Saturday, December 29, 2007

2 days 5 crows

I went to the first meeting of a new club in CA, the CGA - California Gamehawkers Association. Pretty cool, a lot of old timers there, people who'd already been around a long time when I got started in 89. A lot of crows around too and P & I went in for a hawking marathon.

When you go someplace the first time it's so easy, the crows are unaware, and in this town they're everywhere. The first 2 crows on Friday took a total of 20 minutes to get: I drove 8 blocks the first time, and about 1 mile for the 2nd. In the afternoon we got another less than 3 miles away from the meet site. The last one was a spectacular flight into a flock of about a hundred crows hanging around a dairy. Saturday, 2 crows in the morning, then I got a late start for the afternoon and got one slip that P missed.

Out of all that some terrific flights, even the crows that ducked flat were highly entertaining. Late this afternoon P got a good reward for his efforts.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

finally out again

Finding a slip has been really tough this week. If it wasn't raining, it was gusty winds, and when it's windy, crows stay in the trees. Some days I've driven a couple hours to find one slip, or none. I was desperate enough Wednesday to toss him at a group of starlings -- too small and too quick, though.

Part of why today was good was calmer weather. I've specially trained the quarry to not be down in the afternoons, because that's when I hawk. So today I went out in the morning, and they were all down. And they were unwary of my car, which in the afternoons they recognize.

That says some interesting things about how crows think. The silver SUV that comes in the afternoon is not the same as one that comes in the morning. Since they probably see silver SUVs all day and very few of them contain crow murderers, it would a waste of energy and too stressful to be wary of all of them. But if I hawked any time of day, they would certainly figure it out.

But for the moment I was anonymous again, and P happily caught two. I tried for a third but he was pretty full and it was getting to a time they would rather be up in the trees, or flying.

It was probably a good thing we caught one of the crows we caught. It had problems.


It appeared to be congenitally missing a bunch of secondaries on both wings.

Note the thinness of the first few primaries.
Mandibles can overgrow for a variety of reasons: nutritional problems, liver disease, viruses. They get around it surprisingly well by turning the head sideways to eat or drink.

The liver of this crow (which I will not show) was also substandard. The color was paler than normal. The right lobe was small and the left lobe was almost as thin as paper.

Friday, December 14, 2007

prey of the day

After two difficult flushes, P caught this one in flight, nice job. It was a fighter -- you can see there's a bit of hawk down on his/her beak, and it was grabbing everything it could.

Drives by Corporation X have not shown us the speckled goose again. It's certainly migrated onward. I'd like to catch another seagull but the situations have just not been right. Usually there's too many of them, and they gather where people eat, which means there are people around.

Friday, December 07, 2007

the messenger is the message

Channel-surfing just now, I ran across PBS and "Happiness Prescription With Deepak Chopra." I've never seen the guy before, haven't read his books, but apparently he's pretty popular. He was talking about the Buddha.

He was also wearing the most amazing pair of glasses. Red plastic with sparkly rhinestones. Every time he moved his head they jumped out at me like a pair of Martian antennae on the Mona Lisa. Actually, I could see the Mona Lisa wearing Martian antennae because of that smile. She'd get the joke; she'd be in on it. Chopra was earnest and serious while wearing a pair of glasses more appropriate to a 10 year-old girl visiting Hollywood for the very first time. Or Bootsy Collins. Just not a philosopher.

I just couldn't take anything he said seriously, even it being an explanation of the eightfold path. The glasses spoke louder than Chopra himself.

i would have found it sooner

if the weather had been warmer. It was in my vest, in a pocket I don't usually use.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


One of the few things that strikes anxiety into a Harris hawker's heart is knowing you've got a plastic bag of meat tidbits somewhere... but you don't know where.

You just know you'll find out in a few days.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

down and up

My HDD camcorder arrived today and it never ceases to amaze me how easy things are. I've just been around technology so long it's second nature, and everything is designed for an IQ of 90 anyway. None of this -- setting up the camera, shooting video, uploading it to the laptop, editing out the unnecessary crap, and finally uploading it to YouTube -- has taken any cogitation.

Mr P eats crow

Which is a lot better than yesterday. Near midnight last night I took myself to the local hospital. I've had bouts of gut cramps a few times before, but it usually lasts 3 or 4 hours. Seven hours was just too much -- already I was extra tired from staying up late reading, and had had pretty hectic workday -- and there's always that worry that it's not just the usual thing. Plus I was having chills and sweats, which adds to the seriousness.

So I gave pee and blood, they gave me saline and morphine substitute and a warm blanket (mmm nice), and I dozed on and off. That morphine was something pretty good, it gives an untroubling sort of numbness. Apparently my white blood cell count was up slightly and that worried them, so around 4 am I got to drink some orange flavored barium and got a CT scan. After a few more hours sleep, the pain was gone and they sent me home at 7 am, where I went back to sleep for another 5 hours.

The hospital called back today and suggested I *might* have diverticulitis. I don't think I do. It doesn't happen all that often (once every 4 or 5 years) so I wouldn't call it chronic.

Monday, November 26, 2007

ulyssian lament

Now it's the big things only once in a while instead the little things are here such as how the weather's turning cold though winter is obviously on its way by the calendar over here in California you don't really notice since I've seen rain on Christmas day only once in the past ten years that and the way the house heat clicks on at night even though it's set quite low the cold is what tells you time is running and passing and stretching out time that's one of the little things and another is how I was driving home today and saw the odometer was at fifty-five thousand yet I had never really noticed it had passed fifty because it was forty-six or forty-eight the last time I really looked which means I've driven seven or nine thousand miles which is akin to crossing the United States and back without her in the car beside me and oddly that is painful it seems so small just like the green beans and bacon in cream sauce that I cannot cook without remembering how we tried it for the first time in Brno our magical holiday though I cannot imagine myself making Helmut and Jolana sad with the news although I know I ought to if I expect to go back which I'm not sure I will but if I ever wanted to be an expat it's a beautiful place not like Ensenada which is another place I can't think of without her and how she trembled when the picadors cantered in on blindfolded horses and stabbed the bull so I put my arm around her and thought about how cold it was on the shady side and now it's only growing colder how will I make it through winter

Saturday, November 24, 2007

working up to...

Getting thrown off the goose doesn't seem to have curbed P's enthusiasm. We caught a seagull today, not as much fight as a goose but more than P's used to. I tossed a strip of breast meat into the frying pan and found it's surprisingly tasty. One expects seagulls to taste like fish, but it was quite a lot like steak.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I have no quarry but I'm grinning from ear to shining ear.

I was cruising a backstreet and saw a flock of geese grubbing in the grass. P stared at them all in longing. One looked different, and as I made a turn I called K.

"I'm driving behind Corporation X, and the other day you were talking about small geese. I think I see one, it's a goose but sized like a really big duck. It's got a bit of white on the wings and some orange around the beak. Color's like a hen mallard."

"That's a speckled goose. Go catch it."

"Think so?"

"They're about five pounds, as opposed to sixteen. Your bird can take it."

A jackrabbit weighs five pounds. No problem. "Later."

I drove back in (P looking in longing yet again), and pulled over, readying for a U-turn. A GMC SUV was 150 yards down the street, coming my way. I took my turn, P popped onto the glove and I dropped the window. Drive drive drive... out!

P unerringly went for the speckled, grappled with it, had it well enough. The Canadas bailed. The crows, appearing from nowhere, yelled. Even I stopped for a second, amazed. I was just about to turn and the damned GMC had come up (how did he get here so fast?), and I had to wait another moment. Just as I pulled up, the goose wangled out of P's grip, stumbled across the road and heavily pulled into the air.

P stood on the grass in shock. I stopped the car and tried to wave him back in, but he wouldn't come. As far as he was concerned, he'd caught it. From the car lot across the street, a sedan had stopped. I looked at the driver. She looked at P. Eventually she said, "Call the police. That bird's injured."

"Yeah, I will."

After she drove away I got out and tried to entice P back onto the glove. He walked away from me, pissed that I hadn't instantly leaped out of the car to back him up. In those moments, a thousand second-guessings. I hadn't really needed to U-turn. I probably should have waited the 30 seconds it would have taken for the GMC to pass. When I offered him a whole quail leg, he came up to the glove. He certainly deserved it and the other quail leg I gave him afterwards.

a win for falconry

After much hard work by Bill Horn of the Wild Raptor Take Conservancy, our birds are now our property.

Up to this point, falconry birds have been the property of USFWS and falconers merely "possess" them. We trap or buy them from private breeders (not FWS), we pay the vet and food bills, we go to great lengths to recover them if they get lost, in all other ways we treat them as if we own them -- but they were never considered ours. FWS had the right to confiscate them at any time for any reason, and some of those reasons have been quite flimsy, particularly during sting operations.

Imagine if this was the situation with your family pet. Someone (you don't know who) has told the feds that they think there's something wrong with your dog -- unlicensed, it barks too much, they think you're doing something wrong. The feds could confiscate your dog before actual charges are made, before there is any proof that you have broken a law. And even when the charges prove false, you will probably never see your dog again.

