hanging out with him at Cakebread over the past few years, and I've seen how starling-distress calls, broadcast at tremendous volume, do absolutely nothing. The trouble is that flock birds get used to anything that isn't obviously out to kill them.

The falcons don't usually actually catch/kill the starlings. Just their presence, that predator shape that is implanted with a blaring warning label in every smaller bird's brain, is enough. All you have to do is lure-fly the bird for ten minutes every hour or two. Lure flying is playing keep-away with the falcon using a hand-sized leather item on a string, bird-shaped, which the falcon associates with food. You swing it around your head and, when the bird comes close, whip it out of the way just in time. If the bird tags it, she gets it, game over. It takes practice to not hit yourself with the lure, because unless you know the bird's flying pattern well, you're swinging that lure in all sorts of unexpected directions trying to keep it away from her.

So -- Teri Hatcher is at the winery and will probably be shown playing with an eagle owl and a few other of Karl's birds. Hard to say whether his mug will actually make it onto national television. He's a plump guy, but more photogenic and smaller than Hurley. And he's extremely good at lure-flying; he can play his falcon into moving into spectacular directions -- such as right over the audience's head, or right where the cameras will get their best shots.

For all I know, though, the editors could make it look like Teri Hatcher's lure-flying those birds.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Toshiba Part 3, and no more

What I love about the Satellite
- The volume dial. It's a dial, for one thing. The Pavilion had buttons that never could put the volume exactly where I wanted it. The dial's conveniently located in the front, and cannot be mistaken for anything else.
- The shiny screen. I wasn't sure I liked it at first because I kept seeing my reflection, but I've gotten used to it now. As with gloss photo paper, black looks blacker and things generally a little more crisp.
- It's fast. Even the analog modem at less than 56Kb, seems faster than the HP at 56K.
- The sound is damn good.

What I hate about it
- The mouse button is bouncy; it needs a heavy thumb when dragging/selecting or else it'll disengage. So heavy, I'm tempted to return it to see if another one is better, but moving crap from the Pavilion took so long, I'm reluctant. It seems to be getting better the more I use it, so maybe it (or I) just needs some breaking in. I can't remember if the Pavilion had the same problem.

What's pissing me off
- I can't find my WordPerfect 10 CD so I'm choking by with a borrowed 6.1.

What's really pissing me off
I copied my music files from the Pavilion, but every time I tried to play something in Windows Media Player it kept wanting to go crying off to the internet to "acquire a license." Stranger yet, it went to a Microsoft website,
Now, this is nothing but pure bullshit. Sony Music caught flack for trying to create a copy protection scheme, but none of these was from Sony. But more importantly, Microsoft has no business "licensing" music. I own original copies of all music on my computer, and copying the files over was faster and tidier than slinging CDs in and out all day. Furthermore, one of my CDs choked on a track last year, and my hard drive copy is now my only working copy.
After getting the "license" all my tracks seemed to play, regardless of publisher.
Why do I need Microsoft's permission to play music I own?!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

toshiba satellite part 2

Okay, found most of what I was looking for and a bunch of things I wasn't. Brightness and sleep mode you get to with function keys combined with the Fn key (a function-function? Reminds me of Conjunction Junction.) Anyway, the function keys have pale grey (read: hard to see) icons to indicate what they do. Embodying the spirit of global communication, quite a few mean nothing obvious. Here's my take.

F2: A lightbulb. Lets you control your smart-house's lights. Everything on, or everything off. Take your choice.
F3: A bug with an arrow pointing at one end. I'm sure it's supposed to be a chip, but I'd rather think of it as the key you should press should you get the mother of all bugs, the Blue Screen of Death. Of course, by then, it will do nothing for you. (And I conclude the arrow is pointed at the bug's asshole.) Frankly, I'd rather it dialed Bill's cell phone.
F5: Switch between a desktop computer (shaped suspiciously like an IBM XT) and an oblong. This is a laptop, for god's sake. I got it so I wouldn't have to use a desktop computer, so no, I don't bloody want to switch back. I like my oblong.
F8: The RKO radio tower. Call Godzilla. Now.
F10: A square containing 4 dots. Brings up a dice function to make your D&D playing more convenient.
F12: A square containing up and down arrows, more often used to indicate an elevator. At the size it is (3x3 mm), though, it might easily be the sign for a unisex toilet. If an elevator: it switches on the GPS function so that you can access the internet from inside the Sears Tower elevator. Maybe it raises the laptop's lid -- oh, wait, if you're pressing that key, it's already open. If a toilet: if you press this key, it will erase everything on your hard drive. And no mercy for male or female users.
Spacebar: A crosshair with an arrow. This will bring up a virtual target so you can shoot your computer.

