Science and the art of making dogs smile

We are at my brother's house in Seattle for the next few weeks, taking care of his dogs Frank and Suki, while he attends a conference in the UK. The weather is fine. Earlier this month the area made headlines for being "colder than Siberia", but not this week. Heat wave and clear blue skies. Even Mt. Ranier is out. Lucky us. It's 40 degrees cooler in Southampton. I feel kind of bad for my brother and his wife but hey, they're Seattleites. They may not even notice. So I'm sitting in his office staring at the titles on the bookshelf. However I arrange them in my mind, they suggest strange poetry.

The Elements... An Eternal Golden Braid... Rat's, Lice and History... The Origins of Order.... Catastrophe Theory... Turing's Delirium... Fermat's Enigma... Complexity... Something Under the Bed is Drooling... Fractals, Chaos, Power Laws... Chaos... Catastrophe... The Curse of Madame C... The Collapse of Chaos... Ecological Time Series... The Biology of Mind... Cognitive Ecology... Neurophilosophy... The Organic Machine... The Mathematics of Behavior... Principia... The Mismeausre of Man... Evolution of Life Histories... The Curse of Lono... Evolutionary Games and Population Dynamics... Endangered Species Recovery... Complex Stochastic Systems... Artificial Worlds... A Brief History of Time... The Future of Life... Tree Huggers... Groping in the Dark... Silent Spring... and this gem

The Great Salmon Hoax

Opening to a random page, I find my brother looking back at me from Chapter 7, The Rise of the Flow Theorists and the Fall of Science. Turns out he's one of the good guys after all. (The Flow Theorists being the bad guys, of course.)

First I need to establish one point. No matter what, I love my brother. So. When we were kids, we had a running debate, science — progress VS poetry — enlightenment. Occasionally it even got physical but then he also resorted to underhanded things to make his point, like setting a pan of chemicals on fire in the middle of my bedroom floor or tricking me into sniffing a concoction that smelled like farts. When we were in high school, I had an infuriating argument with him and the incredibly immature science teacher who lived across the street. They smugly claimed that science was superior because, one day, science would make X-ray sunglasses that would enable them to see though women's clothing. Turns out they were right, only it's the creepy government doing the X-ray spying and they are peeking through everyone's clothes.

Of course, when we grew up, the great debate became a running joke. We stopped looking at our differences and started focusing on our similarities but, given that he was (and is) the Principal Investigator Director of Columbia Basin Research at the University of Washington, I couldn't help but see him as one of the contributors to the river's salmon disaster. After all, the BPA (Bonneville Power Association), cut the grant checks and they are a murky government institution resentful of hippy-dippy concerns like eco-sustainability. But The Great Salmon Hoax brought me up to date on all that.

"Dr. Anderson is a chief target of the salmon managers, who have never forgiven him for producing CRiSP runs that showed that their salmon measures made no sense, and for proving that their FLUSH model made no sense either."
And this delicious comment:
"But mere ad hominem attacks have not silenced all the critics. Some, like Dr. Anderson, are even spurred to greater efforts."

Way to go, little brother! Too bad I read about it first in a book but then I suppose this still is a bit of a touchy subject between us.

But back to the Great Salmon Hoax.

"Recognizing the need to silence the pesky scientists in Seattle once and for all, the state and tribal harvest managers are in the process of slowly attempting to take over the most critical salmon research in the Columbia Basin, the efforts to measure survival through the river using PIT-tags."
To which my brother responded:
"The proposal lacks an ecological framework, ignores biological mechanisms, mathematical formalism, and hypothesis testing" adding that, "the experiment is beyond the capabilities of the Fish Passage Center, and that its "principal investigator, Michele DeHart, has no track record in research".

Just for measure, Al Gore agrees with him and the other pesky Seattle scientists, seeing them as part of the:
"solid base of support for the difficult actions we must soon take."

Now I understand. I asked Jim awhile ago how the salmon were doing. Yes. I admit it. I was being a bitch. He replied in very tired voice, "Oh... that river is hopeless. Better to just helicopter the fish somewhere else and start over."

Sad. At this point, even the oceans themselves, and all their vast and wondrous life is suffering under the boot of human stupidity and greed and rapidly approaching a condition from which there is no return.

Dinner party

"Go, go, go, said the bird:
human kind cannot bear very
much reality."
~ Burnt Norton, T.S. Elliot

Elliot was right, so back to the library. I think, after all, that this is one of the most important books on the shelf...