A duck hunter has had more right to keep his dead quarry than falconers have had over their live birds.

This change is a truly great advancement to falconers' rights. AFAIK it will be enacted at the upcoming revision to the falconry regulations.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Sometimes I wonder what you do these days. As a spirit, you undoubtedly see things in ways I can only speculate about. I imagine you as traveling places on a thought, whether it be Bellingham or Betelgeuse. I don’t think world affairs concern you any longer, or at least not the details. What might concern you is whether or not humans survive as a race. You were always a big-picture kind of person anyway. The systems view you and I have is just a bit bigger for you now. I bet you like it.

Or you might not see systems as objects. Maybe it’s all a mix of atoms, some clustering in patterns, most chaotic, nothing that could be discerned as an individual human or even a species. Humans and sharks and magma and the roots of redwood trees and space dust are all one thing.

Maybe you only discern living matter versus inert, or things that grow and reproduce versus those that don’t. Maybe all you see are certain types of energy: life, or motivation, or perhaps what is transmitted from one being connecting with another.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Petersburg? maybe

A friend of mine showed me a flyer from a class in Russian conversation. $3500 takes you from NY to St Petersburg and you stay for just under a month with a host family and learn Russian. I can read a little and know generally how to pronounce, but rarely have heard it spoken slowly enough for me to pick out the words. It would be quite an experience. I am sorely tempted.

Friday, November 09, 2007

a classic and an unknown

My very favorite cartoon. Half the people I meet don't know falconry exists, a quarter have heard of it but don't know it's a living sport. How did Larson even think of doing a cartoon about falconers?
Hopefully posting one cartoon won't subject me to a lawsuit from him.

The other day I was asked if I had drawn my Nordinho avatar. The answer was no, but it put me in the mood of drawing something sorta Bilal-ish, so I whipped this up. I don't usually color things but this was all done on the computer so no excuses.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

that were no bird

So I was cruising around some parking lot in the Google zone (east Mountain View) and P got all excited about something. There were a lot of trees and I couldn't tell what had grabbed his attention. Sometimes quarry is on the far side of the landscaping, and he can see it but I can't. (I often wonder what if anything I passed up when he cranes his neck like crazy for two seconds, then subsides.)

I cranked the car around, waited while some employee went by, then accellerated and let him go. P flew toward a spot about 5 feet up from the base of a tree and did the most amazing spiral up and around it, like he'd grabbed a stop sign while rollerskating. He was hot after a squirrel! He lost steam on the way up, landing on the ground, but the next moment he was up again, trying to track this goofy animal that was dodging left and right to get out of P's sights. P didn't really have a chance, but if gravity was on his side I'm sure he would have. I'd never seen squirrel hawking, and have to admit it was funny as hell and could be an impressive challenge for a hawk.

Friday, November 02, 2007

I wish there were backpack camcorders

Well, there are, but it's nothing I could afford. I got started late again, so I figured I should get P some exercise before finding no slips with an anxious hawk. Exploring, I found a small field between buildings, and it turned out to have one jackrabbit in it. It was good to see him give chase and grab. He grabbed seriously enough to make the jack squeal, but didn't get a controlling grip, and got thrown off.

Then we were off to find our regular quarry, and as I expected, a slip was pretty hard to find. We drove around for about 45 minutes, and I was ready to call it a day when we spotted a single bird on a green strip, and a sentry on a pole above. It was just after five and traffic was heavier than usual (though still light by city standards.) I wanted to time things so the oncoming was clear, and got it nearly right; a half-second later would have been perfect. We were almost parallel to the bird just as the last oncoming car passed. P was perfectly ready, I tossed him up (rather than out, and I could feel he was a bit startled by the move) and he went high over the tail of the car, sailed down and slammed the quarry flat. It was such a complete surprise the sentry should have committed harakiri in shame.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

back in the saddle

After a troubling couple of days where P had nothing but close calls, we're back to normal. I'm not sure what the problem was there. Maybe I was letting him go too soon, maybe our quarry has been hammered often enough to be jumpy, maybe a touch of internal parasites, maybe because I haven't given him a full relaxing feed after his efforts. Falconry is always full of questions with no certain answer.

But this weekend we did well, and I gave him close to a full gorge Sunday. Today was the fastest hawking job ever. One toss, one catch, and home. I was sleepy, and when I'm sleepy, decisions are harder to make. Wanna do this. No, wanna do that. No... That kind of thing.

I'm catching up on Tuesday because I have a case of bachelorchronisoma, symptoms being staying up till 2am, waking at 6 or 7, and crashing at 3 pm because of it. On workdays, this is not amusing. 3:30 Tuesday I went home to grab something, thought I would just close my eyes on the sofa for 15 minutes, and woke 2.5 hours later. Whoops. I'm just glad for flextime.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

the bamboo bends

After browsing, I settled on to host my website and point my domain name there. LeadHoster is free, ad-free, and offers 250MB space. Their only drawback is a 500KB file-size limit, but all but one of my files falls within that (and it's hosted elsewhere already). If there's an activity timeout (many free hosts will suspend your site after 30 days inactivity) they don't mention it. We'll see, but having FTP and no ads beats Geocities hands down.

Within 1.5 hours, my website was up with LeadHoster.
No ads, all 400+ files FTP'ed painlessly in less than 1/2 hr, none of that Windows pick-one-file-at-a-time crap, no nonsensical rules, just the sensible ones.

Geocities can suck my dog's dick.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I violated Geocities TOS ? How?

I was uploading files from my old website to Geocities, when for no reason the 70+ files I'd done so far disappeared. I could not create subdirectories. My allowed space dropped to zero. In short, they shut my site down.

I sent off a message to service and received the following reply:
Usage of your Yahoo! account was recently identified to be in violation of the GeoCities Terms of Service, and your site and account were shut down. The GeoCities Terms of Service states that you cannot use your GeoCities site to link any other page, whether inside or beyond Yahoo! and/or GeoCities.

This makes no sense whatsoever. This sure sounds like it's saying I cannot have a link to another page, whether it's hosted on Yahoo, Geocities, or elsewhere. In other words, I can have a single page containing all the information and no links at all. No menu that points to subpages.

What makes even less sense is that their Terms of Service does not actually say anything like that. It says (5.(o)) you may not
use your home page (or directory) as storage for remote loading or as a door or signpost to another home page, whether inside or beyond Yahoo GeoCities

My site does have links to outside pages, such as Northwoods Falconry, the CHC website and the NAFA website. The links switch to those pages rather than loading it into a frame in my site, which would mess with those sites' layouts and make it appear as if they are part of my own. Maybe that's it?

I asked them to clarify what they meant and identify exactly what link triggered the TOS violation.

Friday, October 19, 2007

up and running, sort of

Okay, I'm officially DSL'ed now and it even works. Now I can waste time faster than ever - yay!

Seriously now, even though AT&T claims they give you 1GB storage that does not mean you have webspace. It's just storage.

In other words if you try to upload files for your website into Yahoo Briefcase, the links don't work. Files open, but the pathing doesn't happen. In other words if your .htm(l) has a link to /images/picture.jpg, it won't find it. Nor does ../images/picture.jpg. This is pretty frustrating and I'm probably going to spend all day trying to hack this so it works.

Another major annoyance is that you cannot FTP files. They have an upload screen akin to Photobucket or Tripod/Lycos where you must select each file individually and you can only do 6 at a time. Very, very bad.

Really, really annoying. Completely fucked, in fact. All the files you upload get a stupid hash added to the end, such as ?BCZvPGHBWBnAfwhO, and the file cannot be viewed without it. If you upload the same file, it gets a new hash number. There is no online editor, so editing a file (and thus keeping the same hash) is impossible.

In other words, you cannot create a working webpage. You can try fixing things by uploading images first, edit your css and javascript menus to correctly reference images and upload those, then edit your htms to correctly link css, js menus, and images, then upload those. But it is way more trouble than it's worth.

If your menu includes a link to index.html, you must kiss it goodbye, because once you upload index.html it gets a new hash. It's recursive, see.

A couple weeks ago I'd worked up a little webpage for my friend K, just four pages and a couple pictures, and it's taken an hour of concerted effort to do half the above.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

choose your poison

Okay, so I ordered DSL last night and scheduled service to start Friday. I figured that would give enough time for the modem to arrive.

I come home to find a note on my doorknob saying AT&T had come by to do the upgrade to my phone line. This had never been scheduled. I'm quite surprised they came the very next day, but if they don't tell me when they're coming, they're not going to be able to do much.

This does not bode well.

The ISP I'm leaving, RCN, sold all its San Francisco and Peninsula customers to an outfit called Astound!. The exclamation point is theirs, not mine. I'm not excited about this at all. Their site is not, but rather -- these guys couldn't even get their own .com domain.

Their website makes them look quite fly-by-night. The public-domain photos of happy-people models and the enormous font is indistinguishable from the scores of far-downstream ISPs that host spammers and provide spotty service.

They could be perfectly good, and in fact they had better be, because SF is a demanding market. However, obviously, I won't be finding out.

