Saturday, January 19, 2013

Up-Goer Five Text Editor

Inspired by the xkcd comic, Theo Sanderson made a text editor that alerts you if you use an obscure word choice, defined by the 1000 most common words in contemporary fiction.

I tried describing the riveting technique I learned to fix that old caravan last year. Here it is the way I would normally describe it.

Buck Riveting: Solid metal rivet is inserted in a hole drilled through two or more pieces of sheet metal. Heavy bucking bar held on one side, air hammer applied to the head of the rivet. Hammer blows deform the rivet to clinch the material together and expand inside the hole to seal against air and water intrusion. Used in airplane manufacture.

Here it is in the Up-Goer Five Text Editor:

Not empty join: Stick two things together with a not-wood stick pushed through an opening in them and hit against one side while holding the other side with a heavy bar. Things stay together now. Fly away in it!

Once you get going you degrade into silliness. It's kind of amazing. Mike Brown (@plutokiller) used it to describe his life as an astronomer and explain why he can't look at the sky as much as he wants.

"Sometimes there is a really big brown animal outside the door who wants inside to eat our food." (He has a bear problem, witnessed in many pictures on his twitter feed.) And while his wife can look after the daughter and three cats by herself, sometimes she's not there or, "Sometimes the mom really really really needs a drink."

Being reduced to these 1000 words leaves sentiment and simple humor. It's adorable.
The dad (that's me) is good at helping out in all of these ways (very very good when it comes to getting the mom drinks, actually) and so everyone is happy when he is home and not flying around the world looking up into space....
Apparently when you take away all the words of science you're left with machines that are surely death traps, parenting, and alcoholism.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Well that clears up a lot. I'm foreign!

I found something intriguing just now as I was looking on Google to see who first said, "Facebook is where you learn to hate people you've known your whole life while Twitter is where you learn to love people you'll never meet." (I never found that. Anybody know?)

The link I clicked was a blog by a man from Ireland about why he will never live in the US. 17 cultural reasons why this European never wants to live in America. I completely agree with him. But since that's where my land is I'm kind of stuck here. But at least I have figured out how to avoid the culture. Apparently if I want to fit in culturally I have to go to Europe.

From Reason 1: Americans are way too sensitive. I have no filter between what I think and what I say. This is why I can't get along in America.
It seems that speaking your mind to individuals is a major taboo. You can’t tell a friend straight when he has fucked up, nobody will ever tell you that you look fat (oversensitivity with not telling obese people to get their act together is a major contributor in my opinion to why there are so many of them in the states), and there’s way too much euphemism to avoid the hard truth.
From Reason 3: Smiles mean NOTHING.
When I meet Americans abroad, one of their biggest complaints are along the lines of “nobody smiles on Prague’s trams!” “That waitress was so rude to me! She didn’t even smile!”
Goddamnit America – I have the opposite complaint for you. You guys smile way too much. It’s fucking annoying! How can you tell when someone means it? And why the hell would a stranger doing a crossword puzzle on public transport want to look giddy?
This section ends with this; yes this, I do this.
Despite how surly I sound in this post, because complaining is the theme of the article, the fact that I vent when I mean it, means that when you see me happy you know I’m truly happy. And that is indeed a lot of the time. But not all of it!
This is why I gave up online dating. "I want to meet a positive person!" Fuck you. Balance in all things. How can I be truly happy if I'm not sometimes irritated? Shit is irritating as hell in America! You can call me Negative Nelly if you want. My mama didn't name me Barbara Cornell for nothing.

Reason 11: Religious Americans. This would be a lot higher on my list. I have had coworkers try to save me during lunch break. Because I'm so negative. So now I don't have a job. Problem solved.
...I can’t stand certain Christian affiliations of religious Americans. It’s Jesus this and Jesus that all the bloody time. You really can’t have a normal conversation with them. It’s in your face religion, and they replace hard science with scripture in the classroom. They really need to tone it down.

Reason 14: Always in a hurry
People don’t seem to have the patience to invest time to slowly improve things, unless it involves some kind of monetary investment.