97 Ways to make a Dog Smile

#74 Call of the Wild
Make it a ritual during each full moon (or anytime you feel like it) to join your dog outside for a no-holds-barred howling session. Letting loose with a great howl is a liberating release for both of you."

Email to Suki and Frank
Date: Sun, Jun 29, 2008 at 10:21 AM
Subject: woolf woolf

dear sukie and frank
we are in england - its a bit further across the lake from where we walked the other day. we visited a place called stonehenge today, it's a big circle of stones. From the best I can make out it is a ancient dog pee circle where the old dogs of old england would meet and exchange p-mail, You would really like it. And you could explain to me all about the messages left on the stones over 21,000 years, that's dog years of course.

I hear its hot in seattle, please keep cool and don't let asha and lee get lost in the park.
love the boss


Coin of the realm

We are off to Seattle for a few weeks to babysit my brother's dogs. I'd like to leave you with something besides political rants, photos of tombstones, secondhand store anomalies, and videos of crows eating naan but no time to search out this tiny world for something different. I will do my best, however, to entertain you from Seattle. In the meantime, here's a short movie based on tech support horror stories. Enjoy. Now, I've got to chop some peanuts for the 7 o'clock magpie. These days, she comes at 8. Birds aren't on daylight savings time, you know.

I leave you with a coin of the realm. Do with it as you will.


Bush can't buy a wave

Bush just can't believe these two guys won't wave back so, abandoning the Presidential facade, he gives them a second wave, this one designed to intimidate, if not charm, them into waving back but again... no response. Unable to let it go, he tries a third time to get their acknowledgment but they never give.

Ha ha, asshole.

Local news at 10:10

Okay. Time to move on. It's Sunday already. Summer solstice has come and gone. The days are getting shorter and I haven't posted anything in almost a week. Oh, I've written things in my head, but they don't count, do they? Too bad. It would make life so much easier. We'd all be writers. But then it would be meaningless, wouldn't it? There's got to be some barrier to entry. "Writers write, Owen". I suppose you could always hire a ghost writer, but that's not the same.

I did find out the rest of the story on the untimely death of the baby quail I found in my yard the other day. His family was the victim of a house cat attack. My neighbor saw the whole thing. He was sitting in his garage having a cigar and another night cap, when a quail family walked by. Suddenly the cat from next door pounced, scattering them. My neighbor, drunk as usual, deciding that the survival of the babies depended on him, lurched into action. He managed to scoop up about ten babies. He put them in a cardboard box, tossed in a little (useless) seed, being so tiny, they only eat what is regurgitated into their mouths by their parents. Next he laid a towel partially over the top then left them there for the night where, at last look, the chicks were huddled together at the bottom of the box. In the morning they were dead. All of them. What an idiot! Their only chance of survival was reconnecting with their parents. And they would have done that. Parents are quite capable of rounding up their young after such an incident. They were just waiting for Stupid to buzz off. Actually, my neighbor a really nice guy but the booze is eating him alive. He's the fellow that used to cockroach sit for me and it was also his poor judgment that resulted in Ha'penny's untimely death.

Which reminds me, I reinstated the Cockroach Diary on my website. A little girl I know wanted to read it. She's very excited to get some giant, hissing Madagascan cockroaches of her own and is reading up on them.

So, happy summer. You can't blame a busy mom for grabbing a bite to eat herself before heading back to the nest with a beak full of nice, greasy, tasty ........



7 and Seven

The other night I dreamt two birds visited me. The first was a small regular fellow. I was feeding him nuts when an enormous, very intense bird swooped down from the sky, startling the hell out of me. He was white and looked like a cross between an owl and an eagle but furry like an animal and the size of a small child. I just happened to have a big chunk of something fatty on hand which I tossed him. By the looks of things, it was delicious. After eating, he came over and we sat together awhile. I hope he returns.

This morning, the 7 o'clock Magpie and her baby dropped by the Bird Park for some peanuts. She's been a regular here for a couple of years now. You may remember her from the scintillating video in which she spents a lot of time deciding how best to carry as many french fries as possible per trip. In the beginning she only came in the evening, 7 pm. You could almost, as they say, set your watch by her. Later she added the 7 am visit to her rounds.