My annual billing period ends Sept 27th and I received their bill yesterday, Oct 15th. Rather a bit late. Fortunately they hadn't yet charged the autopay. I phoned them to close the account and waited, listening to elevator music that sounded scratchy and very distant, like it was coming through a Philco radio in 1936. On Pluto. They didn't have the courtesy to have a hold-time approximation. I had the sinking feeling I was facing an hour of easy listening.

Fortunately it was about 15 minutes, and the guy I spoke with actually offered to close the account. I wonder if they're doing a lot of account closing.

My website immediately disappeared. Apparently Astound has the users' server already. However, I can still log in to my old account. Good thing.

Monday, October 15, 2007

i may be offline for a bit

I'm changing ISPs and there may be a space when I have no access.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

win some, lose some

P's new primaries are nearly full length, and the bastard drops another. I've never kept close tabs on molted feathers, but this one definitely looks like it's been through a year. (Feathers sun-bleach just like hair.)

We've been getting some rain and cold, and it's taking more food to keep him at weight than in the summer. (Molt season, they're fat as pigs, it sticks to them, and it takes far fewer calories to stay warm.) However, it seems like he needs more than in past seasons, so I wonder if he might have picked up an internal parasite. K always has the entire raptor pharmacopeia, and I'm sure he'll have something appropriate.

In the meantime we're taking doubles almost all the time now, and at greater distances. Finding the second slip can be hard, but I'm expanding my areas. I'm sure P would love catching more (he looked extremely satisfied the day we got four) but I rarely have the gall to slip him off a second time. This afternoon was slightly nerve racking. I generally fly only on public roads, but they just weren't there. Instead, the first was found in the driveway of a hotel near Moffet Field. We passed a good-sized flock (about 20 or so) on NASA property (fenced), but it was secured, so we went on. Turning onto Shoreline Boulevard, P got all excited as we passed the Microsoft parking lot, so I found my way over there and got his second.

Carhawking is effortless not just for me, but for P as well. Several few weeks into the season I noticed a loss in muscle tone even though he was taking plenty of quarry. This would never happen if we were going after cottontails or jacks. So now, once a week he gets a hundred vertical jumps and this has improved his flight considerably.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I packed the mate's clothes in boxes today. It seemed like the right time to do it, but it kind of hurt too. Like closing a door on your thumb, or your heart.

I'd already given away a bunch of the clothes she didn't wear often and threw away the really ratty stuff. (She liked comfortable; just a few dresses in suit bags for classy restaurants and special occasions.) I kept the things she wore all the time, things that I see her wearing when I think about her. They smell like her, too.

Six months seems short given the depth of my love for her. But we had no secrets from each other. We both knew we weren't going to get old together even with the transplant (survival rate after ten years is pretty low) and she was very explicit about wanting me to find someone.

She occupies a large place in my heart and no one can take her place. The heart simply expands to fit. At least that's the theory.

Monday, October 08, 2007

flying naked

The phrase "flying naked" leads to many jokes, particularly around someone as big as my friend K, to the point of planning a video with some excellent stoops interspersed with scenes of him running around the field among strategically placed bushes. And K does not so much run as gallop: he lifts his legs high and bounds along, which is comical enough with clothes. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we couldn't convince him this could easily become the second most watched video on YouTube, right after "Star Wars Kid."

Flying naked, seriously, is flying your bird without jesses. It's a common longwinger practice because wild raptors can interpret dangling jesses as carried quarry, so it makes your bird subject to attack.

It's also rumored to make it easier for your bird to catch stuff. A paranoid falconer will use two transmitters; an old-fashioned one, two bells. They have a federal ID band and may have an owner's tag as well. All this clutter could add up to an extra ounce, and that's a lot to a 20-ounce bird. It's the same as a boxer having to wear ten pounds of weights and ropes hanging from his arms while fighting.

I've been flying P naked for about half this new season. There are lot of factors going into success but I think this may be one of them.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

trapping season tomorrow

Here in CA, trapping season starts 1 October. I haven't trapped in ages since I don't need a new bird, but it's fun to go along with people. For me, trapping flip flops between comedy and psychosis, interspersed with minutes of enormous tension. It's really early in the morning, the ground is slippery, your consciousness is entirely due to caffeine, you have a trap that proves better at catching you than any hawk, you have a bait animal to keep lively. You want a bird real bad, you make a lot of U-turns, and suddenly all your activity must grind to a halt while you're waiting and waiting and waiting for the hawk to decide to check out your trap. You repeat the flurry and the waiting multiple times until you finally have your bird, you hood and secure her for the drive home. And then the real excitement starts.

Far better to watch someone go through this and be the calm advisor.

I have a tattoo now, so to speak. I went hawking this afternoon, caught something, and while I was getting my hands around to dispatch it, P grabbed me in the thumb by accident. You can't wriggle your fingers out of a hawk's grip, because to them wriggle means struggle, which means grip tighter. You can only hold still and rotate everything so the hawk is forced to move his feet. Well, in the process of rotating, I moved my thumb, causing him to dig in nice and deep. Fortunately, this only lasted about 15 seconds.

When I recovered my thumb I saw a bit of feather hanging out of it. Apparently a feather of the quarry was between me and the talon, and a single vane got driven into my thumb. It's too delicate to remove with tweezers -- all the exposed part just breaks off -- so for the moment I am part bird.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

better picture of new feathers

It also helps that they've grown a bit. This is probably the sole situation where mantling over food is a good thing < VBG >. It took like 10 shots to get this with the camera phone; shutter speed isn't fast enough to freeze a moving wing.

Friday, September 21, 2007

a double and a rumble

Last week I'd had two days not finding any slips* at all. I'd been starting after 6:00 to avoid traffic in the industrial parks. Sunset was about 7:20. So I paid some attention and discovered I'd been going out too late. 4:00 - 4:30 is much better and I'm sure this time will creep up as the sun sets earlier and earlier. We caught two and there were just a few cars more than usual, but there's always the problem of being seen by someone who thinks hunting is illegal and/or immoral.

* slips are opportunities for your bird to chase something. It could be a single animal like a rabbit, or a group of let's say English sparrows.

We had a few good minutes of thunder and lightning just now. No rain, just flashes and rumbles. We hardly ever get anything that qualifies as real weather, not like it is back east.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

the whole hawk

Over a year ago, P bashed his wing against something, and broke two growing feathers. A little while later, after the blood had sealed up, he pulled off the broken ends, leaving the shafts in. In the winter he had a partial molt because I wasn't flying him, but no new feathers appeared. I was worried that they would never grow back. We restarted hunting, flew for a few months, and he began his proper molting cycle. During this second molt I found the shafts but still no new feathers.

I was delighted to see the stubs of two new primaries emerging today. The short one is hard to see but it's under the longer one.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

cause of peel

We figured out why there was so much moisture in the house. The dryer vent (the tube that runs to a hole in the wall) is missing. We're guessing that she must have run her dryer without it, again without opening the windows. Hell, it probably made the house smell better for an hour.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

how can people live like this?

The walls had been freshly painted and linoleum tiles newly laid when the tenant moved in. Five years later, she was evicted for nonpayment of several months' rent. After she took all her stuff out I had a look at the place. It looks like she never cleaned the place even once, never opened the windows, and burned a lot of candles in addition to smoking heavily.

There must have been a lot of condensation cos the walls had brown drips from nicotine. All over the ceiling were brown and black smoke blotches. I usually like the smell of cigarettes, but here it was atrocious, stale. She had started to clean the ceiling and gave up after ten square feet. Millions of flyspecks on every high edge, on the ceiling fixtures. One 12" linoleum tile was missing and where it had been, the subfloor looked gouged, eroded -- if it had been plywood once, the surface was gone, exposing the core. This means a chunk of subfloor is going to have to be replaced. Several other tiles were cracked. The bottom of the oven was filthy. I removed pounds of rotting things from the refrigerator. Grapes looked like tiny kidneys. In the bathroom you could not find a single spot bigger than your palm where the paint had not peeled due to moisture. There was mildew in most rooms and, in about five places, the drywall was bubbling under the paint. The roof is less than 7 years old, so it could not have been caused by rain.

At some point she painted a few walls, but didn't bother with such niceties as newspaper, tape, or a tarp on the floor, much less an edge brush. It's like she just rolled everywhere without regard for switchplates or windowframes. Several places on the hardwood floor were paint-stained. The hardwood is going to need a complete resurfacing from stains and gouges. The basement stinks of cat pee.

She took most of the lightbulbs, but left her curtains behind. She seemed to favor sheer curtains with complex designs and tassels, and those shiny twisted rope ties, sort of like a pasha's den. Grandiose. I met her once; she was wearing a Gaultier scent, a lot of it.

God give me strength. Cleaning this place would probably be best done with a fire hose. This level of destruction makes me think of dystopian industrial photos, all rusting pipes and broken railings.
And she managed to do this in five years.

