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.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Scars automatically make a person a sensualist. Scars and other severe physical flaws make you pay attention to your skin, force you to acknowledge the power of your body to attract or repel. They make you hate your body for repelling, and, as if to make up for this unnatural hatred, create an eccentric pride in its strangeness. And you so want to make up for being flawed.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

asian backlash?

In Wednesday's Mercury News, L.A. Chung expressed concern that the Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung Hui, will cause a backlash against Asians.

This is merely reactive fear that Cho's ethnicity will damage the popular perception that Asians are "model" immigrants: hard working, valuing education, and so shit-scared of everything they are unassertive and obedient.

I'm in two minds about this, actually. Part of me says people are intelligent enough to recognize that a random Asian has no responsibility for the actions of an insane Asian student 2000 miles away. Another part of me sadly realizes some people really are that dumb.

The terrible thing is, when it comes to African Americans, Chung is totally right. Blacks do feel dread when a newsmaking crime is committed by a black. Historically they are disproportionately poor and disproportionately involved in crime, and part of their more recent cultural developments glorifies criminal behavior. Some whites, even men, even today, will cross the street to avoid walking by a black male because of prejudiced assumptions. In our present condition of war, Muslim Americans feel the same dread about violent actions by Muslims.

But Americans generally don't perceive Asians as criminal or violent, and I think it's stupid to think that Cho will create that assumption. He's way too late, if you set your sights outside America. For decades we've had the Japanese Mafia, the Vietnamese disregard for human life during the war with the US, the Chinese's disregard for copyright laws and their human traffic, the North Korean dictatorship's sales of illegal drugs, etc. It's just that Asian crime and violence doesn't surface often enough in America for it to be noticed.

Cho isn't going to be the problem; anyone can tell he was insane. I truly wish so-called journalists would have some sense of proportion, and not try to hype fear about a problem that is unlikely to manifest itself in significant ways.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

April sucks

The Ides of March has doom bestowed on it by Caesar and Shakespeare, the Ides of April by the IRS.

I post relatively infrequently on Nordinho now, even for the PNCs I like so much. I play the game, read the thread if I get stuck, finish the game and go on. I've stopped playing forum games (except for Pictionary, which is running a bit slow right now), they just don't hold my interest. And maybe the site has gotten less fun to me because a few friends have slipped away or are laying low. Not that I was ever deeply into the social aspect, but knowing there are people who like you is nice.

Maybe it's just because April is a month in which you write two fat checks to your government and watch the wind blow crazily. It's a lousy month for flying, too.

Maybe I'm getting disgusted with the web just in general. Today I was skimming Yahoo Answers for questions about cystic fibrosis, and was just amazed at the number of people asking "what is cystic fibrosis?" Helllloooo?! Ever heard of Wikipedia? Google? Do you really think you're the very first person ever to ask this question? Do you have to hire people to type your question in for you, or do you have friends to help? Do they read the answers to you, too?


I've always found it hard to laugh stupidity off as human nature. I've always wished or hoped that people desire to be intelligent, to educate themselves, to be able to see beyond themselves. Of course, I also believe that people are honest by nature, which is not true at all. I'm not always honest, why assume others are?


For happiness: the mate is clearly getting better these past two weeks. She's trimming back on the morphine and marinol, and changing the antianxiety med to a different one. O2Sat is consistently between 92 and 95 with the new air thing. We dearly wish the transplant would happen in the next 14 days because this is the healthiest she's been since January.

The doctor, being savvy, does not want to change the gloomy prognosis since this might easily drop her priority down. The mate needs the lungs despite this healthiness, because it is only temporary, guaranteed. The past year has shown us how fast she can go from relatively good to damn near dead. We've had our death talk TWICE and I don't want to do it a third time :) though when the lungs show up, I expect we will since there's a chance she may not survive the surgery. But -- as always -- we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

some success

We caught our first game out the window today. Not the right kind of game - a jackrabbit, actually - but it's the principle of the thing. He now knows it's okay to go out the window and grab things, and he'll get a good reward for doing so.

And I can never really complain about a jackrabbit catch. It's a big tough quarry, over three times his weight and full of fight.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

[microfiction] Lenny

Most days there's a ghoul in my car. Wait, I know what you're thinking: he means a gremlin. The occasional refusal to start, or an interesting ping that disappears whenever you bring it to the mechanic, or the folding seat that jams until you give it a hefty kick right there. Everyone has gremlins every so often.

No, I mean a ghoul, with glittering yellowish eyes containing pink specks, wasted cheeks, and transparent skin that doesn't hide the serous grey flesh and the occasional squirmy thing. You can imagine my reaction the first time I saw him. Yeah. Good thing I was only pulling into my driveway. The hedge didn't cost much to replace. My heart, which was flapping like a parched chihuahua's tongue, should have exploded. Or at least, that's what Lenny told me later.

I assumed the gasping "Oh, crap" sound came from me. Instead, the chihuahua cooled down, I put the car in gear and scraped backwards, glancing at the neighbors' windows. (My twelve steps I took a decade ago, but there's still a few old farts who wag their noses at the memory of the last time I gave them some exciting gossip. That was my previous car, and my previous wife's car. But like I said, that was a long time ago. Now they gossip about what a miser I am. Better to be hated for being rich than poor, I say.)

