Thursday, December 03, 2009

"independent reviews" -- ha!

Is there even one website out there that reviews international phone cards and is NOT a shill for a specific card? The claims that the reviews are independent and unbiased are such blatant lies it's laughable.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

sense always takes over, doesn't it

A friend had gotten a new tiercel HH, but due to a knee injury was no longer able to train him. I asked around and found someone. Since I was seeing my mom for the Thanksgiving holiday and my friend lived in the area, I figured I'd make it convenient for everyone and pick up the bird.

He's the progeny of my sponsor's HH, a nice gamey bird. In this eyas I could see a bit of her, too. He was a bit feisty and very quick. I haven't had a young HH in at least 10 years, so it was a pleasure to see his curiosity and focus. His siblings, I was told, are catching bunnies already. You could tell was so ready to go out and fly and catch something!A little sentimentality and a fat dose of sensed potential got me on the phone to the recipient. I told him I was interested in the bird and I wanted to hang onto it, at least for a little while. He seemed okay with that.

Sense reminded me I had only one bunny field within an hour's drive of me -- and that was on private property, escort required. Even jackrabbits are harder to find. There's so few wild, unfenced places left here. Sense told me although crow is certainly a good skill for a young hawk to have, I did not want to create another crow hawk. A crow hawking cast sounds cool but I don't think it's do-able, especially with a partner like Mr P.

I phoned the recipient the next day and said I'd changed my mind. He came by and picked up the tiercel that evening. I wish them both well...

Monday, October 19, 2009

horror on Midway Atoll

This is simply awful. Albatross parents mistake brightly colored bottle caps and bits of plastic for food, and feed it to their chicks... who die...

Friday, October 09, 2009

overboard

I like Obama, and wanted him for president since the idea started being suggested. I think he's done more for this country in 6 months than the previous administration did in 8 years.

But the Nobel Peace Prize? Come ON folks.

Having a far more approachable global attitude is great. Stating a commitment to reducing nuclear weaponry is wonderful. Guiding my country through avoiding depression, and to the beginnings of economic recovery, is a relief.

But none of it is really Prize-worthy. The Nobel Institute says it is for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Obama has done some, but not a LOT, not on the scale of Carter, let's say. He has been primarily a speaker, an inspirer, a motivator -- and there's a lot of value in that. But results are a different matter and remain to be seen.

I'm skeptical of the Institute's motivations. It only creates more pressure on the man with the biggest plateful of pressures since Roosevelt.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

speak of the devil..

And my falconry license has arrived today.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

where o where?

Earlier I had wondered when I was going to get my falconry license. I phoned Portland and it turns out the fed has set up Region 8, a new office in Sacramento. We used to send everything to Portland, now Portland's sent everything back down to Sac. They gave me a number to call, and I left a message there.

Falconers generally don't consider phone calls from USFWS to be delightful, but a very nice young lady called me at 7pm on a Friday evening to tell me that she had my check and my paperwork. Region 8 had been open just over a month, so undoubtedly there will be a long delay in actually getting the license. But at least I know they have it.

so far so good

In two days, I will have not smoked for four weeks. There's been maybe 3 slips where I smoked a quarter of a cigarette, but overall it's good and I am pretty determined to stay quit.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

smoke emotions

Something I've often said is that cigarettes are the wonder drug. You're tired, you smoke and perk up. You're tense, you smoke and relax. Cigarettes are whatever you want them to be and that's a huge part of why they're so addictive.

Recently, I talked with someone who had quit 14 years ago, and he said "cigarettes are entirely emotional." Being a bit Spockish it took me 2 weeks to figure out what he was saying and apply it to quitting.

It's all about association. Cigarettes are whatever you want them to be. They're all about affecting how you're feeling. But the thing to understand is the emotions you had were there to begin with, and the emotions you have after the cigarette are YOUR emotions.

The cigarette does nothing.

Example: You're tense, and you step outside and light up. What you're doing walking away physically, mentally, or both. You take a break -- you get away from the problem -- you pause for reflection. That's what relaxes you, NOT THE CIGARETTE. Associating the relaxation with the cig is the error.

If you're happy, the cigarette does not make you happier. If you're hungry, the cigarette may put a flavor on your tongue but you can do the same thing with anything else. Tense, bored, needing relaxation or a break -- you can do it just as well without.

