Critters Environment Weather


I took my camera outside this morning, and then had to wait for the condensation to dissipate before taking a photo. It’s not as hot today, but the humidity is breathtaking for only being the beginning of June. Considering that the coast has already been hit with its first tropical storm, I think we can safely say that any weather report out of the South and Midwest this summer will begin with, “Wet…”.

Growth has been explosive, almost overwhelming, and not necessarily welcome, as witness this mold growing in front of our neighbor’s home. It was only a couple of inches in size a few days ago, and though I imagine it’s harmless, it doesn’t look welcome or benevolent. I thought about getting closer to get a macro shot of the mold, but then I remembered this is Saturday–reminding me of the Saturday Sci-Fi flicks where the woman, too damn curious, gets closer and closer to the strange stuff on the ground…

The front of our home is different, primarily because of the garden we’re growing. When I said previously that I couldn’t start a garden this year, I wasn’t exactly honest. We did start a garden–a finch garden. Every other day I scatter a mix of seeds across the dirt in front of our place, and we’ve managed to attract a flock of finches, a couple of mourning doves, squirrels, and several bunnies. I’m not sure who enjoys the show more: me, my roommate, or our cat.

I’ve tried taking some photos of the critters, but too much movement scares them away, as it should. The reason we scattered the seed instead of using feeders is that what the birds don’t get, the bunnies will. And if the seeds sprout, well, frankly, anything is an improvement over the current yard care company’s efforts.

Unfortunately, not all encounters with wildlife in our neighborhood have been happy ones. My roommate came in today to tell me that a raccoon had become trapped in the dumpster and I had to, of course, grab my camera to take a picture. It’s a sad, sad picture, indeed, seeing that poor little creature among all that filth.

There’s something ominous about the photo–as if I’ve taken a photo of our future. We’re just as trapped on this one little planet as that poor raccoon is in the garbage bin.

(Something to think of next time you throw away that plastic bottle, eh?)

We called the office and they hope they can get someone out to help the beastie escape, but just in case, Rob went to buy a 2 x 4 to place into the bin. We’ve used this approach before, but I am worried that it seems to favor its one leg, and if it is injured it won’t be able to climb out.

Some people think of raccoons as pests, but looking at that image again, I see a cute furry creature with big brown eyes just trying to survive, sitting among the refuse of a wasteful, disposable society, and I wonder who really is the pest?

I am so glad that we found that recycling place and now recycle most of our garbage. Otherwise after looking at that poor thing, I’d be feeling a great deal of guilt now. I still feel guilt, though. I won’t be happy until it’s freed.

The raccoon is not the only creature that has run into trouble trying to survive among an increasing encroachment of people. Not too long ago, a man shot and killed one of Missouri’s very rare black bears, when it threatened the man’s dog. At first I was outraged by the story about the bear who had been attracted to he man’s chicken feed and been chased off, only to return a second time to be killed. If the man had only contacted the Conservation department after the first visit something could have been done.

A later story, though, said that the man did contact the Conservation department and had enclosed his feed bins and taken all the steps he could. He also tried to chase the bear away in this second visit, but his dog got excited and ran at the bear and the bear stood on its hind legs ready to attack the dog. The man shot the bear with a 22 rifle, worried about his dog being killed. He then called the Conservation department again but when they found the bear the next morning, it was dead.

I have a beloved pet and would most likely kill to protect her. But now my chances of seeing a black bear in its own habitat has been decreased, and the Ozarks seems to have settled another inch or two in resignation.

Not long before the bear shooting, I read a discussion at Veerle’s weblog about the baby seal hunts in Canada, a practice that has actually increased in recent years, rather than decrease:

It is a grossly inhumane kill that goes mostly unregulated, as there are limited fisheries officer to watch and inspect the number of sealers on the ice. Credible witnesses have documented seeing seals skinned alive and tortured.

The Seal Hunt methods of kill? Clubs, hakapiks, rifles and shotguns. Not convinced of the cruelty? Then I recommend watching these 2 movies, and this audio/photo slide show. But be warned I was shocked after seeing those!