Speaking of seven, Seven was the name of the first human baby I ever watched get born. His parents were hippies and the mother made the event an open invitation affair. Portland in the '60s. I was a friend of a friend. It was at Seven's soon-to-be home, one of those big old Victorian houses in Goose Hollow, bursting with hippy stuff, junk, crap, some of it soon to be antique, plants, musical instruments, art, posters, beads, feathers, bells, impromptu sculptures, collages, random
dogs, cats, and other things and people defying definition. You never knew exactly who or what belonged where. Seemed most places were, if not communes, at least crash pads. The birth lasted most of the day. People came and went. Dogs wandered in and out and a big white one huffed himself down onto the bare wood floor at the foot of the brass bed where he stayed until excitement over Luria's quickening contractions finally ruined his afternoon nap. Until then there was a lot of pot smoking, talk, laughter, music and silence. As the time drew near, someone stood at the foot of the bed and read a poem to the baby making his way slow towards the world. Maybe Seven was born at 7 pm. I don't know. The only thing I do remember about time was that afternoon sunlight glowed through lace curtains, turning the room a sweet gold hue and suddenly, finally, a complete, absolutely perfect, black haired, tiny, naked human appeared from Luria's body.

Anyway... lately the 7 o'clock Magpie hasn't been around as much or on time and I've been a bit worried about her. Now I see that she was busy at home. Today she brought her baby to the park. You can always spot the babies because they stand, knee deep in food with their mouths open, squawking. No surprise, I guess. Nothing like home cooking, whether you have feathers or fingers.


Dead or alive

The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is undertaking an interesting project this fall. An article at opednews.com explains that they, "intend to establish the organizational structures necessary to pursue the guilty as long as necessary and, if need be, to the ends of the Earth". In this case, the guilty party they have in their cross hairs is George W. Bush and Company, ie. Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo and others, including Federal judges and members of Congress.

Lawrence Velvel, Dean and Co-founder of the school, points out that until now the practice has been to allow U.S. officials responsible for war crimes to enjoy immunity from prosecution upon leaving office. "President Johnson retired to his Texas ranch and his Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was named to head the World Bank; Richard Nixon retired to San Clemente and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was allowed to grow richer and richer." He noted that, "in the years since the prosecution and punishment of German and Japanese leaders after World War Two those nation's leaders changed their countries' aggressor cultures. One cannot discount contributory cause and effect here", he said. "For Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Yoo to spend years in jail or go to the gallows for their crimes would be a powerful lesson to future American leaders," he added.

At last! God, I hope they pull it off because a reckoning is way way way overdue.


Baby bird and the brain drain

It's morning here in Nevada. The smoke from California fires has cleared some from yesterday and the sky is blue. Birds are coming and going at the Bird Park. I buried a baby quail this morning. I found him curled up in the water faucet dugout under M. Lee's window. So tiny. Looks like he got separated from his parents, tucked in and died waiting for them to return. Quail are doting parents. I'm sure they were desperate. First quail baby I've seen this spring. Sad. They define sweet innocence. I put him in the quail dust bath party park and lounge. Seemed right. It's their favorite place.

Otherwise, I've been pacing myself during this political season, wading through the online sewer of hype and lies in an attempt to follow the issues. I shudder to think about how deep the shit bog is in TV land by now. And it's only going to get worse. Once again, I am so glad we ditched the box, the agitation, staleness, the lies, the bullshit non-issues, the mind-numbing repetition. Gives me the spins just thinking about it . . .

In my neighborhood

so many brains docked at the
glowing white light
so many eyes
fluttering moths on the screen
so many hands
lifting food to
so many mouths munch munch
munching families all in a row
in a one-way communication
life too
dreary too
disconnected too
long too
small too
ordinary too
to count
the people
gavaged like geese

only willingly


Spinal tap

I finally had the epidural this morning but it was less than perfect. About five minutes after leaving the hospital, a gripping head/eye ache set in so I called the doctor who told me to stay in bed until tomorrow then call him again. Seems headache is a symptom of a punctured lumbar. The needle accidentally perforates the membrane and steroids are injected into the spinal column instead of the lumbar region. A spinal tap enters that area but to withdraw fluid, not inject it. Lovely. The epidural will probably still work just fine, but for today it's best if I stay horizontal to take pressure off the area. So that's what I'm doing today, lying in bed with my laptop and Pony Lightning. That guy never passes up an invitation to chill.