Disassociate the emotion from the cigarette and you will lose another (possibly large) reason to smoke.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

the chantix is almost perfect

I haven't smoked for a week now. I've been taking .5mg/day for 10 days and, because it gives me problems sleeping, plan to stay there. (I was supposed to step up to 1mg a week ago, and 2mg 4 days ago, but if it keeps working at .5mg there's no reason to do more.)

The only side effect I get is really crummy sleep. I should count myself lucky, since I could be having anxiety, headaches, nausea, suicidal ideas, and/or a "potentially fatal" rash. Instead I can't get to sleep till midnight, wake up at 3am for an hour or so, and wake up at 5:30 am, sometimes getting back to sleep, sometimes not.

However, I don't seem to feel the lost sleep much. I might nap an hour or two once or twice a week. By the numbers, it doesn't make up for the loss, but it seems to be all I need. It could be the meditation I've been doing for the past couple months, could be the dopamine makes me feel the loss less.

In any case, it's worth it to not be smoking. The drug has made it incredibly easy to pass on the urge. They tell you urges only last a few minutes, and while this is true, it just isn't that simple. I get beset by urges: the first I could pass on, but urges would keep coming every 5-10 minutes, until I gave in. With the Chantix, the first urge goes away easily, and subsequent urges (if they come at all) are noticeably weaker.

I plan to do the full 12 week course (though as I said at a low dosage) and hopefully at the end of it I will have built new habits and will have enough groundwork laid that it becomes something in itself, not to be destroyed.

The standard warning label:
Some people have had changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions while using CHANTIX to help them quit smoking. Some people had these symptoms when they began taking CHANTIX, and others developed them after several weeks of treatment or after stopping CHANTIX. If you, your family, or caregiver notice agitation, hostility, depression, or changes in behavior, thinking, or mood that are not typical for you, or you develop suicidal thoughts or actions, anxiety, panic, aggression, anger, mania, abnormal sensations, hallucinations, paranoia, or confusion, stop taking CHANTIX and call your doctor right away. Also tell your doctor about any history of depression or other mental health problems before taking CHANTIX, as these symptoms may worsen while taking CHANTIX.

Some people can have serious skin reactions while taking CHANTIX, some of which can become life-threatening. These can include rash, swelling, redness, and peeling of the skin. Some people can have allergic reactions to CHANTIX, some of which can be life-threatening and include: swelling of the face, mouth, and throat that can cause trouble breathing. If you have these symptoms or have a rash with peeling skin or blisters in your mouth, stop taking CHANTIX and get medical attention right away.

The most common side effects include nausea (30%), sleep problems, constipation, gas, and/or vomiting. If you have side effects that bother you or don't go away, tell your doctor.

You may have trouble sleeping, vivid, unusual or strange dreams while taking CHANTIX. Use caution driving or operating machinery until you know how CHANTIX may affect you.

Monday, August 24, 2009

my low rent espresso setup

Left to right:
Gaggia grinder (used, $120)
stainless steel tamper
plastic ice cream lid to protect from tamping dents in the wood (a little too late already)
homemade knockbox (plastic storage box, 6" bolt, 1/4" aquarium tubing)
Silvia holding up import-store-$1.50-each latte cups
stainless steel steaming pitcher from the old espresso kit

I just received a "new" steaming tip from Chris's Coffee Service. I just could not microfoam to save my life with the 3-hole tip, so the techs sent me a single-hole. I screwed it on and instantly produced a nice batch of microfoam, which eventually led to a falconer's latte: jack in the cup.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

could anyone possibly fall for this?

A bit of phishing spam I got this morning at my hotmail account. I count at least a dozen grammatical and formatting errors you would never see in any business letter. And a proper phisher would at least have the name of their website obfuscated in some way. Which all goes to show that criminals are generally stupider than average people.

:
Dear Member.

We Here at Microsoft inc (MSN, Verizon, X-Box Live, MSN Live, Hotmail, Quest, And other services we provide.), are sorry to inform you that we are having problem's with the billing information on your account. We would appreciate it if you would go to our website and fill out the proper information that we need to keep you as an member.Please Update your account information by visiting our updates web site below.

http://msnetwork.ftpaccess.cc/


James Brady.
Microsoft Updates Center
Account Team.
Number.561920703

We do hope to continue doing business with you...

Friday, August 21, 2009

yeah, a little late to notice, but...

I mailed everything off in late May but haven't yet received my license. California has cashed my check, but the feds haven't (ain't online banking terrific?) Phone call placed...

Sunday, August 09, 2009

not sure which is best.