I parked, fumbled for aspirin in the glove box and swallowed several dry, eyes squinched tight. Green and pink specks there ... where I had just seen pink specks ... yeeeyi. I opened my eyes and watched the soothing waves of the sagging headliner. Even in my worst boozing I never hallucinated pink elephants. That's how I knew I wasn't a really serious alcoholic. But I was, and still am, terrified of them, because I think they could come anytime, like flashbacks.

"Try it again" murmured behind me. I whipped around, and there was the thing again. The first weapon I grabbed wouldn't rise. Hand brakes are firmly attached for some stupid reason. A book. No books. My briefcase! Grabbing the handle, I slung it around at the creature, and papers went flying around the car. Yeah, on the drive home I'd opened it to answer my cell phone and never closed it. "God. Damn. Just. Fuck. Me. Harder," I yelled, batting the empty briefcase at it with each syllable.

"Oh, oh, stop!" I noticed I couldn't see what I was beating on anymore. It was cowering in a fetal position, arms shriveled like yesterday's mayonnaise protecting its gummy head. "Please stop. I'll leave, I won't do it again!" Its voice had the same pitch as my kid, or at least the same pitch I remembered before his mom moved out of state. Which reminded me I was running late on my support payment. And also sparked a microgram of sympathy in me. I mean, you can't really tell how old a ghoul is – they all look like Keith Richards.

In the lack of whamming sounds, it peeked up at my glaring face. Those awful, hypnotic yellow eyes – my head thunked the rearview mirror. "Ow! Damn!"

"Umm ... are you okay?"

"No vital organs," I groaned. "How about you? Did I hurt you bad?"

"No pain. I don't have any nerves anyway. But I was scared you loosed the Harpies on me."


It sat up, trying not to look at me. "The white flying things. Look like Harpies."

"Oh, no, man, that's just paper." I breathed out, and started picking them up. A person needs to do something normal at a time like this. "What the hell did you think you were doing?"

"I was supposed to give you a coronary." Its shoulders dropped. "It ... I haven't done it yet ... I guess I'm not so good at this."

"Well, everything takes practice. On different subjects that is, um, yeah, to try to get all the variants of a situation. It's like debugging. You never know what's going to trip you up, so you have to try everything. Testing against zero, negative numbers, empty input, you know empty strings, em ... what the hell am I talking about?"

"Beats me. I'm just worried now."

I stuck out my hand. "I'm Alexy."


"Lenny." I pointed at the little creamy maggot writhing on the back of his hand. "And that's, uh, Squiggy?"


"Never mind." We shook hands. I looked down. "Um, do you want that back?" He shook his head and I put the pinkie finger as politely as possible in the wastebasket. "What're you worried about?"

Lenny's face sagged so deeply, he made a bloodhound look like Angelina Jolie. "I've failed. I just can't kill people. This was my last chance, Malacoda said. After this I get kicked off the team. He'll probably toss me all the way to the Sixth Circle. I hate the Sixth Circle. The heat just speeds up putrefaction. I don't think he'd toss me further, though. I hope not."

"Well, I think I may have an idea."

Lenny rides with me back and forth from work every day now. He saves me tons of time because I can use the commuter lane. Lately there's been a pretty high turnover on the toll bridges I take, but now that we're commuters, I hardly notice a difference.

Friday, April 06, 2007

finally carhawking

About six months ago I was trying to start carhawking and was just stymied by several issues. First off, there's a chicken in my right hand that says Do NOT drive onto the wrong side of the road. Second, the window control in my car was in the wrong place, a hardwired switch was too unwieldy and the remote control way too expensive.

Well, I finally got around to tackling this again, and here's the result:

It hangs on the seat by the headrest posts, and it seats him just above the bottom of the window. We've taken drives twice and I can see P getting back into the idea of carhawking.

However, it's also been at least three years since he was flown out a window, and though he has that beautiful neck-arch and erect stance of seeking prey, he seemed reluctant to jump, even at very close quarry. Hmmm!

My theory is this is because his previous owners flew him on the left side, on a glove, and kept him in his box when not being flown. With me he's used to sitting in an open perch unhooded, not seeking, and being taken out from the rear of the car to chase bunnies. Plus I presently have him too high because I haven't been flying at all. I'm going to drop him 15 grams, and 30 if I must. We did a little practice flying out the window, yesterday to the lure, today to a quail head tossed out the window.

I have to say carhawking is ridiculously effortless. All you have to do is keep your eyes open for opportunities (and red lights, and other cars.) Instead of tramping through ten acres of scrub in the hot sun hoping to run across four or five bunnies, you contribute to greenhouse gases and can encounter a lot more slips.

Crows are smart, but to combat this, I have the most indistinguished of cars -- a silver SUV. Everyone has a silver SUV. The crows won't be able to tell the difference between me and half the population, or at least not until the window opens and a Harris hawk pops out.

couldn't resist

CPMC's current catchphrase is "Beyond Medicine." Which is actually pretty damn true, they have relatively few people who are bad at what they do (Stanford has a much higher proportion of incompetence). The mate's doctors and nurses really have gone the extra mile.

But the phrase is just too ripe to resist. The phrase comes printed on their towelette packets, and this morning the mate and I took turns photographing the packet held over our crotches. But that's a little too pornographic for a blog.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

if any bachelor tells you

... that whacking off is an adequate substitute for real sex -- he's lying flat as the prayer rug under the fat Buddha's ass. Despite having exploited most tricks in the book, Mrs Palmer and her five daughters are looking about as exciting as LambChop these days.