Despite all the false positivity, I find Americans to be generally the most stressed out and unhappiest people on the planet. Despite all the resources, and all the money they have, they are sadder than people I know who can barely make ends meet in other countries, but still know how to live in the moment.

This rush to the finish line, to have your book published, or to have a million dollars in your bank account or to get that promotion, and to have that consume your life is something I find really sad.
Me too, dude, me too. So I'm not doing it. This makes me a bad American? Fine. I need to just speak with an accent, get a better haircut and start saying I'm French.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Candlelight Vigils Horrify Me

I am having a WTF? reaction to this news story I picked up on Twitter from the Sacramento Bee. It's about something that happened in Boulder, CO. I embedded the video below. It has a lot of ads but it's kind of worth it to get to the very strange people with their odd reaction to a local event -- a police officer shot a trophy elk in the city limits. And 75 people came out and held candles and sang protest songs.

I want to be clear that I do not understand a single person in this story. The police officer that shot the elk makes no sense to me. The comments of the people they interview who loved the elk make even less sense to me. They thought the elk loved them?! You guys, it's an ELK! It's... I just don't... what... Such a different reaction from where I live where the assumption is that the animal is diseased and dying when it comes to my house day after day, not that it's protecting me. In fact the advice I got was not to go outside without a live oak bat in my hand until this rabies/brain worm/fever question is answered.

**Update: I had to delete the embedded video because it won't stop playing ads. Here's the link to it.

I have not seen Thirsty since Saturday. I did find a bobcat track in my yard yesterday, right on top of a deer track. I am now considering every possible rare and unlikely disease and injury scenario for my local wildlife. I have not seen any crows or vultures gathering. No indication that Thirsty has died anywhere nearby. If I do find him dead you can be assured I will not burn candles or sing Martin Luther King songs over him (I don't even know the words past "we shall overcome.") I will be sad that such a nice mature deer met a bad end, but that's not the worst I've seen. I once found two deer carcasses joined at the antlers. If I found an unfortunate pair like that I would almost certainly do what that officer did and shoot them to give them a more humane death. (If they had JUST gotten stuck I bet you could tranquilize them and cut off one antler each to separate them.) If I found Thirsty growling and gnashing his teeth with rabies I'd shoot him too, even if it meant spending the rest of the day figuring out how to drag his body away from my house. It's a tough life being a big buck. But they have to die for the next one to have the chance to grow up. Their body goes back into the web of life and it's all natural and understandable.

These things that happen in human communities confuse me.  I have a better chance of figuring out if Thirsty has a brain abscess than figuring out that man who thought that elk loved him.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Is Something Wrong with Thirsty?

Last night I checked the tracking number on some coveralls I ordered last week and realized they've been sitting up by my gate in the rain since Wednesday. This morning I got in my car and drove up there to get them. (That's how sick I am. I would normally walk.) When I got back I saw Thirsty the Deer bounding down my trail behind the house. Whoops, didn't mean to scare him away from his drinks. I turned off the car, and sat still. He stood at the bend in the trail and watched me. I got my package, opened the door, got out, closed the door gently, opened it because it didn't close all the way, slammed it, and Thirsty stood there. I came in the house and got the camera and looked out the west facing window and he was still there. I made toast and tea and he made his way on over to the birdbath. I ate my toast and took his picture and drank my tea.

Then I shot 20 solid minutes of video of him browsing and drinking and staggering around below my window. He acts totally stoned. My aunt watched yesterday's video and DAMMIT! He just whacked my house with his antlers. He's still out there as I'm typing this. It's 12:48. I took that first picture of him at 10:44. He's back at the birdbath right now.

Anyway, my aunt thinks he moves like she does when she has the flu. She thinks he's not well from all his fighting injuries. That's a good theory.

My other theory is that he's been eating poisonous mushrooms. I have video of him eating two big boletes from my lawn today. I know I have some of the poisonous ones out there, the ones that turn blue when you cut them. I also have some that are good to eat cause I've eaten them, so maybe he knows what he's doing. I can't really say.