The Evelyn Lundberg Counseling Agency (Prairie Home Companion)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

just about at the happy ending

I went through this earlier this year. I've been in love purgatory for quite a while, moving forward yet never able to fully let go.

But now she's coming back, and for good. Finally, she is absolutely certain she will never go back to him.

There will be a transition period while she ends her connection to her ex. (Personally, I wish she didn't care so much that she needs to do that, but if she must in order to be at peace, I won't stop her.) We've half resumed what we started, but once she's defined terms with him, we'll be completely free.

Although her words in the past couple weeks were the same as all the times she'd failed to follow through, I sensed she was really serious this time in a way I cannot name. I can't explain it: I slept well and rarely felt anxious. Those who believe in the psychic would probably say we're connected. Those who do not would say I just didn't believe her anymore, that I had finally learned to pay attention to deeds, not words.

It's a happy end. I'm in a bit of shock, but the same kind you feel when your lottery ticket comes up with all the right numbers. Monday, she said just about everything I'd wanted her to say, and it was so complete and definite that Tuesday I wasn't sure I had dreamed the whole thing...

Some folks here know what I've been through. They cannot be thanked enough for their sympathy, advice, and good thoughts.

Friday, July 31, 2009

like fiats

Silvia is no longer the steamy chick she was when she arrived. She's still oh-so-hot and makes an excellent espresso, but that extra, more ephemeral quality that divides good from great has failed.

Tech support says a temperature sensor is broken. They're shipping a new one, and fortunately, opening up the machine and installing it will not void the warranty.

This is, interestingly, just like computers. They either fail immediately, or they last a decent lifetime.

But in the meantime, no lattes...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

lots o latte

My Rancilio Silvia arrived Monday and since then I've been cloistered in the kitchen like some mad scientist. I took apart my Braun grinder and adjusted the burrs down to get espresso fineness (and while I was at it, cleaned it for the first time in years.) I pushed on the bathroom scale to get a feel for 30 pounds of tamping pressure. The odor of burned grounds pervaded the kitchen. Glasses of sadly flat hot milk with a cap of stiff foam got tossed.

It took some self control not to practice more than 3 times a day, but I dislike tachycardia more than I like lattes. After a few days I found the right combination of grind and tamping pressure to pull an acceptable espresso shot. This morning, by luck, I did the right thing with the steam wand and got a beautiful microfoam, and immediately tried my hand at latte art.

Friday, July 10, 2009

[review] Kingdom Come, J. G. Ballard

JG Ballard is probably best known for Empire of the Sun, which was put to the screen by Steven Spielberg. Most of Ballard's books have to do with ambivalent relationships with ambivalent women, but his last few novels focused on suburban dystopia. Kingdom Come is one of these, and its black comedy had me laughing out loud. From reviews of Ballard's work, general opinion is that this is the best of these newer stories.

Plot. Richard Pearson's father is one of the fatalities in a gunman's rampage at a huge shopping mall in the suburb of Brooklands, a town off the M25. Richard, a recently fired advertising executive, comes to Brooklands for closure and instead finds a mystery.

The gunman, a mental patient, is released due to lack of evidence -- a few witnesses placed him elsewhere in the mall during the shooting. As Richard speaks with the police, a doctor who had treated his father, the gunman's psychiatrist and his father's solicitor, a picture begins to emerge about the role of the mall in the lives of suburbanites. There is either hatred of this shrine to consumerism, or love of it. The mall, a vast, self-contained mini-city with three hotels and its own TV channel, sponsors weekly sporting events that result in drunken rampages against the immigrant residents of Brooklands. Ballard twists this into sublimated hatred of those who are using a different economic channel than the Metro-Centre mall.

Richard, in search of his father's killer as well as trying to get a grasp on a man he barely knew, is drawn into the war between mall-haters and mall-lovers. The mall becomes an ideology unto itself, and only chaos can erupt.

Review. This is satire with a pit bull's bite. It's completely over the top, hauling in heavy-handed comparisons to the development of Nazi Germany. But at the same time one senses in the details a little too much underlying reality, a genuine potential for suburbia to behave in this way. The funniest scene, to me, was the trio of giant animated teddy bears, the anchor point of the mall. They, too, were shot by the gunman, and the mall patrons leave shoals of flowers, jars of honey and get well cards at their feet. (You just know this would happen in real life, and almost certainly has.)