I promise to RTFM tomorrow.

Friday, September 15, 2006

more new stuff

No, I didn't push my mother's wheelchair down the stairs and inherit a bunch of dough. For one thing, she could probably deck me with a wheelchair; for another, she doesn't have stairs. For 8 months I've been keeping my eyes open for a laptop and found what I consider a good price for what I'm getting. It's a Toshiba Satellite A105-S4094, and seems to outdo all other laptops in the same price range when it comes to memory (1.5M), disk (120GB), and ports (Firewire and more USBs than feet). It's got the duo Centrino, wireless, 10BaseT port, analog modem, and a DVD burner. $950 plus tax from Best Buy.

What I don't like about the Satellite: nearly nothing, so far. I've never cared deeply for cutting edge, so I'll complain about the simple things. The touchpad is much smaller than that of the HP Pavilion it's replacing, and the front edge drops down about mid-palm, leaving me no wrist support at all. Spending all day moving files has gotten me aching a little. The mouse buttons seem a little stiff, requiring a solid press to keep it engaged.

I cannot find the brightness control. The printer port is covered with a port-shaped piece of plastic, with no obvious way of removing it neatly. The labels on the ports are just small enough to be indistinguishable. I know, I ought to read the manual, and I'll get to it sooner or later. It'll take a little time to get used to the Del key placed by the spacebar, under the period, and a vertical orientation of Home/PgUp/PgDn/End.

But I'm glad to get to pass on the Pavilion. The thing I hated most was that it ran hot. Close to burning hot, not for use in 95-degree weather in your shorts. And it ran hot right in the analog modem area, which always seems to be the shoddiest part of a laptop. The built-in modem broke after 2 years, and the cheap-shit CompUSA PCMCIA modem I replaced it with occasionally overheats as well and goes cross-eyed. It was just bad design to put it right next to the vents. As I write this, the Satellite's been on 16 hours with a lot of disk activity what with re-installing and moving, and it feels about as warm as a human. Sweet.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

bunny at last

A bit late, but we've got our first bunny of the season. I was getting concerned, but I also know I'm flying P too high. The secret field is intensely thick with baby tumbleweeds and a bad infestation of star thistles (non-native, aggressive, damages cow stomachs, spears falconers' knees). We flushed at least 10 bunnies, but they appeared only for a moment before disappearing again under the tumbleweeds, with just a puff of dust to mark their trail. A few jacks scrambled away as well.

For all this, P chased pretty good, pretty serious, though there were several instances where he could have gotten it but didn't commit. He didn't want to seem to crash through the stuff, and he's never been all that crazy about runners.

Further back, though, things thinned and changed into a heavy rice-like grass that gave off a slight smell of toasted onion. I was glad to find bunnies in here, since there was so little chance of P getting one back there. But after another 10 flushes, the right opportunity came: a bunny flushed into the open, or relatively open. P nailed it nicely by the head. All this had taken a good hour and a half, so he got a good feed and we went home pleased.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

there is no god of television

I have never been much of a TV watcher, and neither has the mate. So it's hard to say exactly what motivated us to spend $1000 on a 32" LCD TV. Granted, I haven't bought a new TV in 20 years. The first one I got just so I could watch Twin Peaks - a 13" Zenith, and saved a few bucks on a floor model. The mate, who watches more TV these days, wanted an LCD TV because of the lower power consumption, and something that could double as a monitor.

Though we originally figured about $600-800, there were few around that had both a tuner (yes we are among the last 30 poor slobs in California don't have cable) and the computer hookup. The tuner runs about an extra $100-$200. We looked at all the models and picked a few that we felt had the best picture. In our budget were models in the 24" range, and Video Only had just one with both the tuner and the monitor capability. And the picture didn't look all that great. I found the 32" ones generally better to look at.