I raked up this little blue gilled mushroom last week
right where Thirsty has been eating mushrooms today.
I took a picture of it because it was pretty. I cut it
in half with a prong on the rake to see if it was blue
inside too. It didn't turn blue when exposed to air.
Might be ok for a deer to eat.
I've given up being stealthy when he's out there. I'm just going about my business and he can go about his. He clearly doesn't give a damn. It's possible that he acts so different from all the does that come through my yard because he's the big damn boss out there. Or maybe because he used to be the big damn boss and that other buck that chased him into the bathtub on Wednesday morning took over his territory and confined him to my yard. I don't care so much right now when I'm staying in. But when I go back to my routine of messing around in the yard all day going back and forth to work on the Spartan what happens? Is he going to try to chase me out of his territory?

It can't be normal for him to be so thirsty. I can visibly see how much water he's drunk out of that birdbathtub. Now he's sniffing my lawn again. He likes the part where I raked up the pine straw. Is he like a truffle-sniffing pig? Is he looking for more fruit de fungi? And he's drinking some more. Now he's standing there chewing his cud like a bachelor eating a bowl of cereal over the sink. It really is extraordinary. I saw his sides heave when he erped it up. Why doesn't he go lie down behind the shed and do that? He has to stand over the bathtub? More and more like a child. Where are his manners?

He wandered off to browse the lawn some more and now he's drinking again. I've been looking for pictures of mushrooms. It's 1:18pm. He's been in my yard for 2 1/2 hours and this is the time he's supposed to be sleeping, isn't it. Has he got some kind of deer insomnia?

Here are some other mushrooms that grow in my yard. These pictures aren't recent, but the are from right here around my house. Mushrooms being what they are, they come back in the same place. It's been warm and rainy this week which makes mushrooms pop up.

This is not one I'd eat.
When you cut it open the flesh turns blue. That's bad.

This kind of bulbous yellow one is more like what I saw out there
when I was raking last time. I think this is what he just ate.
It's a bolete with the tube things instead of gills.
This is another kind of bolete that grew under my house in the summer.
Here it is on my cutting board. It doesn't turn blue when you cut it.
I threw away the spongey tube part and sauteed the white cap
in butter and ate it on toast. Thirsty just eats them whole.

Right now he's eating cat briars, the only green leaves since so much turned brown in that hard freeze last weekend. This makes me very happy. I hate cat briars. He seems to get them caught in his antlers and snatches them down out of the bushes too, which I appreciate. I hate those things.

Oh, but now he's at the birdbath again. It's kind of startling to turn my head from the computer screen and there's this giant creature at my elbow. 1:31, still drinking.

He got real close to the house again and I could zoom in on that wound in his side from above. It has a distinct round hole to it, just looking at the display on the camera. I wonder if it might be a graze from an arrow or a gun and not where he broke off that piece of light'rd jumping in the bathtub? I'll need to get up my nerve to zoom in on it on the computer after I upload this memory card in a minute. I may need to consult some experts -- people who have cleaned a lot of dead deer and seen injuries like this, and my emergency vet friend out west. He's just standing there. I guess I'll upload it now. And now he's drinking. I'm not kidding that bathtub was full before he jumped in it. It is down an inch and a half now.

OK, warning that there is a gross picture coming up.

See how close he gets to my house? You can see how it's startling when he raps
the siding with those antlers.
Here's the picture of that wound on his side from this high angle. I decided it's not a bullet hole.
Could be a graze from an arrow shot from a deer stand, or seriously that piece of broken light'rd
by the bathtub. It's the right direction and stuff for it to be that.
Maybe that's why he keeps standing by that piece of wood that gashed his side. He's standing there right now rubbing his cheek on it. Maybe he wants it to give him back that piece of fur and skin.

Here are his other injuries. They look kind of normal for a deer this well antlered. Surely he has to fight a lot.
His nose is scratched up. More than yesterday. 
Some bad scratches on the inside of his right hid leg.
Another view of the leg scratch.

Generally he looks a bit more beat up than he did yesterday. I think he may have gotten in a tussle with something with claws and some fight in it, like a wildcat or a coyote. Or else he stepped in a hole like he keeps doing and just scratched it on a root.

It's 1:51 and he's still there by the birdbath eating briars out of dead bracken fern. 3 hours. I need another cup of tea. Wonder if the microwave beeping will bother him?