Ballard's writing is a bit choppy. There might be a jump of days or a few weeks between chapters, with an unrealistic lack of continuity in Richard's knowledge. The loyalties of various minor characters are not often clear. Also, at one point, the mall's public relations manager, Tom Carradine, is referred to as 'David Carradine' a few times -- an editor's oversight that will hopefully be corrected in future editions. One senses from this that Ballard wrote it in rushes of inspiration. But overall, a good and memorable book I want to hang onto next time I need a good laugh at suburbia.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

sometimes we find happiness

in the smallest things. Well, maybe not so small, because if they give us happiness they become larger, more significant, in our minds.

There's someone I love deeply who I can't have in my life, but we spent some time together today. We completely avoided the subject of not being together -- something we've done almost constantly for the past year, something that coats all our conversations with tension and frustration. Sure, it was an artificial peace, but it was peace nonetheless, and a semblance of the relationship we'd had before.

A small thing, but to be appreciated nonetheless.

Monday, July 06, 2009

When Brits rap

If the English do rap, they should never, ever stoop to imitating American rap. Below is the very finest example of what British rap should be: about tea. (Plus a great piano riff)


The artist's name is Elemental.

And some lyrics. (I'm not sure of all of it...)

Love a cup. I would -- ah, god YES. Oh that is gorgeous. Yeah!

I need a cup of the brown stuff the shade of an acorn
Made warm by the same source that I take my cakes from
Using a tea pot, a mug or fine china
Being hooked up to IVs, and constant supplies

But a drip for my urges might verge on perverted
for an earthy brown tea I’m certain it’s worth it
With Sherpas who work herds and use a fresh fountain
I deserve brews from Peruvian mountains

I’ve slurped up a cup from an elephant’s trunk
with a couple of monks who utterly stunk
I’ve had bourbons with sultans and creams with queens
and I’ve bathed in Earl Grey -- I’m really that keen
And missionaries dismiss me for my single epiphany
The difference between him and me is a simple sip of British tea

So when times are hard and life is rough
You can stick the kettle on and find me a cup

Now when I say Earl Grey, you say: yes please
Earl Grey: yes please
Earl Grey: yes please

When I say Assam, you say: Lovely
Assam: Lovely
Assam: Lovely
When I say ooh, you say ah
Ooh -- ah
Ooh -- ah
Ooh -- ahh

I’ve been around the world in 80 brews
to see the place you take me to
to make the brew that tastes like
the cream cakes made by angels do

I’m not the same as you, get shaky with aim
To swig amazing fluids, but don’t make it the same
Now using fine leaves picked by pretty maidens
in a bag knitted by a seamstress who lives in Copenhagen
Brewed up in a pot made of semi-precious metal
And then let the blessed contents settle
in my very special kettle

Now when I say Oo, you say: long.
Oo: long
Oo: long
When I say herbal you say: no thanks
Herbal: no thanks
Herbal: no thanks

Mmm... no... no, I want... I want milk in it.
Strong though -- I want to see that spoon stand up!

If you’re tired of tea, then you’re tired of life
Ah I’m madder than a hatter, it defies my might
Liken me to Earl Grey, Assam, or Ginger
Lapsang, Soushong, raise my pinky finger.
Keep your sodding coffee in a proper copper coffee pot
and spot me lobbing teapots at your poncey rotten coffee shop
coffee clocks, nodding off
lost a plot, sodding off
Need some caffeine, tannin, and a Battenburg to top it off

Cut them off a different block
A different lot can take their pay
On 80 cups a day, I haven’t slept for 80 years!
You can say I’m mad with tea or, or just say I’m mad.
Oh, you can’t stay any longer? Oh... actually, I’m, I’m quite glad --
All the more Battenburg for me
I can barely pour, my hands have got a bit shaky from caffeine.
Oh, I love it though.
I’d sell my own grandma for a cup.
Well, I’d sell *your* grandma for a cup.

Monday, June 29, 2009

snake and monkey

will never trust each other :( .

Thursday, June 25, 2009

uncaptureable moment

I was watering an empty space in front of the feijoa in preparation for putting in some plants, and a most remarkable thing happened.

The dog has chewed branches off the feijoa multiple times and I was never able to catch him at it. It's a young shrub and he would eventually do a fatal chew if I didn't do something, so a few weeks back I staked up some plastic aviary net around it. It's 3 feet high and seems to have been enough of a deterrent, though he could push under -- or chew through it -- if he wanted to.