Friday, September 07, 2007

it's all you need

Two pics of R's sharpie (aka sharpshin, sharp-shinned hawk, musket (=male sharpie)), freshly molted. A little jewel. Probably weighs 80 grams but all hawk.

K flying the saker. This is a first year bird and flew surprisingly slowly the first time I saw him. Now, 2-3 weeks later, he's quick, turns on a dime.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

unhealthy but pretty

A couple years ago I was driving past a 5-acre brush fire right next to the highway. The sun was reduced to a small amber disk and everything was brownish-yellow, like the walls in a houseful of heavy smokers.

Right now there's a 15,000 acre fire going on Plumas County, north of Lake Tahoe. Usually winds here push eastward, but they shifted, so since yesterday we've been covered in a thin layer of haze. This would have been horrible for the mate -- we probably would have had to get out of town, go to the ocean. Even I can feel not just the heat from the localized greenhouse effect, but a heaviness in my lungs.

But the haze gives everything a slightly peachy tint. You can look at the sun a pinch longer than you normally can, and it has a pinkish aura. Right now, 10:30 in the morning, the color of light is like late dawn.

While hawking yesterday, I took a few pictures with the camera phone, but they were pretty much crap. This is least lousy one. If you take that bright ring around the sun and apply it to the whole thing, that's what it looked like.

And now for something completely different: the check came in for my program. Got an extra thou or so as mad cash. Digital camcorder or a leather sofa? Decisions, decisions.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Certain prey animals are pretty darned smart. One route we take covers about 15 miles and takes us through 3 industrial areas. I have another route that covers about 4 miles and 1 industrial area. In a matter of weeks I'm starting to be recognized and avoided. So I've been exploring some other areas to spread things out a bit.

We just tried a new place for the second time (the first time was last season) and though it's not large, it has worked out. This afternoon, in a parking lot, I tossed P. Even though he wasn't that hungry (620 gm; I usually fly him between 05 and and 15), excitement was the order of the day and he flew hard at it. It ducked and I think P grabbed just feathers, and went skidding along the asphalt a couple feet. I could see his feet dragging down against the surface, trying to stop, a cloud of dust flying up.

That has got to hurt! But he was up the next instant, unfortunately too late to have a second chance. He came back to me, I checked him all over, and he seemed just fine. After more driving he did catch something else, but I kept looking at him amazed at how tough those scaly feet and legs are.

as long as you're facing up

Ridiculously good run-n-jump game from Mindistortion here

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

unreality in the unreal

It occurred to me (one of those late-night wonderings) that if there was modern day magic a la Harry Potter, the bulk of the craft would be about image. I mean, come on, you have several hundred hormone-raddled teenagers and not a single one changes hair color, whitens teeth, or masks the acne? (Tonks doesn’t count; she’s out of school.) Why can’t Neville just give himself a better haircut?

Furthermore, witches would not be hiding, they’d be raking it in as serious competitors to Lancome and the thousand other Muggle makeup companies the writer cannot name off the top of his head. Magic is a broad field, and from that would spring something on a par with Japanese multi-industry corporations, providing cosmetics, couture, foundation garments, hair replacement, and safe alternatives to cosmetic surgery and weight loss. They would also make dishwashers and clean-energy vehicles. Services would include package delivery, gardening, and construction. They could eliminate net meetings, replacing cameras with portraits, and engender the return of the paper letter.

In short, in ten years they would own most of the world. Or at least the Slytherin would.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I wake far too early, blankets kicked aside,
Cold but not cold enough
My hand on a stack of clothes:
Blue soaks into my hand, denim
Smooth leather yields, tender,
To a fine cotton almost silk soft

I open my eyes

Silverspun blur of dark and dappled leaves
The dry speaks the sky’s clearness
The moon at a third, small, away
Will only farther as the night draws on
Yet from distant leagues, all,
All is frosted in growing light

Saturday, August 18, 2007

look straight ahead

While heading out to go hawking I saw an interesting thing on the bridge: a oldish man in the passenger seat of a car, looking through a video camera like he was taping the drive. He seemed very concentrated on the task. I found it pretty funny that for several miles, there was this car pacing his with a hawk in the back seat, and he never saw it. On our way home I got caught up in traffic jams twice, both for about two-mile stretches, both stop-and-go. Out of all that, only one person noticed the hawk in the front seat: a boy, about 10. Everyone else was talking on the phone or being bored or concentrating on the car ahead.

Actually, this should be no surprise to me. A decade ago, when the mate wanted people to see hawks and learn about falconry, we used to take the bird out for coffee (they like theirs with cream generally, and the accipiters take lots of sugar. Sorry -- falconer joke.) It was entertaining to see how many people did or didn't notice. In my hometown we usually got a lot of hits, but in yuppie/boomer Palo Alto, hardly anyone noticed or were curious enough to talk with us.

Friday, August 17, 2007

passage 3

In the living room is a picture of the two. They look pleasant at the first few glances, but the photo doesn’t bear scrutiny if you know them. He tends to be hard to read, but here his smile is too stiff at the corners, his eyes slightly hooded; he looks uncertain. The woman is not all she seems either; she’s leaning forward, chin lifted and brows raised like she’s eagerly watching a competition, but her shoulders are dropped, and the lines around her mouth are too straight to qualify as smiling. The story is at the bottom of the photo, where you can just see their hands on his knee. His is clasping hers a little tighter, but these hands are comfortable, familiar with each other. These are old, deeply etched looks, but their hands counteract it with their happiness.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

her children ate her brains

I went to see Order of the Phoenix today. Pretty good movie, though I found it somewhat choppy, it felt like Selected Scenes from the Novel. It was assumed you remembered who everyone was, which I didn't.

About 45 minutes (45 minutes?!) into the movie, a woman came in with two or three kids and took a seat at about four o'clock. One boy kept repeating "Harry Potter" and the other kids were talking, none too quietly. Several people shushed them, self included, which was effective for all of one minute. After about ten minutes, they left.

About half an hour later, they came back and took a seat on the left side. What the fuck? Worse yet, they sat at 9 o'clock, but fortunately several seats away. They were almost as noisy as before and the retarded one was still repeating "Harry Potter." I found myself involuntarily shrinking away.

After ten minutes, they left again. Fortunately, they did not return.

I'm totally at a loss to find a reason for this behavior. Yes, I understand HP is a children's movie and I expect a certain amount of enthusiasm (although I did choose a weekday matinee for a reason -- the audience was nearly all adults.) Coming in so late, then popping in and out is just plain weird, annoying, and very rude.

Monday, August 13, 2007


I don't worry about the authorities. They've always treated me well; I talk like a reasonable, educated person and I don't have aggressive body language. It's when a guy has a chip on his shoulder that things escalate, and the cops have the guns and the authority. No, it's mostly the annoyance factor of having to answer questions that keeps me from wanting to see them. Second is the fact that very few know falconry very well, even those ostensibly overseeing it, since their attention is taken primarily by gun hunters and fishermen and their respective catches. Sometimes you find yourself teaching them the laws.

Most state fish cops are cool. The first two I met when I was getting my first license. With a nudge and wink he said I couldn't hunt with my bird in a county park, but I could fly it. And well if the bird caught something in the course of being flown, what a shame, but it's only following instinctual behavior. Then he proceeded to tell me of a spot with jackrabbits.

A few years ago a fellow falconer told me a Fish said he didn't consider falconry to be hunting. Now that's going a bit far, but to a degree it's true. Falconers generally don't catch anywhere near the volume that gun hunters do. Those of us who try can release a fair amount of game unharmed. Hardly any of us tear up the countryside on ATVs because we need the silence to hear and sneak around. We tend to fly solo, so we don't leave big camping messes behind. Our quarry is small, so field dressing remains disappear from sight under a handful of grass or down a dibbled hole. In short, we have all the fun, but we tread a lot more lightly. It's a pleasant surprise to have this acknowledged, even if backhandedly.

The feds are much more hardcore. The only ones I've had to deal with are the paper people, for license renewal, but I know falconers who have had to deal with being assumed guilty, being interrogated, being lied to in order to get them to incriminate themselves or worse yet their friends. A lot of dirty tactics. I hope my acquaintance stays exclusively with the paper people.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

new season

I take the hawk out today. The first chase becomes first catch of the season. Taken in the air – all those vertical-jump exercises during molting season pay off. Awesome. A Harris hawk will never have the wing power of a goshawk, but he fights wind and gravity and directs his feet into a quarry desperate to keep its life, and makes success look effortless. The excitement is there: the knee-shaking delight, the wings laid over possessively, the glazed look, even the fumbling and forgetting.

A touch of paranoia rises as I notice two people in a car watching me. They’re driving in broad circles around the parking lot, looking at me and the hawk. They look like they might be foreign, and are definitely too shy to indulge their curiosity in the American manner: driving up and asking what the hell I’m up to. They’re not Filipino security (the best kind to deal with, since they’re firm but mellow and do just what they’re paid to do; white security usually has a chip on its shoulder, being failed police candidates, and is desperate to bust you for something, anything.) I drive away hoping they didn’t phone anyone, that I won’t have HS or the police or F&G knocking on my door.