It didn't bother him at all. He's wandering off into the woods now. 2:00 and he finally quenched his thirst.

** Update: I consulted my cousin who knows the deer in our woods well. He said he thought Thirsty looked a little gaunt in the hindquarters, but sometimes they get like that if they're "working the rut real hard." He said to maybe carry my little bat with me when I start going out in the yard when Thirsty is around because he does seem unnervingly tame. Also pointy. (my words)

I looked up diseases that make deer real thirsty. They mostly happen in the summer because the virus is vectored by small biting flies. Freeze stops them. This brochure about hemorrhagic disease by the University of Georgia has some kind of hopeful verbage:
Deer herds in the southeastern coastal plains, south Florida, and Texas consistently have antibodies to multiple EHDV and BTV serotypes, indicating a high rate of previous viral infection; however, clinical disease in these regions is rare.
But this article from September 16 from the local TV station said they had an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in Florida.
“This is a disease that you typically see in late summer or the fall, and it often occurs after periods of drought,” said Dr. Mark Cunningham, wildlife veterinarian for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “The good news is we don’t expect long-term impacts to our state’s deer herd.” 
Deer infected with EHD may have pronounced swelling of the head, neck, and tongue, and often have large ulcers in the mouth. Infected deer are often found near water and may be lethargic, lame and emaciated. The FWC is monitoring the health of the state’s deer herd and is examining deer for EHD and other diseases. Sightings of sick or dead deer can be reported to the FWC by calling 866-CWD-WATCH (866-293-9282), which is the state’s chronic wasting disease hotline number.
I wonder if I should call them up? Wrong state, not sure they care. Does his head look swollen? I thought his eyes look sunken, but lots of older deer start to get a big brow. His tongue looks normal. He showed it to me a lot.

The prion disease called Chronic Wasting Disease is not present in Georgia, according to the DNR website which honestly looks pretty dated. They did a study in 2002. I don't think Thirsty is chronically wasting. The Georgia DNR website also says deer in Georgia only have 2 factors influencing antler size -- age and nutrition. So if Thirsty has such fine antlers he has to be fairly old and very well fed, which kind of leaves out chronic wasting.

If he has a fever he would be extra thirsty. He could have a fever fighting off infections from all those fighting injuries.

Or it could just be that he gets around a lot at night and there's no water anywhere because of this obscene drought. We've had enough sprinkly rain lately to grow mushrooms but all our creeks are dry as a bone and the 90 acre lake is down to about a 2 acre puddle. Maybe Thirsty is just ordinary dehydrated and that's what makes him stagger. He did walk a lot straighter at the end of his 3 hour recess in my yard.

Friday, January 4, 2013


The thirsty buck came back today. It was about 1:00 in the afternoon, which is weird. They're supposed to be napping then. I think this fella has found a salt lick and licks too much and gets freakishly thirsty. Then he comes to my place and drinks all the water in my birdbathtub. He drank for 30 solid minutes, I kid you not.

I was resting in my loft with a cold when I heard steps on the front porch and climbed down the ladder to see who it was. It was just that deer. He went to the birdbathtub and started drinking. I got the camera and sat down on the floor and watched him. I was uncomfortable, cold, and bored before his thirst was quenched. (I got distracted by an Eastern Blue Bird and an Eastern Phoebe.) Then I had to keep watching him for another 20 minutes while he browsed in my woods. Then he walked off to the well and drank all the rainwater that had collected on the top of the plastic bin that contains my electrolytic derusting apparatus.

Since it was the middle of the day and far less overcast than the last time he was here I got better pictures and even video with a zoom. I made a video as long as an entire Talking Heads song since my knowledge of hunters tells me that a lot of people have a great deal of patience for watching things with antlers. I didn't have a tripod where I could get it without scaring the deer though so these are all handheld. Pardon the shakes.

I think I miscounted the points on his antlers last time. I thought it was 8, then 9, but now I think it's 10. Are you supposed to count those nubby bits?