Anyway, I was watering the feijoa's area when a hummingbird came to hover nearby. He looked like a young guy (or gal), all green, and bold as hummers are, was floating about five feet away. He was all interested in the hose spray and moved the edge of the arc, dipping in and out, seeming to drink a few drops. I don't blame him; today's the first day that has felt truly summery. He tasted one of the flowers nearby, then went into the apple tree.

The hose was on the blast setting, but you can dial down the pressure, which I did. He came back and hovered at the edge again, then dropped down into the center of the spray, getting seriously wet but still hovering, for several seconds. Then the weight got to be too much, and he landed on the aviary net about halfway down, where he was still getting the full spray. He popped his wings out and was thoroughly enjoying himself, shaking down occasionally. This went on for maybe 20 seconds, and then he'd had enough and flew up into a flowering tree nearby.
Only then did I stop being mesmerized enough to take a picture. He kept shaking water off for another minute and then he was on his way.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

season's end stocktaking

The molt is on. I have a habit of not porking the bird out 24/7 but rather keeping him where I can get him to flying weight within a day or two. For Mr P, that means around 650g. It's high enough to keep the molt strong, especially if I keep quail and chicken liver in his diet. To my embarassment, I haven't broken out a single quail in the past six months. Crow is good meat for hawks, and having a glut of fresh ones all the time, I forget the importance of varying his diet. The frozen quail are probably no good now, so I'll pick some up the City sometime this week.

The chest freezer is over half full; I'm guessing I have at leat 70 crows in there, all from this season, and after I gave L about 35 to feed his crew. I don't do a game count (the wall-stamping, though, will eventually get me specific), but a conservative estimate would be 275 for the season and 340 on the outside.

4/9/09-6/7/09
69c/4s/1d

Friday, May 29, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

it doesn't get simpler than this



And tell me this dog doesn't look like he needs a beer:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

itching

P's dropped a few downies and body feathers, but no flight feathers. I must admit that, except for the sharpy last year, I haven't kept a proper falconer's log in years. Memory fails (far too easily): is he behind schedule or does he normally start in June? or July?

I want him to start molting, and from his early-morning yakking, I think he'd like it too. Feeding him all the quail, chicken livers and crow he can eat would kick-start it, but for some reason I want a drop to tell me we're done for the season. Just one.

Quarry is jumpy and hard to find -- they're nesting too -- which makes for less-than-satisfactory hawking. We got just four plus one starling last week. Getting the car painted would buy some stealth...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

six weeks and silliness

A short while back, a falconer friend in Pennsylvania and I were joking about the Silver SUV of Death and WWII planes. This convo led to my purchase of a rubber stamp of a crow on Ebay. Since I didn't want to mess with my car, and besides, I juggle enough things car hawking already, I started stamping the wall in the hawk's room.
The little half-stamp is for the starling. The upside-down one is for the accidental take of a human-edible bird. (Roasted, with apple and jam stuffing. Eminently edible.)

Speaking of starlings, I've been stowing all small birds in the freezer in anticipation of a small raptor to feed them to. On a whim I decided to step up the action and built a starling nest trap.
This crazy monster is a birdhouse mounted on a 4" sewer pipe. A starling takes a peek inside and sees an eligible nest (artfully faked up with twigs, grass, and a hot glue gun.) Then, in theory, the starling gets so excited at the prospect of nest theft that it leaps in, and instead of landing in the nest, falls through the hole in the bottom of the birdhouse -- aaaaaaaahhhhhhhiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeee! -- down the pipe and to the bend. It then sees light (yes, at the end of the tunnel), and walks into a wire cage at the end, where it conveniently finds food, water, and eventual freezing.

I have no idea if anything will happen. I hear them every day, but I know the flock is quite small. Just a bit of nonsense to spice up the season.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

probably a bad idea

I love goshawks in the abstract: in my eye they're the most beautiful bird of all, they're determined and they fly like jets. Given the right training they can be sweet on the fist and consistently deadly. But in practical terms, a tiercel gos really not right for what I've got. Ducks are only here for a few months, half of which is past duck season, gosses can chase crows pretty far (in carhawking this means significantly higher danger of losing your bird in a space you can't get to, like behind a building), quail and bunnies are nearly an hour away, and there's only one place nearby where pheasant can be found consistently.