I’m not prone to paranoia. I don't know why I feel it.

passage 2

The hollowness grew. Intellectually, Diana knew she was feeding it: her phone deliberately left on a table slowly discharging, a string of appointments canceled due to tiredness, her computer full of searches for answers to crossword puzzles that she never completed. The company of women had always bored her. In men she found more camaraderie and individuals she could deem friends rather than acquaintances, but she maintained a thoroughly platonic demeanor on the grounds that she would not debase herself by “throwing herself” at one.

When asked, she was always “fine,” but she hungered for a touch, a smile beyond the professional, required smiles she saw daily. Somewhere along the way, the ground gave out beneath her, taking her guts and heart with it, and everything stopped mattering.

Friday, August 10, 2007

passage 1

In the granite castle Adest dozed uneasily, one hand still clutched around his cooling dick, sweating the drink out his pores, his hair poking him in the mouth. In that nebulous place halfway between waking and sleeping, notions tumbled and merged, grand declarations founded upon nothing materialized, words disengaged from their subjects. Unknown people faded in and away, familiar faces didn’t acknowledge his presence, and the castle had grown metal spars that pinned ideas in place like mounted butterflies. Silhouettes of physically impossible machines, sculpted, dark and spiky, came dragged by shadow men, set into position to kill dreams of ideas, or ideas of dreams.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


That's how I've been feeling. Intellectually the facts are obvious: the mate's not walking in the door anytime soon. Yet I've kept myself pretty much housebound. The bird is molting, so no hawking -- everyone's birds are molting -- and there have been no outside events that particularly interest me. But some part in me still thinks that she's just away for a bit. It's habit and perhaps a little wishful thinking.

I don't know when I'll get over this. But I'm in no hurry, either. When I look at people they seem like nonentities. I can be friendly on the surface but they don't interest me at all; they're benign ghosts taking my money and bagging my groceries or whatever.

Friends break the emptiness for a short while. We talk about current stuff, but the future seems very abstract. I feel lonelier now and can't explain why. Perhaps I'm beginning to acknowledge the finality of death.

Friday, July 27, 2007

woot - done!

I found the problem. Apparently I had told it to run the edit code *again* at the end of the verification, thinking this was necessary to keep it in edit mode, and I didn't have to do that.

So I'm ready to roll with it. What's left for the project:
- run down any more reports that are needed
- writing the user guide
- training

Logging 24 hours work so far and the user guide will probably take about 3-4 hours. The coding hours were more than that, of course, but since I've never had formal training in interface, learning time is required, and I don't feel right including that in the cost.

I don't have the same sense of accomplishment I did when I finished writing Sonia, but then again, the project still has the stuff above to do, and I'm sure that other things will come up as the program is used. But still, I feel good that the coding is done, and I think I've anticipated most problems. Of course, the proof will come through use. Users can always think of the oddest way to do something then convince themselves that is the correct and only way to do it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

about ready for beta

Most everything is finished now and just needs some polish. There's one serious problem remaining -- I need to locate my verification routine in just the right place. This is one of the problems when you don't fully know what to do and you swipe the wizard code to do the dirty work for you. The wizards are written to act as a tight unit, so adding things can be a little tricky.

The add record button creates a blank record then stops. It starts moving again when the user hits the button, now labeled "Save," again. If it fails verification, I need it to stop again. However, right now it essentially does a revert - it dumps the record along with any data that has been already added, and goes back to the record displayed before you hit the add button. But it leaves the button labels alone, so it still says "Save," only we're on the wrong person now.

Two things I'm finding surprisingly hard to find are complete code examples and overviews of common procedures. You'd think there would be tons of these things out there. MSDN simply sucks: it's just a half-step up from manuals that name the menu items you'd click to run a command, but don't explain why or when you would use it.

When you get these individual bits and pieces, it's hard to know where the task falls within a multi-step process. For example, let's say you want to display a report in a maximized window. Apparently, you have to define the window in memory, activate it, show it, open your report. After the user prints, you have to deactivate it then release it from memory. However, help has no overview like this. There's an entry for defining windows, one for activating, one for showing, etc., but there's no one page that lists all the steps required for the process to be done properly and cleanly.

I did find code on the internet to create and release my print window, but there have been several such tasks. Fortunately I've managed to get most answers through this miracle that is the internet, where people give their time and share their knowledge to help others.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

coding 2

The program is starting to fall together pretty nicely. After meeting with the people who want it, I had to make some structural changes, which caused me to look at it with fresh eyes. After eliminating a few things, the problems I was having earlier melted away.

So the major part is behind me with only these left:
- some maintenance code to check for orphans and pack the tables
- one or two more reports (I'm sure this number will grow)
- iron out the process for reselecting the remote database. The records I'm keeping are stored by year, and corresponding to that is the live data in Access. When the user changes years, this file needs changing as well to match.

Here's to overtime.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

religious diatribe

Oy yoy, some born-agains are difficult to bear. I just had a conversation with an evangelical who, upon learning my religious background (Catholic), proceeded to tell me the ways in which it's wrong. (Good thing I didn't claim to be Wiccan or a practicing Jew.) Up till then I had been respectful of his views, telling him if that's what he believed, that was fine, and I was sure his God would do as he said.

I did not receive respect in kind. Religious intolerance is historically speaking a primary cause of strife of the worst sort.

My basic questions to someone of the Christian persuasion are:
- do you believe in God
- do you obey the commandments set down in the Pentateuch/Exodus
- do you follow the golden rule (treat your neighbor as you would yourself wish to be treated)

If a person does all the above (not thinks they do, but actually does), they're headed for Christian heaven. It doesn't matter if you're born-again, Catholic, Lutheran, or name your variety.

Dissing other forms of Christianity is an act of intolerance, complacency, and arrogance. It's merely wanting to be in some exclusive Heaven Club, above others: they are chosen and everyone else isn't, regardless of how good they are, because they are the wrong kind of Christian or not Christian at all. And they claim to feel sorry for those people, but with little sincerety: definitely a joyful schadenfreude.

All Christians believe in essentially the same god. Claiming that one specific sect has the sole rope to heaven is ridiculous. Creating rules beyond the basics up there is a human action, not divine. When humans think they know what God says and try to impose their thoughts on others, they are essentially trying to take the place of God. This contradicts the basic assumption that only God is divine.

We can't really know what God is thinking. We don't know if God puts on glasses and a fake beard, and goes by the name of Allah or Y-V- elsewhere.

Here's a good quote from Babylon 5, paraphrased: You know that classic contradiction about whether God can make a stone so heavy he can't lift it? He did: he made humans.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


This is what happens when you have to write an application only once every three or four years: you forget everything. All the connections and significances of various terms get lost.

Most of it works good. It stores records of students being bad and what actions were taken to make up for it. You can do all the basic things, like add/edit/delete records and print reports. The slick part is that it connects via ODBC to the live student database, so when you pick a kid from the live list it will copy all the demographics in: name, phone number, school, etc. Saves on typing, and error potential. All the user needs to do is add the incident date, the offense, and the resolution.

All that works, except I'm having a hell of a time setting up the drop-down menu for the school number and tying that to the field next to it (school name). The data source for the menu is the main table (actually a view) but when you edit, the drop-down gets its choices from a different table (actually a cursor). As it stands right now, adding/editing a record it does fine, but when you scoot through the table, the school number doesn't match the corresponding school name.

Enough websearching and it should come sooner or later.

Saturday, June 30, 2007


This is the time period I was worrying about. Funeral's over. Wake's over. No planning, cleaning, note-writing, socializing left to do, and I have to get back into something resembling normal life. It's real quiet right now: the bird is up for the molt, work is leisurely, and there's just empty time. Too much of it.

And in that empty time the pain slips in and drives a rotary hoe over me. This week hasn't been good. It's the "never again" part that's the worst.

Everything I'm going through is perfectly normal, I'm sure, and possibly even fast-tracked. I guess this is the acceptance stage but I'm dragging my feet all the way.

Kubler-Ross's experiences with the temporarily dead led her to believe there is an afterlife, that we are met by predeceased friends and family and even pets. What we consider life is the stage before another life, and she describes it as a cocoon to butterfly transformation. I've never been much of a believer in afterlife; I'd consider it a two-edged sword. But I certainly can't prove it doesn't exist, and she has circumstantial evidence that it does. When I read that, I felt very emotional, like I'd like to believe it. Hopeful but uncertain.

If the mate is up there plucking a harp or floating around the ether I hope she's having a good time. I'd like her to. There's no way to know; you have to take it on faith and belief, of which I have never had a lot. I have to ask, is the concept of a guaranteed-pleasant afterlife of more use to the living? Is it a vehicle to get us back to feeling good, to allow us to forget what is now the past? Have you heard a widow/er utter with enviable confidence "I know s/he's in heaven now" when the subject was not all that great a human being, or even pretty much an asshole?

If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him, for he is not the true Buddha. Never be complacent, and you'll become a better person. Not necessarily happier, but better.