I have seen these hunts in videos in the past, and was surprised that the practice has continued. I had assumed that the fur trade has decreased as there’s been such a backlash against wearing fur coats. I do remember when I saw the videos long ago, I was angry and disgusted that such acts could be perpetuated against an animal, much less ones so young and helpless.

Yet there was a set of comments written by a Norwegian, Erik A. Drabløs in veerle’s post that gave me pause.

Did you completely overlook that I said “when used properly”? The sealers in the movies are obviously not using them properly. When used properly death is instant and the animals feel as little or less pain than when their throats are slit or electrocuted in slaughterhouses.

If you guys feel the need to demonstrate against the Canadian government, by all means do, but don’t stop there. Stop eating eggs from chickens pent up in tiny cages wading in their own s***. Stop eating meat from animals thrown around in packed transports. Heck, become a vegeterian. It’s not that hard if you really feel like you want to do something. (Or you could just do as I do; buy eggs from free-ranging chickens, milk from ecological farms and similar products.)

Guilty as charged, as I buy beef without regard for how it’s raised, and chickens from an Alabama farm that’s been cited for cruelty to animals. It’s more convenient you know. Cheaper, too.

This reminded me of a wonderful cartoon that AKMA’s daughter, Pippa had drawn a while back and which I asked if I could reproduce in a post. I predict a brilliant career as a political satirist for this young lady, and have a feeling she’ll wield her pen and pencil with devastating sharpness.

I am an omnivore and have no intention of becoming a herbivore, but one can make choices as one goes about living and consuming. The first choice to make is learning to shop responsibly, and to do with less. The second choice is deciding to enjoy the first choice.

Seals in Canada, a chicken farm in Alabama, a black bear in southern Missouri and Pippa’s wonderfully subtle drawing all remind me how we’ll cry out against cruelty and loss when it’s located far away from our own neighborhoods.

But neighborhood is a relative thing.

Social Media

Oh no, don’t ping

I had, in my flurry of modifications when moving from WordPress to Wordform, left out a modification to the code that enabled pings to work, and as a consequence, had not been pinging Pingomatic the last few months. Realizing this, I fixed the problem and started pinging this week.

Unfortunately, the relative quiet I’ve had for the last few months and being almost virtually free of unwanted entries in my comments was shattered less than 24 hours later, and I now have to consider using whitelisting in addition to closing comments over ten days old. Whitelisting means that the only comments that post immediately are those from people who have commented previously; others are held in moderation.

I’ve also removed the ping to Pingomatic, and am looking at pinging individual services, but NOT or or any other service that provides a nice, tasty list of fresh meat. These services seem to me to be more dinner calls to the unwanted then ‘ways’ of discovering new weblogs. But since I made the mistake of saying the same thing about blogrolls, I’ll qualify this statement by saying that in my personal opinion these seem to be more dinner calls to the unwanted then vehicles of discovery.

If you’ve not left an email address in the past, you’ll have to now. You don’t have to leave a real email address but you have to put something in that looks real, and becomes your way of being identified in the system. The email address doesn’t publish, and I don’t particularly care about it (making an assumption that it’s most likely fake, anyway); but it’s required.

If you do end up momentarily moderated, at least you’ll be able to see how I provide feedback that your comment is currently being moderated. For every cloud burst there’s fresh mold to feed the tiny ants. Or something.

As for Pingomatic, there is an API associated with this service, though I can’t seem to find it. I’m hoping there’s a way to configure the ping request to only ping certain services, so that I don’t have to send a bunch of ping requests out, individually.

Web Writing

Dusting off the poet

It’s been a long time since I’ve indulged in any poetry at the site. Been a long time since I’ve haunted to look for just the right verse to suit a picture or a mood.

This week, I oiled my inner poet and set it on its creaky way only to find out that has undergone a rather significant reorganization. Faced with ‘new’ and wondering if there was anything in there for the inner geek as well as the inner poet, I explored about.

One new feature, or at least, new to me, is many of the poems now is have a topic association. For instance, if a poem is related to aging, other poems related to this topic are listed in the sidebar. This goes beyond groupings of poem by poet, period, and era. It definitely goes beyond keyword searches. It’s given me much thought, and new ideas, in my own continuing search for the case-insensitive semantic web.