But I still do love a gos... years ago I had one for a few months and would like to try it again. But maybe it's just not the right place for one now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

shifting into spring

Mr P is giving the call almost every morning now: "Single male HH, 13 years young, looking for a sweet female to make a nest with. Excellent provider of sticks and food." Or at least that's how I interpret "ak-ak-ak-ak-gak-gak-gak-ak-ak-ak." Little bits of down are just starting to star the perch (only one alula has dropped so far), and his field behavior is not quite so enthusiastic.

The crows are nesting too. They've scattered out of their big winter flocks, have been playing with dried grass and twigs for weeks, and now they're paired up, a little scarcer and warier. This week wasn't quite so productive -- "just" 7 -- and I'm half considering putting P up early in hopes of taking him up early, when the young ones are getting on the wing and being stupid.

Put my name on a list for a tiercel gos... that'll be a challenge.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

pig happy

My mom is a roast pig (siu-yook) connoisseur, or maybe just a fresser-fusser. Knowing I live in a place with a Chinese population over 20, she has over the years sent me hoofing all around the Bay Area for the perfect pig -- not too salty, enough of the other spices, and crispy fluffy skin. Above all, gotta be tender and not dry. Very few places meet her exacting Jungsan (Zhongshan) criteria.

So I'm at the Safeway on Washington St in San Lorenzo, and wandering across the parking lot toward the Longs Drugs when I see "Chinese BBQ" in nice red neon letters. It also says "Chinese Fast Food" which tends to make one shy away, unless one is in the mood for fat oily chow mein noodles. But BBQ of any ethnicity sparks interest. I come alongside the window and hanging in full, lovely view are ducks and chickens and pork ribs, brown and gold and red, all of them dripping.
(This is a pic from the web, not the actual restaurant.)

As I go in, a side of roasted pig appears, hanging from a hook on a steel pole. Inside looks like any nameless Chinatown BBQ place: checkerboard tile floor in neutral and white, formica tables or the modern equivalent thereof, industrial fluorescent overhead, and a slight sense of grime. Chinese don't believe in remodeling before opening a restaurant -- improvements come in dribs and drabs, if they ever come at all.

The pig looks looks promising, too. Good color and that bubbly quality to the skin like chicharones, not hard and flat. I talk to the customer ahead of me and she assures me she's picky about her pig and this is a good one. My heart soars.

I get a half-pound just to try it out. They also sell five gin-dui for a buck, which is a steal for the sweet.

As for the pig, I know my mom will find it near perfect. (A titch too salty for me -- I hardly ever salt anything so I find most prepared foods too salty.) I'm real pleased to have this place so near my house, so I can make my mom pig happy any time I see her.

Edit: While googling around for the image, I found this recipe from someone who made roast pig at home. Muahahaha...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

no bore Borges

I've been reading Jorge Luis Borges since forever. One senses infinite time in his writing, akin to Archibald MacLeish's poems. He presents you with an environment that surprises and tickles the mind. And I enjoy Borges's labyrinths and infinite libraries. Bridges always seem to pop up in my fiction and carry similar symbolic value.

I'd always checked him out from the library, so finally last week I splurged a few dollars at ABEbooks.com and ordered Labyrinths, A Universal History of Infamy, Dr. Brodie's Report, The Book of Imaginary Beings, The Book of Sand, The Aleph and Other Stories, and Ficciones. (Seven books for about $50 -- I love ABE.) A few arrived this week, so I'm going to be curling up for a while.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

you WANT a not guilty plea?!

Okay, so Bernard Madoff was caught for his Ponzi scheme. He says he knew what he was doing and knew he'd get caught one day. He says he's sorry and pleads guilty. To everything.

Some of the bilked wanted a trial, allegedly to bring more details to light.

This seems silly. The feds' investigation should be sufficient. I can't think of any reason to bring Madoff to a public trial except for the satisfaction of hearing him pronounced guilty.

Enough money has been lost on Madoff. Let's not waste any more.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

cynical about stupidity

I'm not a member of SEIU and the more I hear about them, the less I'd want to be. Check out this email from their president, who sounds like he was just browsing Youtube and came across the video -- but neglects to chop off the bit where his web producer asks for his approval. One could read it either way, but Stern's words have a disingenuous feel.

from Andy Stern
to {friend}
date Tue, Mar 3, 2009 at 9:54 AM
subject Hey

{friend's name},

Check out this video. It's hard to believe they actually said those things.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOM0AMUqviY

- Andy

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:
From: "Michael Whitney"
Date: March 2, 2009 9:32:51 PM EST
To: "Andy Stern"
Subject: video

Hi Andy -

We finished the "horror" video. If you're OK with how it looks, feel free to send it around.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOM0AMUqviY

Thanks for your help.