Belief in afterlife leads to all sorts of nonsense (hem... rituals) for the living. Catholics burn candles and pray, Protestants and Muslims and Hindus pray, Asians sacrifice food and drink and paper cell phones and pray. We want to have some effect on the deceased soul's condition. I think that these would have very little effect on someone who is in a completely different state of being, a state we living persons cannot comprehend or conceive. However, I think that keeping a person in your heart and mind gives him/her sustenance, and prayer is just formalization of that.

If anything, I don't want to "get over" the mate. She'll always be part of my life, I will always miss her even if I find someone else. No one person can substitute for another because we're all different, we're all unique. And she was more unique than most: exceptionally intelligent, good-looking, fairly modest, silly-fun, and kind and thoughtful to boot. She had some hang-ups, depressions, there were ways in which I wished she'd been different, but overall she was the best human being I've known.

And I can only talk with her in my mind now, remember how she felt, skin muscles bone, remember her habits and tastes. I've started programming project, something that could give me a lot of kudos at work, and though I'm pretty unmotivated, I don't think I'm seriously depressed. I've been touched by it occasionally and it's a bit more frequent in this empty time. I need to go through the misery, go through the aloneness and just trust that it will ease up sometime.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Over the years I've been given a number of photo frames. A few weeks ago I dug up as many photos of the mate as I could find, and printed up a bunch. One of the frames is a 9x12 with spaces for 9 small pictures, another will take 3 4x6s, and the last is a normal 6x8 or thereabouts. So 14 pictures, and I spend a lot of time looking at them.

One of them is the very first picture I ever took of her. She's one of those people who stay looking much the same. Her hair got a little darker from not being outside as much, and a little grey at the edges, but other than that, not much change. Small photos erase a lot of detail, meaning wrinkles, but her terrific smile and impish look always blasted away these minor flaws, making her ageless, infinite...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

something strange

Throughout my life I've been occasionally touched by good luck and interesting synchronicities. For example, on our vacation to Old Europe, our chance stumbling upon the temple of the great Rabbi Low, as well as a falconer's wife who brought us to meet her husband and see his breeding project.

About four years ago I finished writing a novel. I'd written it in various forms over the course of 12 years, but the final version was completed four years ago. In it, the protagonist is lying in a coma but in his dreams is living in another world. In it he has no need for food or drink, it has superficial delights, it's peaceful, but it is a closed loop from which he cannot escape.

In the real world, he's in a hospital in San Francisco, in a room with a slightly cheesy landscape mural and a stellar view of the Marin Headlands.

The mate's room at CPMC has a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Headlands are just beyond it. While she was there, I even remarked on its similarity to the room in my story. (When I wrote it, I didn't know there was a hospital there at all; I had placed mine further down the hill, in the Marina district.) It was formerly the maternity ward, and the walls were painted peachy-pink: presumably a nesting color to encourage new mothers. Down in the basement there are two landscape murals, one in emergency's ambulance park, the other in the loading dock. They're a little bit cheesy but mostly charming: classic California mountains, redwood forests, lots of birds (including hawks), and little emergency vehicles trekking through it.

It didn't occur to me until this moment just how weird this is.

At the end of the novel, in his dream world, the protagonist decides that the only way to break out of the loop is death. He knows nothing of his situation in real life; he believes himself dead and only wants freedom from what is pleasant but still a prison. The chapter ends with him throwing himself off a cliff. And in the final chapter, his girlfriend receives a phone call from the hospital: he is conscious.

And my girlfriend, I hope, has come to in a better world, free from her own prison.

a good enough party

Which actually ran from more like 3 till 10 rather than 12 till 6, but that's never a problem.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

coming along

One of the problems I'd been having with P is him leaving the glove too early. Crows get going pretty fast, and they have a lot of sly moves. The more time the bird is in the air, the more time they have to react. After we went hawking last, my buddy R gave me some advice: keep the bird down -- ideally so he can't see the crows at all -- and pitch him out when you're where you want to be.

Works like a charm.

for my next trick

Did the family, now the friends. I'm gonna cook a few things and buy a few pre-made things for Saturday. The medical people are invited but I'm not sure how many are coming. Falconers, some people at work, and a few other friends will be there. I'm expecting maybe 20 - 25. Real hard to say.

I'd received an invitation to a party to be held the evening of the same day as the scattering. I didn't go, it just felt wrong. Sunday I meant to go hawking but blew it off cos the friend I was going to go with didn't return my call, the bastard. I was lonely and depressed cos she felt further away.

Five weeks she's been gone. It's not full-blown depression but I can feel its fingers poking at me. When this party is done I'm going to check out Kubler-Ross and see if I can find any insight there. I know all this is normal...but it doesn't feel any better for it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

the hosts file

I've usually considered the HOSTS file (\windows\system32\drivers\etc\HOSTS) to be a fairly foolproof method of blocking websites from giving you the nasties - viruses, spyware, dialers. It's like your computer can't even see these sites. There are a few websites around that maintain lists for download. HPGuru and MVPS are two recommended sites.

However, I think I've just found out that it's not good to have a huge number of entries in your HOSTS file.

A couple weeks ago I consolidated the HPGuru and MVPS entries into my HOSTS file. This brought it to 70-75,000 entries.

Around the same time I started having problems. My machine slowed down and started getting freeze-up errors with Windows Explorer, forcing me to reboot daily and sometimes more often. I have wireless, and dialup as backup. With the wireless, my ability to connect got bad. With the dialup, the modem would connect fine, but it would take six to ten minutes before any data transfer, and occasionally it would not transfer at all.

Something else I've been running on my computer for ages is DNSKong. This is a free program that also blocks sites. Here's the main difference between using the HOSTS file and using DNSKong:

In HOSTS, you have to name the specific, full name of the site you want to block. To block all the sites from, you have to have separate entries for every one of their names. Some of these adsites own dozens of subdomains, e.g.,,, etc. Each of these needs a separate entry in HOSTS. Hence, your HOSTS file fills up fast. Real fast.

With DNSKong, all you do is put in spammer into the Named.txt file. This covers all the above servernames, as well as,,, etc. It covers any new additions the owner of said website might add, so long as it includes spammer as a single dotted portion of the domain name. (i.e. spammer will not cover or, these would need to be added as spammersite and viagraspammer.)

Today I uploaded the contents of my HOSTS file into FoxPro, did a little mishmashing on all the .com, .biz, .org, .info and .net entries, consolidated a unique list from that, and moved them out of HOSTS and into DNSKong, bringing HOSTS down to 4300 entries.

I dialed up. Connected. Went to a bookmarked website. Got in right away, BANG.

Coincidence? I think not.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


It went well. Pretty. Flower petals float a lot better than flowers. (Thanks, mom.)

I gave her flowers that she planted in our yard, and sprigs from the bay tree and the lemon verbena. I also tossed in one of S's tail feathers. It floated on the air, spiralling, for several seconds before touching the water.

Maybe they'll go hawking in the afterlife. She'll be mugging the sea otters for their abalones for sure.

Friday, June 08, 2007

I'm blown away

The people at work decided to "do something for me," as it is often generically put, and my boss asked me if I had any preferences. Flowers for the ash scattering, I said. I expected a bouquet.

They showed up today. Three buckets full of about 5 dozen red roses, daisies, carnations, irises, lilies, mums, the little white things that come with roses, various greenery, and all sorts of flowers I can't name. And as if that wasn't enough, a hundred-dollar gift check.

It was amazing. I had no idea people liked me this much. I know I have a real white-hat job, but I have my annoyed days like everyone else. It was totally unexpected.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

success makes me sad

Even though P and I are having fun and excitement whomping them, there's an terrible emptiness to it, so much that even with P tearing at today's catch on my glove, I had a sudden desire to give him away and hang it all up, not just for the season but forever.

She would have gotten a kick out of it, the misses, the hits, even the scary driving. But she's not with me to share it. She would have run the camcorder, as she did quite a lot with S -- she was quite steady and could sense when the bird was really going to leave the glove or T-perch. She would have tossed the bird out the passenger window for me. In some ways she had a better sense for falconry than did I because she'd had "real" pets, like dogs and cats, as a kid. (I got stuck with goldfish, hamsters and parakeets because my parents didn't want anything bigger.)

We learned it together. She didn't want the license or the responsibility of her own bird, and was happy to enjoy it vicariously. It wasn't really vicarious, anyway; she interacted with the hawks just as much as did I. The hunting part was less interesting to her, but we made a pair that could give a hawk a good time.

Man, I miss her.

the study shows...

Recent research from the University of Vienna indicates that dogs are capable of thinking like humans. I always known they're capable of this. And that they choose not to.

Monday, June 04, 2007

driving in one piece

We caught a young and obviously sick one today. It didn't even try to fly -- P was holding it for not even 10 seconds, and it was dead. They usually have tons more fight than that. The one I'd set up as a baggie last week had rougher treatment but was trying to stand up while zipped inside my vest, growling the whole time. Today's quarry just gave up the ghost, which means it won't get fed to my bird. Could be West Nile or any manner of diseases. Bird quarry is more dangerous to a hawk than mammals since mammalian parasites don't cross over to birds.