The site also has a listening booth, though perhaps it already had this and I didn’t notice. Anyway, the listening book contains readings by poets and readings about poets, including my favorite Dylan Thomas.

Having satisfied the geek, at least for the moment, I returned to the poet, though poet is inaccurate and even a conceit, because I can barely walk and talk at the same time, much less rhyme. If, though, code is poetry, then I wield a mean curly bracket with the best of them. As for loops, you should see me loop–sexiest thing since fishnet stockings.

Returning to my poet, I accessed the improved search engine and searched on the keyword “words”; finding not one but two really great poems from contemporary poets among those returned. Since I’ve been remiss in letting my inner poet out for a walk, I’ll publish both.

Sorry, no photos to accompany the works. The weather continues in the 90s and heavily humid, and I have had no desire to sweat and puddle my way through new venues (though I must break out of my cave tomorrow morning before I bite the cat from cabin fever).

A Quick One Before I Go by David Lehman

There comes a time in every man’s life

when he thinks: I have never had a single

original thought in my life

including this one & therefore I shall

eliminate all ideas from my poems

which shall consist of cats, rice, rain

baseball cards, fire escapes, hanging plants

red brick houses where I shall give up booze

and organized religion even if it means

despair is a logical possibility that can’t

be disproved I shall concentrate on the five

senses and what they half perceive and half

create, the green street signs with white

letters on them the body next to mine

asleep while I think these thoughts

that I want to eliminate like nostalgia

0 was there ever a man who felt as I do

like a pronoun out of step with all the other

floating signifiers no things but in words

an orange T-shirt a lime green awning

How can you not love a poem that has a line like o was there ever a man who felt as I do like a pronoun out of step with all the other floating signifiers? This poem should be required reading for everyone who has found the truth. Then it should be required for everyone who thinks they have lost it.

All She Wrote by Harryette Mullen

Forgive me, I’m no good at this. I can’t write back. I never read your letter.

I can’t say I got your note. I haven’t had the strength to open the envelope.

The mail stacks up by the door. Your hand’s illegible. Your postcards were

defaced. Wash your wet hair? Any document you meant to send has yet to

reach me. The untied parcel service never delivered. I regret to say I’m

unable to reply to your unexpressed desires. I didn’t get the book you sent.

By the way, my computer was stolen. Now I’m unable to process words. I

suffer from aphasia. I’ve just returned from Kenya and Korea. Didn’t you

get a card from me yet? What can I tell you? I forgot what I was going to

say. I still can’t find a pen that works and then I broke my pencil. You know

how scarce paper is these days. I admit I haven’t been recycling. I never

have time to read the Times. I’m out of shopping bags to put the old news

in. I didn’t get to the market. I meant to clip the coupons. I haven’t read

the mail yet. I can’t get out the door to work, so I called in sick. I went to

bed with writer’s cramp. If I couldn’t get back to writing, I thought I’d catch

up on my reading. Then Oprah came on with a fabulous author plugging

her best selling book.

Another brilliant line and somewhat, oddly sad: I regret to say I’m unable to reply to your unexpressed desires. But now I have a highly original way of apologizing for unanswered email. What is your excuse?


The story of Sparky

A friend of my roommate’s shares a house with her husband out in the middle of a corn field — literally the middle of a cornfield–somewhere on the Illinios side of the Mississippi. They live happily in the small home with two dogs and three cats, and I imagine various other assorted and sundry wild animals.

Three weeks ago, T heard her one of her dogs barking outside and went to investigate. High up at the top of a power pole was a cat that her dog had ‘treed’. They shut the dog up in the house, but didn’t know what to do about the cat.

T got the idea to bring out some food and see if she could lure the cat down. She brought out some cat food and set it down on the ground. Well, evidentally, the cat was very hungry, as it started down immediately, and, to T’s horror, ended up falling from near the top of the pole.

T could only watch helplessly as the cat hit first one power line, with a shower of sparks; then hit the next power line, again with accompanying sparks. It landed, hard, on the ground and lay there, unmoving.

T screamed for her husband, ran into the house and called an emergency vet service. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t come out unless T could guarantee immediate payment–and she and her husband didn’t have the cash to pay for it. She then thought she would take the cat in to her vet herself, and ran back outside, stopping in amazement at the door when she saw her husband walking toward the house, the cat by his side.