Michael

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

we chose

I spent the weekend with my mom, a card-carrying Republican, and as could be expected I got a dose of Fox News. These fine folks refer to Obama as "The Chosen One," their heavy-handed satirical comment on the popularity of our new president.

After eight years of Bush, anyone's going to look like a savior. And Obama is actually acting like real one: he's focused, and he's concentrating his effort not on supporting a futile war, but on supporting us.

He is the chosen one, not as demigod, but because we chose him to lead our country.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

10 crows a week, that's all we ask

The birds are transitioning from big flocks to smaller bands. Last week was great -- three each day -- and as the days grow longer, so will the number of days per week we can go.

I need to be more on the ball with jump-ups, though. Time with the new dog has been keeping me from doing much more than tossing the bird a chunk.

Speaking of the dog, the hawk hasn't gotten him yet, though not for lack of trying. Fortunately the dog has usually had the smarts to make himself scarce when I'm dealing with the bird. Not always, though, and he's sure to find out why consistent behavior is a good thing.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

once bit but never shy

On Friday P caught a squirrel, which managed to bite him in the foot. It was just a superficial cut, very little blood. A little neosporin and everything is fine -- a slight swelling is all, and it looks better already. We caught 2 crows on Saturday and 2 today even though he was a little high, so obviously it isn't bothering him much. He's also eyeballing the squirrels now.

I've been roaming for new places, and found a few. I still avoid neighborhoods as much as possible and stick with industrial parks. Early in the morning, shopping malls are good too. They like construction sites -- newly turned earth -- probably for uncovered insects, but also for the grit. Recently I came across a flock of almost 200 at a pile of clean sand for construction. We caught one there, of course, but alerted 199 to the Silver SUV of Death.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

well, usually

Good dog:

A couple trips to our local dog park has turned him into a car convert, almost. On our way out, he's happy to get in. Going home is harder, but not nearly the ordeal it was.

He's considering fetching. He'll do it a little, but he's much more keyed into running with other dogs and any human. Balls are a degree of separation. But he's starting to do it a little.

He's a total love bug. He goes into ecstatic bliss when I rub him on the head, collapsing like a cat (yeesh) with all feet in the air.

For entertainment, he picks up windfall apples, tosses them in the air, and chases them. The only problem there is that he eats them, too.

Bad dog:

I don't think he'll ever like being in water. His fur is pretty thin in places, so in some ways I can't blame him.

He's chewed two power cords -- I'm going to need to buy a new paper shredder. Maybe one day he'll find out that's a really bad idea.

He seems to want lots of stimulation. He'll find cardboard boxes, sticks, plastic bags, anything, and get on a project to drag them to his favorite spot in the yard and tear them up. On my workdays I never know what I'll find when I come home. To my dismay he's "trimmed" the lower half of the feijoa, and I'm worried he'll inadvertently kill my baby lemon verbena, which is only 6" high right now.

Super dog:

He needs an hour of serious running every day, or some running and a decent walk. Last time at the park he met his match in a Jack Russell, who ran and played so long that when we came home, he collapsed for several hours, alternating between the warm sun in the backyard and the cool under the car.

Mottledog:

The general concensus is that he's pit, lab, and maybe some Australian shepherd. The white on his chest has grey spots, i.e. ticking. From his narrow shoulders, I thought he was some other terrier, but a lot of people have said he has a pit's head. When he yawns, one can see his jaw at the hinge end is very broad, which also makes me think pit. However, I'm not about to get a DNA test, so it will always remain a mystery.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

dog behavior

I've found he has problems with small enclosed spaces. It takes a huge amount of coaxing to get him into the car. All the happy talking and treats just don't do much good. One time I had to just pick him up and put him in there. He came from the pound -- until now, being in cars hasn't resulted in anything good.

We took a 3.5 mile trail walk today, which he liked, but I when we got home I found a tick on me, so I thought I might give him a bath. He does smell a little, too, though nothing bad. But he wouldn't go into the bathroom: another tight space. Eventually I decided to bag the bath and just get him to go in. I put his dinner there, which made him trot back and forth whining with indecision for five minutes. He finally stepped in a bit at a time, stretched himself out as long as he could go, took a bite, and backed out asap. He repeated this a bunch of times, but each time he stayed a little longer and backed out less.

I may do this with the car, too.