You have to be careful driving while carhawking. I have not had anything remotely resembling a near-hit because in the quarry situation I do get extra cautious. However, I stopped at a light today, intending to check out the area beyond. There was no cross traffic, and I simply started moving, blowing right through this red light. A third of the way through the intersection I realized what I was doing and kept going, but I was pretty surprised at how distracted I'd been, simply acting on an intention without regard to other very important factors.

And carhawking *is* fun. That's another thing that makes it a bit hazardous, when you're having too much of a good time you forget things.

I think I'd better stick to the industrial parks without lights from here on. If they don't have lights, they must not have enough traffic to merit them. Therefore, safe...

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Things are slowly coming along. The house has been hosed down ;) and the yards weeded and raked, the jungle has been mostly tamed. I have an idea of what I want to say when we scatter the stuff, I lost my tie and found it again, feathers of certain relatives that had gotten ruffled are now smooth. I've made lucky envelopes to hand out (Chinese tradition - a white envelope containing an odd denomination of money and a piece of candy. There should also be a white handkerchief, but that info came a little too late. It's okay, it's optional.)

And now I have nothing to do but confront my aloneness. Which is okay, it's been ongoing. This weekend are the relatives, next weekend are the friends, and after that I can relax and go back to being my usual self, and think about the future. But I really have to stop talking to myself out loud. It's a scary habit I've picked up.

I still stop short every once in a while and realize she's not there to enjoy X or give me her opinion or advice on Y, and that she'll never again. Every once in a while I can see her corpse in those early hours of the morning and remember how she was still warm. In my dreams she talks to me, which is really nice.

Monday, May 28, 2007

what a day!

I finally got rid of the chicken in my steering hand that says don't cross to the wrong side of the street. Success does that... :D

I just had a fan-fucking-tastic day today with my friend R, who's been a falconer for probably 30 years, most of it as dirthawker and just the last four or five as a longwinger. I asked him to run the camera, which he did not do at all < shrug >. I wanted to try to get the bird to go out the passenger side, so we caught one and slipped the HH off it. On our way to finding a place to set up the bag, we caught another one. So now we had 2 crows. We found a good spot, set up the crow, P caught it (doesn't truly count as #3, but in his mind it would). (He was still a bit hesitating to go out of the window, so I may have to do it again sometime.) I pulled off a wing to feed up P, and R, who was holding crow #2, decided to let it go right then. However, I hadn't actually secured P to the glove yet, so he took off after #2, which wasn't flying all so hot. The HH caught up with it and #2 became #4.

And all of this is done in 1 hour.

I had been satisfied with 1 crow per outing, but it's like my inner eye opened or something... I predict a pretty exciting summer. The hard part is going to be figuring out what to do with all these crows.... R took one to feed his molting birds, and I suppose anyone else I know could use a few. It's good meat, red as jackrabbit and will stick to your hawk's ribs even more than quail.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


The box has been sitting in my living room for nine days, and I just found the courage to open it. Courage isn't the right word at all, though. I was waiting for the right moment, when I had no worries or tensions, when I wasn't thinking too much.

I've never seen a cremated person before, not outside the urn that is. It was about 10 pounds of cream-colored powder, slightly gritty, unusually heavy for the volume. There were small chips in there, bone they say, 2 x 4 mm at most. It smelt like nothing.

I set aside some in a small baggie and put it inside one of the Russian lacquer boxes she collected. I'm going scatter that part in redwood forest, which she loved more than the ocean. It's not legal, so I can't do it as official ceremony, and none of the parents could handle driving the winding road up to the forest anyway.

It's funny. Most of me considers the ashes to be $2000 of legally mandated nothing, it has no connection to the person I loved. And a little bit of me, the superstitious part, says to put these things in their proper places: the ocean, the forest, and keep a little bit for me or posterity or something.

What is reality, papa? :)

Friday, May 25, 2007


This bird makes falconry so easy. Third in eight days, who could ask for more?

No picture today, it all looks the same. Video would show the fine points of flight. I have a tape camcorder and a Dazzle box, but the box doesn't work with anything after Windows 98, and the resulting quality is terrible. So I need a digital camcorder, and I need to enlist a friend to run it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

another carhawking vid

This one's pretty good, more clear, but they should have gotten more footage instead of rerunning scenes. Harris hawk on crows, Coopers on starlings.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

the cool bird

This is starting to work out really nice. This was caught in flight.

And now I have no idea how I managed to live without a camera phone

Saturday, May 19, 2007

the letter

Today I started writing a letter to the mate. I guess it's a form of diary, where I talk about what happened today, have random thoughts, share an inside joke, say I miss her and wish she was here to experience all these things. She thought the carhawking was great but will never know I took that first crow with P.

I bought a new black suit yesterday, and I need to work up some words to say when we scatter her ashes.

I've had two dreams about the mate, both shining and happy. In the second I was lucid enough to know she was dead, but I was glad to get a visit. In my semi-superstitious mode I can interpret upset in a dream as unresolved feelings, and I'm pleased that it appears I don't have any.

But I also sense a separating between my face and my heart. Well, they've always been separated, but it's stronger now. Outside, I must have manners and do things as convention dictates, say the right words to the relatives. In the letter, I can say the truth, speak my mind, as we did when she was alive. Recently I noticed that when talking to people, I stammer a little bit, my words don't come out as organized as usual because of the crowd of thoughts. Here's hoping this isn't a permanent condition.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

first crow

Well, hardly his first crow, nor mine, but our first together. It really went like a dream.

Our first pass at it was from the passenger side, but I didn't stop. Either he was gonna jump while we were moving, or not. He didn't. I continued down the road about 75 yards, turned into a parking lot and got him on the glove. Opened the window fully. He could see the crow from where we were, but we had to wait while some cars passed.

We pulled out, got to maybe 25 mph. I gave him his push fairly close, and the timing was perfect, just as you might see in a carhawking video. The crow didn't have a chance to get up. I think he looked as surprised as I was.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

medical equipment donation

I got a lead into a place in San Francisco, CFHI, that will accept the leftover home medical supplies. Friday afternoon I wrote an email describing what I had, and asking "Where do I go to get them to you?"

Today I received a form letter email from Harini Krishnan, which included the line "We would be delighted to accept all the supplies that you would like to donate that you mentioned in your email." This was the only line that seemed like a personal response to my message. In addition to it being rather ungrammatical, it was bolded and underlined, apparently so it would stand out from the lengthy rest of it (83 lines/440 words) which was largely irrelevant. As I said, a form letter.

It continued on with "If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, and you would like to drop off your donation directly to the CFHI office, kindly let me know so that I can send you information about our office times, directions and parking."

Well... I thought I had said exactly that: "Where do I go to get them to you?" Already annoyed by the long form letter, I fired off a message saying Yes, this is what I said, and I would rather people read my letter and reply to the questions in it.

This led to a few salvos back and forth between me and Harini wherein I maintained it was rude and disrespectful to a potential donor to not bother actually reading what they had to say. Harini maintained s/he had been extremely polite and it was I was not. And my message was apparently unclear to Harini:
in your email you said "Where do I go to get them to you?" NOT that you lived in the Bay Area or that you wanted to drop off the donation.

Hello? Could 'Where do I go to get them to you?' be interpreted any other way than saying 'I have a donation that I want to drop off'?

In any case, Harini concluded with:
CFHI is a small organization with a small staff. I am a parttime employee working for 12 hours a week answering 250 enquiries a week. It is difficult to offer a personal response to every email. Your email to me was offensive, rude and bitter. We refuse the right to accept donations from individuals like yourself only interested in finding faults with small organizations like ours rather than truly
helping a worthy cause. CFHI has more than 250 donors who are more than happy with the gratitude and respect with which we treat them.

Whine, whine, whine. (And what is this "we refuse the right to accept"? It should be "we reserve the right to refuse." Major Freudian slip here, Hariri. This, I believe, explains why s/he uses form letters to communicate and didn't understand when actual people write actual words.)

At this point I emailed VIDA, a similar international agency but even smaller than CFHI. I deliberately worded my message the same as my message to CFHI. Within 4 hours I had a four-line reply:
Thank you for your donation. Attached you will find a list of items that we accept. Attached are directions to the VIDA warehouse as well. Thank you for all of your support.

Clear, competent, fast, brief but polite, no problems understanding me. They get my donation.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I'm thinking of having people come by the house for a not-quite-a-wake. This is ultimately a good idea, but the reality is less than ideal.

When you live in one place a long time (15 years), you collect stuff, you don't throw it away when it's broken or you don't find an out-of-the-way place for it. Or you do find an out-of-the-way place for it and never find it again, and have to buy another. Or you feel this bit of scrap whatever will come in handy one of these days, so you have to keep it. Or you're just too plain lazy to get rid of crap you never look at anyway, so you stop noticing it's there.

And when one of the people living there is too sick to do much, and the other one is working, and the first one gets really sick, it all goes to hell. Things land where they're dropped and stay there like leaves.