The salesman gave us a deal, as the parlance goes, on a Toshiba 32HL66 for $999, and we decided to take it. This was Friday of the holiday weekend and they were having a big sale. I forked over the credit card and was told to phone Monday.

I called Monday. No TV. Tuesday I dropped by on my way back from work and asked. No TV. They'd sold a ton of them and were flat out. In front of other customers, I made a fuss about having ordered it on Friday and how I should have been on a list to receive one. The sales manager apologized and offered to exchange to a Panasonic TC32LX600, a more expensive model. I told them I would check with the mate and come back to decide whether I would cancel the order, wait for the Toshiba, or take the Panasonic. At home, I whipped onto the internet and pulled up prices. The Panasonic cost about $100 more than the Toshiba, and $250-$400 higher than the exchange price (not counting prices offered by charlatan web merchants.) We took the Panasonic.

After setting it up (it's shockingly light, only 48 pounds), hooking it up to the DVD, VCR and antenna, and programming the channels, we couched and fiddled with the remote. It gets HDTV very nicely. In all, we have about 25 channels to choose from, about 21 more than we were getting on the ancient Zenith. It's huge, bright and very clear, great to watch. But despite all this, there's still nothing good on TV.

Friday, September 01, 2006

silicon valley soliloquy

I just came back from a drive through Sunnyvale and memory presses on me. This is not truth, this is a dream, a metaphor, an ornately carved box into which the essence of Silicon Valley will be laid.

The late eighties to late nineties was a weird time in Silicon Valley. It really could be defined as the cocaine era, or perhaps the second cocaine era of the twentieth century. Circumstances had a few parallels to the Roaring Twenties too: strong stock market growth and what bluestockings would call loose behavior. That cycle started in the decadent teens; engineers swapping wives and smoking a lot of dope started in the late seventies.

We graduated to coke because we needed that shit to stay up and write the most beautiful pieces of code, design the coolest boxes. It was the secret fuel that drove all this groundbreaking innovation. We came in to work at eight and stayed till midnight, slept at desks, played with toys supplied by the company, ate gourmet goodies stocked in the kitchen, drank at the St James Infirmary, screwed women in the tree-bordered parking lots of smaller companies, which didn't have security guards cycling through.

And as cokeheads often eventually implode, so went the Valley. Where the Infirmary was now stands a hotel that looks less than three years old, but has that lineless, boxy, cheap look. The companies began to expect employees to live at work because we loved our work. But shortly after that, we started to wake up and realize we'd get paid the same whether we put in forty hours or a hundred. Of course, working forty would put you on the shit list, the first wave to get the pink slips. But there was always another place around the corner that could use a good engineer.

And then India showed up, with their great, intense, jangling minds plunging into software. What the hell was Mumbai? It didn't matter, because the CFOs realized they could pay these guys a quarter of what they were paying us. Four of them working together made better code than a single American engineer stuffing his nose with blow and enjoying an intimate, exclusive relationship with his SparcStation.

The bottom line. The love of the dollar above all other things killed the Valley. The entire place became an investment. A big government contractor is gone, replaced by Lowe's Home Improvement. The strip malls have gotten bigger, as if they hadn't been enormous already. Families with kids populate the sidewalks, back to as it was in the fifties.

People who did things for the love of doing them got the ax. People who understood the entire job of creating a machine from the circuits to the user interface got compartmentalized into one thing or the other. The HP Way got dug up and obliterated from the map for an overpass made of paper.

I grew up there, professionally speaking. Driving through tonight, the aura is gone. The mad-scientist joyride of innovation, the fucked-upness, the charisma, the surge, are all gone. Silicon Valley is not a place. It was a segment of time, and that time is over.

Monday, August 21, 2006

sharpie obsession

Sunday evening I brought my video camera along and taped R as he hunted with the sharpie. He'd caught a good sized one in the morning already, and that evening caught two more. I was able to record one of the catches and two misses. The action happens in an eyeblink – a flight is about one second long, two if lengthy.

Interesting thing about the accipiter mind: it's really true, the more they catch, the more calm and happy they are. In many raptors, the foot holding the prey appears to have its own brain, unconnected to the one at the top. It holds and won't let go. Larger, non-accipitrine hawks often eventually figure out how to get the upper brain to talk to the lower brain. Letting go requires concentration, and they will comically stare at the foot until it reluctantly opens.