Over by the well. See the gash on his side? I took some close ups of it but they are hard for me to look at.
Here we can see he is capable of licking it, but doesn't seem to be obsessed with it like a pet dog would be.
It is so neatly missing that chunk of fur it makes me wonder if it is made to come off easily, like those mice
I read about with the skin that just comes off like plastic wrap off a pudding.
This is just a cute picture of a pine warbler that reminds me of
me not looking at the wound photos.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Public Right-of-Way Is Not For Your Damn Signs

I have mentioned before that my little part of the world consists of my woods as far as I can see, but at the end of my driveway I come to a divided highway dotted with two gas stations, three car title pawn places, two furniture stores, a woodworking shop, a tractor repair place, a bridal boutique, and six churches. Recently one of the title pawn places got the idea that it was ok to order up a hundred lawn signs and place them at increasingly short intervals along the public right-of-way from Tallahassee all the way to their location in Georgia (Loan sharking is illegal in Florida). This infuriated me when they appeared. Signs on the side of the road?! That's illegal! Do they not know this? Why haven't the other two title pawn places sent employees out to pull up the competition's illegal signs? Do NONE of them know it's illegal? Are they right now on the Vistaprint website ordering up some for themselves?

I complained about these signs when I was riding with my laundry-room-completion helper from Jacksonville when we were coming back from Tallahassee in his pickup truck after we dropped off my car to get a new starter. The next one he saw he pulled over and I got out and picked it up. We collected all the illegal signs in Florida. But I decided to leave the ones in Georgia to see if they would get fined. My little county could use the revenue.

Well today to my delight I saw a service vehicle picking up signs from the right-of-way.

Get those illegal ugly signs!
I was curious if they were going to stop at the place of business and bless them out for putting all those signs in the right-of-way. So I turned around and came back and waited.

Here they come! Are they going to do a U-turn and go give those jerks a piece of their minds?
They totally went there! I totally shot a video of them turning around, too, but Google keeps changing it from a video into a photo if I try to post a link. Anyway, it's not important. What's important is that I was very excited by the truck turning around to go back to the business in question.

The driver went inside and the passenger got all the signs out. I hope they fined them and made them dispose of the signs themselves. 

I couldn't believe those things were there for three weeks or more before they got in trouble though. This is the kind of philosophically unjustifiable crime I just can't abide. How do they think the right-of-way is theirs for free advertising? Did they not wonder why all the other two title pawn places or the furniture store or the bridal shop didn't buy 100 signs and do the same thing? Did they think they were alone at the pinnacle of marketing acumen? 

What's that philosophy test that says something is unethical if it becomes impossible if everybody does it? This is clearly a case where that is easily applied. If it was ok to put your sign in the public right-of-way there would be no room left for anybody to stick a sign in the public right-of-way. I have just a whisper of a memory of this concept from philosophy class in college. 

That morality test memory has the faint whiff of Kant, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. I skimmed it quickly and see I'm thinking of the First Formulation of Universal Law, but it is long and complicated. I like this term "categorical imperative" better. 

I think I'm safe to go ahead and say that it is an utter and complete waste of my emotional energy to get upset because of the immoral advertising strategy of people that loan money at over 300% annual interest. I don't think categorical imperative or universal laws of nature enters into their fraudulent business plan, anywhere. I bet they even type that thing with two spaces after a period. 

Still there it is. My moral outrage. Vented. And justice rendered, maybe, I hope, by the men in the nice yellow truck and reflective vests. It's up to men in different outfits to make pawning your car illegal. I wish they would get on that.

The Buck in the Bathtub

This particular buck
had some bad luck.
He went under my house
and his antlers got stuck 

He snatched himself free,
which woke up me. 
I started down the ladder 
and out the window I could see 

This long-legged figure
crossing my porch. 
I got down to the floor 
and then could see more 

No really, in the category of "things that go bump in the night" this is a true story. It was still quite dark when my ladder shook and creaked on the beam from some impact to the house. Even in a sleepy daze I could intuit it might be a deer so I got up to look. He passed between my porch posts as I came down the ladder.

He crossed to the North side of the house where I have those big windows that go all the way to the floor and look out on the birdbathtub, seen in countless bird photos. It's a clawfoot tub on concrete blocks buried in the ground and it has a curvy longleaf pine branch across the top for the birds to perch on while they drink and bathe.