Other than that I think he's starting to settle in. He's started to fetch with some enthusiasm. I'd like to let him *really* run in a big space off-leash but don't yet trust him to come back. Fenced dog parks aren't that big anyway, and there isn't one anywhere in town, either.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

final dog

This isn't Arawan, but another dog I met at the Sacramento County shelter. My friends on Nordinho voted to name him Mavro.






Sunday, January 18, 2009

black is the new hispanic

Have you been seeing a lot more advertisements showing distinctly black people? I have. The indistinct, caramel generic person-of-color is losing space to the United States' self-created minority. Obama may have light skin but the 'fro flags him as not Hispanic, Asian, or Indian. The GPOC is designed to appeal to the largest number of non-white buyers -- the smiling model "could be" the same ethnicity as the viewer.

But now blacks, who are only our third largest minority (behind Hispanics and Asians), are coming to the fore. They deserve and need the recognition that they are a political force and an economic power -- something they might know as a fact, but do not truly believe.

Friday, January 09, 2009

dog time

After a many-year desire and the more recent advice of friends, I'm planning on getting a dog. I've been searching through our local rescue websites and there's a dark lab mix bitch, 7 months old, who seems interesting. Her name's Arawan (and if I adopt her, will promptly be renamed... I mean sheesh, they should at least have spelled Erewhon correctly...) The description of her character seems like she could be suitable for me. The only problem is that she's reportedly not housebroken. I'm housebroken, so she needs to be too!

I'm driving out to Lafayette tomorrow to have a look at her. I'd like a dog that has some potential for finding and flushing, so I'll take a bit of bird wing with me and see how she reacts.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

at the meet

Here's a photo of friends at the meet: A & R (the rare woman dirthawker and her longwinger bf), and my buddy K0 in the weathering yard

R's new prairie -- trapped 6 days prior and already looking confident on the perch

J's peregrine at the pigeon derby

headset followup

Forehead-slapping time.

Apparently there are two kinds of adapters, audio-only (for headphones) and audio+mike (for handsfree headsets). The adapter I bought on Ebay was the former, but was described as a "headset adapter." I just assumed they all had the microphone function. And one wonders if the microgram of metal saved in the audio-only adapter is such a huge savings to the manufacturer that it's worth their while to have two types.

So... I went shopping again. Some of them, though described as headset adapters, say things like "Not compatible with adjustable volume type headsets" or sneak the phrase "audio adapter" in the fine print. To me, that's not plain English. Most employ a common habit with advertising and completely omit saying what the item doesn't do.

Eventually I found an adapter that was clearly described as being meant to connect a phone headset. It costs about twice as much but it's what I need.

Monday, January 05, 2009

headset headaches

Me and headsets are just not meant for each other.

I've had 3 bluetooth headsets in the past 2 years, and none of them have been very comfortable and they seem to be grbling all the time.

I figured this was due to it being bluetooth and tried a plug-in headset. The first one I bought was a total piece of cheap crap, with a painfully hard earbud, a boom mike that was perpetually dropping and the whole thing sliding off my ear like it was made of greased teflon.

After research I decided the Jabra was probably going to be the most versatile: a selection of earpieces and a shape that looked like it would stay in place. I got one through Amazon and my guess was right. It was super comfortable and I could put it on either ear.

The first problem, though, was that the connector wasn't the right one. The Amazon vendor had said it was for a Samsung, but it was the standard 2.5mm connector, not the 20-pin. They refunded me a few dollars to buy an adapter.

When the adapter arrived, I found the headset didn't work -- no sound at all. Having been a computer troubleshooter all my life, it took no thought to try the Jabra with my mom's phone, which did have a 2.5mm. Still didn't work.

The Amazon vendor cheerfully refunded the balance and I bought another Jabra on Ebay. This arrived today, I hooked it to the adapter and to my phone. Lovely -- I heard everything loud and clear, even needed to turn the volume down. Then I noticed this Jabra's voice-command activation button doesn't seem to work. Well, it wasn't that big a deal, it's not like my thumbs have been amputated. To test it, I called K0, and got voicemail. I started leaving a message and got the recorded voice asking if I wanted to leave a callback number. I press the buttons to review my voice message.

No message, just silence. The mike doesn't work. Or, possibly, the adapter connects on the speaker but not the mike. I'm going to have to borrow someone else's phone to test.

But right now I am about ready to wind all these little wiry bits and pieces onto a fireplace poker and slowly heat them until their insulation melts and bleeds.