Typical accipiter, this bird has tended to space out after a catch, so neither brain was actually cogitating. It took some doing to transfer him to the lure, which he also clutched and spaced out on. However, after the third catch of the day, he transferred to the lure very smoothly, and hopped right back onto R's glove when the food was gone.

Three birds in one day called for celebration. We went back to his place with a six pack, hooked up the camera to the TV and watched it all over again.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

old turns to new

It's good to be writing again. The last couple months have been kind of difficult because I became a moderator for a very busy website. It temporarily ate up my free time (mea culpa; I let it), and I decided to step down, but volunteered to stay on until a replacement was found. I've been waiting several weeks, but no one so far.

But deciding to step down was good; it made me feel less responsible, which mysteriously made the work seem easier. It's a never-ending job, with easily 600-800 posts per day fielded by about nine mods and admins, plus old thread cleanup. The bulk of the users are youngish people (14-22) and emotional crises and weirdnesses occur; there's a vile troller needing to be dealt with, the occasional spammer, and people who simply do not read instructions.

Plus starting the hunting season brings new events and challenges, which I'd much rather be doing and writing about in addition to the fiction. Seeing R's musket was exciting. I love the accipiter at a visceral level, I love its reputations both good and bad. I had a used goshawk, one that had not been used well, retrained her to trust humans, and brought her back to being a successful hunter. I gave her away because she was screaming too much, and I'm not sorry I did; she required a huge investment in time, energy, and emotion, more than I had. My little grey queen hunted well for her next owner, too, so I know she did well by me: she had the opportunity to be a hawk again before she died.

I'd love to start my own gos from scratch, but for where I live and the mate's state of health, I see now it'd be much more sensible to get a sharpie. I'm a little more confident in my ability, and I'd have R to rely upon for advice.

sharpie fever

My friend R has a new eyass musket, which is coming along great. R got him at 12 days and is practically dancing with delight. Sharpshins seem to come pre-wired to catch; they don't need the grooming and encouragement that longwings often require. A few baggies, and he was up and running. I got myself up at 5:30 (ugggh) to be over at R's place at 6:30, and we drove out in search of small birds. The bird stayed on the fist really well, and we got some great flights. At one point I was looking over a culvert and begged the gods to make the video camera appear in my hand: a perfect, classic flight after a quail. Saw it all.

There's something about the accipiter shape and the way they move that even the 85-gram musket sends the words "power hawk" flashing in red lights through your mind. They're fast and direct and determined, and now I want one! R's was very tame and relaxed, didn't blink twice at a total stranger following him around.

After the sharpie caught two birds R let him feed up, and we went off to plink some food for his other hawk, which is still molting. I have a .22 rifle and a borrowed 12 gauge shotgun, and have shot a few other types of guns, but know very little about them. The .177 pellet rifle seems like a much better tool – it's extremely quiet and accurate in close range. With sufficient fps power small birds just drop. Non lead pellets are available, too, since you can't risk your raptor ingesting a lead fragment. The .177 was a spring action, ready when we were. CO2 pellet guns don't work for me because I would load one up and throw it in the glove box, but by the time I encountered a good shot days or weeks later, the gas was gone, a complete waste. I know, I should have left it empty and put the canister in at time of need, but . Plus a pistol just can't compete on accuracy. The only things I ever hit with a pellet gun were a pigeon and several raccoons. And I missed the pigeon twice.

So rarely do I get up in time for dawn that I always forget what a pleasure it is. The crisp air, the quiet, everything seems clean, even the dust that rises while you're crunching through brush is less dense than when you hawk in the afternoon. Few people are about on the sidewalks or roads. The prey birds are hungry and perhaps a little less cautious. We'd take ten or twenty paces, stop and listen for the rustles. It was very easy hawking compared to larger birds that take quarter-mile slips. The sharpie stayed within 80 feet all the time. I could see everything that happened.

And I'll probably go out and do it tomorrow evening. R says the sharpie is much more keen in the evening, so better flights are possible. I'd say the flights today were pretty hard to improve upon.

Update on P: the cracked feather clotted fully and he broke it off, partially taking care of half the problem himself. I'll try to cast him this week (shudder) and see if I can't put in a new one.