The deer poked around in the pine straw I'd recently raked up and messed around in the grass of my rain garden and I thought I could see antlers. It was really dark. He moved on to the birdbath and started to drink.

And he drank and drank and drank. For so long I got bored and sat down on the floor and had time to compose rhymes to describe what was going on. I tried to get my camera to take a picture but it was too dark.

Gradually it got lighter and I could see the outline of his antlers better and start to count the points, which I've heard is what you do. I thought there were 8. He seemed to be licking the bird perch in the bathtub now. I could see it moving. Deer eat algae? Maybe it is a bit salty from the water evaporating on it over and over.

So he's standing there facing east on the back side of my bathtub licking this piece of light'rd about 12 feet from me when this OTHER buck enters the scene. I'm looking out the window, mind, so it really looks like he just comes on stage from the wings. It's just like a play. They're all facing me properly and everything. And he is a BIG 12 point kind of buck. He just walks up fast right alongside the light'rd licker, neatly twists his neck and jabs him in the rump with his antlers! And Light'rd Licker JUMPS INTO MY BATHTUB! He kicks the light'rd out behind him and bounds out over the sloped back of the tub and they both disappear in opposite directions. What the what?!

I was NOT expecting that!

I went to look out all my other windows to see if they were still hanging around. One of them had circled around off to the West and was messing around. I tried the camera again since there was more light. He was gone by the time I got back with it.

I went out on the front porch to see what I could see. I noticed the aluminum and porcelain tile table I use for my outdoor kitchen was knocked off it's leveling feet. That must be what shook the house. I realized it was drizzling rain a bit and was never going to get a lot lighter. I came back inside to write this down. Then the under-the-house deer came back. It was still too dark to take good pictures so I took bad ones.

This is what my camera could capture when the deer first turned up.
You can see the ring of the top of the bathtub in the dark.
Time 7:19 am
After The Incident: Light'rd Licker came back for another drink of water.
I can see the piece of light'rd there to the left of the bathtub but
it's pretty dark still. This is a high speed night mode shot.
Do you think he can see me?
Thirsty. He was on the other side of the bathtub when he jumped in.
Auto camera settings not so great. ISO 800, 1/2 sec, f 3.3.
This is about 26mm 35mm equivalent lens. No zoom for full aperture.
Which should be 2.8. Not sure why it's defaulting to 3.3.
I changed the camera settings to ISO 1600 and manual focus. (Auto f/3.3 1/6 )

He came right up to my window but the batteries went flat on the Casio camera. I could see how wet he was. I wondered if he had any injuries. He seemed so listless and tired. Is he hurt? Or just worn out from a long night of trying to avoid getting in fights with that other buck? As he walked away to the south I could see a pink spot on his side where some fur had been gouged out. It didn't look like a bullet wound though. It was on the other side from where that asshole poked him.

After I wrote this down and it was about as light as it's going to get in this drizzle I went out with my fully charged iPhone to take the crime scene photos. I'm pretty sure if I hadn't seen this happen I could have pieced it together from evidence.

The table knocked askew.
The light'rd out of place.
Hoof mark from jumping into the bathtub.
Tuft of deer fur gouged out of his side floating in the water.
Light'rd post at the end of the tub broken off with deer fur all over it.
This lines up with the pink spot on the side of the deer. I think he gouged
himself pretty bad breaking this off when he jumped into the bathtub.
I buried this pretty deep. It's to hold a mister. The birds love some mist.
Light'rd knot restored to the bathtub so birds can get on with their business.
This was full last night. You can see how much water that deer knocked out
and/or drank this morning.
I sometimes scrub down the sides of this tub but I don't often drain it because there's fish in there. The bottom has a gravel layer like an aquarium and there are two plastic planters of pond soil that lily pads grow in. I wonder if he punched big hole in the mud in those planters. I bet it would be disconcerting thinking you're stepping into a perfectly ordinary bathtub and instead of cast iron your hoof hits gravel and pots of mud.

Anyway, we can conclude from this story that deer will break your shit just like children. No respect for personal space. Also I am not a morning poet.