They have a shed and T made a bed for the cat in it, putting out some food and water. Next morning, the cat was curious and interested, but T still wouldn’t bring it in the house–concerned about exposing her pets to unknown disease. During the day T then called all the cat folk she knew, asking if any would like a new pet. I and my roommate talked about it, but Zoë’s never been happy with other cats, and our home is too small to give each cat its own space.

That night when T got home, she noticed the cat didn’t seem to be doing well and concerned, took it into the vet. She found out that yes, she was a female, and no, she didn’t seem to be injured as much as she has a respitory infection. Oh, and she’s pregnant.

Armed with antibiotics, T brought the cat home, made her a home in a spare room (one of the dogs does not tolerate strange cats), fed her, gave her attention and a name: Sparky.

Sparky is very good with people but has had a rough time in the corn fields of Illinois. T noticed that she wouldn’t respond to her voice, and found out she had such severe ear mites that she was almost deaf, though they hope with the treatment, she will recover some of her hearing. But the dogs, who have come to accept her as a member of the household, can come right up behind her and the cat doesn’t hear them.

Sparky stays in the house during the day, but T takes her out in the yard for exercise in the evening. The cat has approached the corn field a couple of times, and T was worried it would take off. But Sparky would just look in the shadows among the stalks, rub T’s leg, and follow her quietly, and happily back into the house.

Last week, the tip of Sparky’s tail started losing fur and her tail became infected. Back to the vet where T found out Sparky’s tail had served as the exit point for the electrical current, and was severely damaged. To save her, the vet needed to amputate the tail. Unfortunately, with all the medications, the surgery, and the trauma, the doctor also needed to abort the kittens, or Sparky would not survive.

Today Sparky had surgery, and the vet amputated Sparky’s tail, aborted five kittens, and also found the current entry point — on Sparky’s hip. Fortunately, this should be treatable with antibiotics. Oh, and they spayed her, because no one needs more unwanted kittens.

In spite of being abandoned in a corn field, coming close to starvation, having a respiratory infection, being semi-deafened by ear mites, not to mention shocked by a power line and falling 20 feet to the ground, Sparky, will survive. By now, T has stopped asking if anyone wants her. She’s also decided that Sparky is not a good name. “She doesn’t look like a Sparky,” she told my roommate, when she called tonight, fretting over Sparky’s hospital stay.

I suggested calling her Lucky. T thought I was joking. Knowing T, I know I’m not.


Making do

As you may have noticed, I’ve re-designed my site. Again. Compared to the flames, the look is actually rather conservative, although I prefer to think of it as subtle.

While working on a client’s site this week, I noticed that after staring at her pages for a time, my own site seemed, in comparison, very harsh on the eyes. Eventually it got to the point where I would squint when I accessed the weblog. I don’t know if this effect is peculiar to me, but I didn’t like the fact that I might be causing people to half close their eyes when looking at my pages. I hope to generate reactions with my web site, but I don’t want ‘pain’ to be among them.

Now, with the soft greens, blues, and plums, though the design may not make you jump up and down with excitement, and it lacks some of the modern/with-it/hip flourishes, at least it doesn’t make you squint.

Issues of visual overstimulation aside, there is another reason I changed the site design: the purple pixel effect.

I’ve written before about the purple (magenta) pixel that runs down my monitor in my TiBook. Its cause is the continuous opening and closing of the lid, leading to wear in the connections between the video card and the display. Luckily, unlike others, I’ve only had the one line so far, but it is rather prominently situated about 1/4 of the way in from the left side.

For the most part, I’ve been able to compensate for the purple pixel. I’ve even learned to make use of it–it makes a great straight edge when aligning documentation in code and blocks of CSS in my stylesheets. Still, there are times when the purple pixel adds a distracting element and accessing my pages was one of those. The magenta clashed, horribly, with the flame design–really nasty.

With the new look, the purple pixel provides a bit of dash and color when I align the browser window so that the line fits just so over the break between the lighter green and the darker green in the left frame of the content window. Since you can’t see this, I captured part of the screen and then used PhotoShop to create a 1-pixel line the same color in the image–using my one-pixel screen aberration to accurately draw the line.