I'm finding my house is like the fucking Amazon. Layers and layers of crap.

Cleaning, well, that's why maid services exist. But what it really needs is a severe dose of re-organization, the kind corporations go through.

Edit: yeah, it's coming along. I seem to have misplaced my Bluetooth headset for the phone, though. The phone keeps beeping to say it's connected, then when I get out of range, beeps again to say it's dropped. Everything I own needs a beeper these days.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

no, not a dream! sheesh! yes a dream

Last night I dreamed she had sneaked out of the hospital and came up the back stairs, wearing the hospital gown and with her PICC line dangling. I gave her a great big hug and she sank into me and slowly disappeared... nice...

And that is, actually, much of how I'm feeling. A tiny part of me thinks she's just not at our hospital any more. She's in some unnamed other place, but somewhere in the real world, I just don't know where.

The other part is that she's living inside me forever.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

she died

early this morning.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

the wait is (probably) over

The night before last, the mate's O2Sat dipped down into the 60s. Last night, it hit the 30s and she was taken to ICU. They put her on the bipap. In accordance with her wishes, they didn't intubate her. When she regained consciousness she told them she wanted to be out of ICU and back in her regular room.

I talked with her doc this morning. Basically, if a new set of lungs didn't show up today, the mate would probably be in too poor a condition to transplant. The doc said she would check with the transplant hospital to see if there was a potential donation in the pipeline.

There wasn't. I'll have her check again this evening but basically today is it.

Miracles have happened, it is a miracle in itself that she's lasted as long as she has. And it's entirely possible that she will recover sufficiently to last yet a little longer.

In short, I'm not ready to hit the morphine for her yet. But we're scarily close to that point. Odds are not good. She is mostly sleeping/unconscious, and about once every hour or two she is pretty lucid. But because she's been known to turn around, I want to continue her medications and respiratory therapy as long as is reasonable. If she is going downhill for the last time, then a few more bags of antibiotics and a few more vials of albuterol and saline aren't going to make a difference.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

a little scary

The mate is normally headstrong and very much in control. However, these last few days the sense of fear has been pretty strong, so the doc kinda-half-sorta recommended trying more morphine, which tricks the body into thinking it has enough oxygen. We agreed it was reasonable to experiment.

However, yesterday and today in particular the mate was getting spacey and lost. She'd stop in the middle of doing something and just sit. I got alarmed because today she was not responding to my questions but something else, usually a mishearing of what I'd said. She'd forgotten that I'd brought her a coffee this morning, thinking it was yesterday. She was a bit cold in the fingers, though her O2 reading was excellent. And she was really in spaceland, sitting motionless a lot even when she'd said she was about to do something.

She wears a low-dose Fentanyl patch, gets Valium twice a day, and Ativan if a fast effect is needed. Apparently she'd had two morphine doses and two marinols today. Usually she has just one of each. It seemed like this was just too much: she pretty much turned to mush.

Fortunately our night nurse is a very good one; she's competent and responsive, and she likes the mate too. I told her things felt wrong, and she went in with her student nurse. The student automatically asked the mate if she wanted a Valium, and she said yes. But I gave a quick shake no, and the night nurse double-checked, asking the mate how she felt and other questions that determined that she didn't really need the Valium. Our nurse said she'd hold off on the narcotics until tomorrow.

I was totally relieved. Normally, as I said, the mate's very much in tune with how she feels and what she needs, but today she was completely suggestible, saying yes to everything. A less concerned (or less experienced) nurse might just ask the question and go on a positive reply without really sensing a problem.

This is a place where nurses have a lot of power. I pushed ours into a judgement call. I admitted that I couldn't decide which was better: a state where she wasn't having any fear but didn't have much of a brain either, or a having a clear mind but often struck by terrors. She made what was essentially a doctor's decision, to withhold narcotics, and I'm very glad she did.

smarter goose removal

I was thinking about the trillion Canadian geese the other day and the lightning flash of stupidity suddenly came to me.

We have a leash law. All dogs are to be either fenced in, or attached to a leash and under control of their owners at all times when outside. The only place you can let your dog really run free is in the dog park.

A dog park costs approximately $25K - $30K to build, with nominal maintenance costs. The city has two.

The city is considering removing the Canadian geese infestation by hiring border collies and their handler. The dogs are taken on rounds to the city parks to chase the geese several days per week. I'm presently researching how much this costs, but from what I've read, it's an ongoing service of 50 to 100 visits per year, and takes typically 10 to 12 weeks to get the geese to stay away.

It makes more sense to simply kill the leash law instead, dontcha think?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

progress (ha!)

The carhawking's been rather sporadic, but he jumps out the passenger window pretty readily now. The problem is that it *still* takes him a while to choose to go. The car is at a dead stop and the crow wondering why this strange bird is staring at him.

We spent the last few hours of today exploring industrial parks in the East Bay. Crows like lawns and tall trees, and a fair number of parks have at least the lawns. We had some good slips, but no connects. I'm starting to get a bit more coordinated with the driving part. I put the window down first and try to keep him inside the car as long as I can.

We ended up without any catches at the McDonald's field, named for the obvious McDonald's at the opposite corner. This is primarily a jack field with occasional pheasants, so I grabbed the T-perch and we made a quick run through. We didn't see anything except the feathery tail of a skunk (rapid backing away). Heading back to the car, P makes a few half-heated passes at a pair of jacks, but they flush upwind and the edge is off his appetite.

Finally, it's obvious our vector is for the car, so he takes off and flies to it. I catch up a minute later, but P is not on the car. A few more steps and I hear him jingle on the ground, and I realize he's on something. "That had better not be a dead jackrabbit," I say. It's something greyish and fuzzy, and I sigh.

Then I get a better look. That thing is moving, and it's a weird greyish yellow I've never seen on a jack.

It's a gosling. We get a trillion Canadian geese out here and they're breeding. In fact, carhawking last week, P hit the window wanting to go after a trio of goslings. Well, I guess he has one now.

There's a second one, too, flipping in and out of this mess of hawk and grabbed goose. I grab that one and shove it out of P's line of sight. The other one's a goner, so I let him feed up on it.

Number Two I'm not sure what to do with. They weren't in a nest, and I had just spotted a couple big clumps of downy feathers ten seconds before noticing P wasn't on the car. This guy is wobbling a bit drunkenly, like he's going into bird shock. Bird shock is very confusing to us mammals, because it looks similar to mammal shock but birds can sometimes recover from it easily and quickly. Birds can sometimes look mostly dead, only to spring to life later. And sometimes they die.

I make the executive decision based on not seeing any parents (I would have noticed them coming in), no nest nearby, and the recent loss of its only sibling which might keep it warm enough to stay alive a few hours longer. The gosling gets executed. I'm sorry to have to do it, but I think leaving it would have been just postponing the inevitable.

Hawks don't consult the law book before choosing what to catch.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

trying not to put my foot in my mouth

First things first: I'm against the war, and I am not defending the actions of the military personnel who covered up the circumstances of Pat Tillman's death.

However, intelligence is not generally considered the foremost skill of military employees. Many of them are young and their judgement is not always fully developed. You have young men with loaded guns using heavy equipment and items designed to kill people. In short, shit happens, and in the military, it happens a little more often.

Accidents happened; certainly some due to friendly fire, others due to less dignified reasons. In more paternalistic times, or when war was more supported than now, commanders would sometimes lie to the family about the cause of death in order to spare the dignity of the deceased. No one wants to hear their son died because he used a match to check the gasoline level in a jerrican, or looked down the barrel of a misfiring weapon. We laugh at these things when the Darwin Awards presents them, but if it's your spouse or child or sibling, it's not funny, and you wouldn't want anyone knowing.

I'm not saying Tillman's dignity was the sole concern of our present leaders. I believe that they considered that he was a well-known football player and that death due to friendly fire doesn't sound nearly as good as death in combat with the enemy. But even though this war is very media-driven, I still hesitate to posit they lied primarily to promote the war.

Monday, April 23, 2007

two months bleh

About every other evening I drive up to be with you and help you bathe. The bath is alarming because you’re forced to use the low-level oxygen – the other tube is too short. You have much less air than usual, so you’re afraid, so I’m there to spot you.

Most of me is occupied keeping things under control, but for part of me it’s total torment. My eyes sip each of your inches, every fine golden hair, the freckles on your shoulders, the curves and folds in your skin as you waver in the water. You’re so fragile right now, breathing anxiously: lovemaking is unthinkable when it costs you just to squeeze my shoulder.

I know the tease isn’t intentional -- to see your body every other day and be unable to make love to you -- but the reminders are almost painful. Touching you, my hands tingle and echo up the insides of my arms, remembered sensations ram wires through my shoulders. Prickles in my neck urge my mouth forward, wanting to feel the nearest bit of you.

Driving home I see the shine of your skin in the moon’s speckles on the bay. I can take ten seconds and relive them for an hour. Remember the way the adrenalin wires burn all the way down, shoulders to calves, and your warm skin that I wrap myself around like a snake. All I have is memory right now.

Sometimes I wish I could forget.