I need a break anyway. And, what doesn't kill me is supposed to make me stronger, right? Or at least maybe my back will stop hurting so much. The last week, culminating with this epidural, was really hectic. Among other things, I worked at the DAWG rummage sale from Friday to Sunday and Saturday night I helped host a potluck, skit and birthday party with some friends. I directed the skit, which was nice for me, exild from the magic circle. It's a long complicated story beginning way back, and not entirely my fault, something of a legacy, but the result is the same. The Feast of Consequences. What ya' gonna do?

This is the third epidural I've had. Dr. Thomas Ewald in Ashland gave me the first two when I lived in Oregon. He was no better than a bad vet. Motioned me to the examine table, swab...n...jab as he chatted about his many horses. No dye highlighting the area. No x-ray guided imaging. After the courteous, meticulous treatment (in spite of the spinal injection) I received today, I have more sympathy than ever for animals at the mercy of careless, clueless people. To top it off, that sloppy bastard nearly killed me one time with a wrong emergency room diagnosis. I just went over to the health grades directory and gave him a bad rating. Take that, Ewald.


Skidrow Penthouse

I believe I forgot to mention that recently a couple of poems of mine were accepted for publication by Skidrow Penthouse. I don't know which issue they will appear in, not the spring. That's already out. Anyway, I got some ink on the acceptance letter. It is the little things. after all. Ever heard of them? They're located in New York, E. 3rd. I liked that. Used to live on 3rd and Broadway. And they like idiosyncratic writers.

I cut the following from their "About" page:
Skidrow Penthouse is published to give emerging and idiosyncratic writers a new forum in which to publish their work. We are looking for deeply felt authentic voices, whether surreal, confessional, New York School, formal, or free verse. Work should be well crafted: attention to line-break and diction. We want poets who sound like themselves, not workshop professionals. We don’t want gutless posturing, technical precision with no subject matter, explicit sex and violence without craft, or abstract intellectualizing. We are not impressed by previous awards and publications.

So, that's it. Just sayin'.


Local news at 5:25

Nothing much to add to the world's chatter today. Well, I am glad Obama finally closed the nomination. He was one of the few not fooled or bullied by the Republi-con Jack-off for Iraq campaign and neither was I so he gets my vote. Plus, he kicks ass. It would be nice if someone with brains and ethics were elected to represent the US again. We're not all craven, Jesus freak, dickheads.

And, in the local front, I agreed yesterday to get involved editing a tiny monthly publication but only on condition that the current editor stay involved for another year. Then I am supposed to take over. (Aside to self: My god, what have I done?) I dreamt about it all morning. It will be okay.

And lastly, here are a few photos from the hundreds I've taken lately, out and about. Well, not entirely out and about. On second thought, three of them are through the window but you know what I mean.

Comma Coffee
worlds within worlds

Ragtag Death enters the Bird Park

Curious crow - loose feather

Silver City graveyard


Ps. It is my considered opinion that Ayn Rand was a repulsive and fundamentally dishonest human being whose writings have spawned more harm in the world than good. But it does amuse me that she spoke for "Man". Her rosiness may as well have called "man", for whom she raised her shrill voice, "The Man".


Bo Diddley done gone

Crap. Bo Diddley died today. I grew up with his music. Bye-bye, Bo Diddley. See ya' further on down the line.

Local news at 5

Jimmy Chooey

I don't know what's up, but I'm about ready to scrap this blog and start fresh. The damn thing takes forever to load and I've wasted most of this fine Sunday afternoon trying to figure out why, with no success. Haloscan and YouTube are definitely slowing it down and I want to say right now, so there is no misunderstanding, I HATE HALOSCAN. When it first came out I thought it was really great but it slows the page load down, mine anyway, and you can not uninstall the fucking script. Fuck you, Haloscan. But right now the Blogger page elements take the longest, many minutes. Crazy. It has been gradually getting slower for a while now but today it's totally hung. "Waiting for Blogger". What a drag.

Sorry to waste space complaining like this. I think I'm pretty mellow, life on life's terms and all that, but crap like this throws me into a heart stopping rage. In frustration, I went out and pruned a bunch of dead wood out in the yard. It just happened to be the neighbor's tree. Somebody needed to do it. The guy whose tree it is sits in his garage smoking cigars and drinking most of the day. He's a great guy but has been undergoing chemo treatment on and off for last year or so and is really run down. Unfortunately, I went about things in my usual backwards fashion. After I snipped off a few egregious branches, I asked him if he'd like me to prune the thing. He said no. Said he'd do it later. We had the same conversation last year, after I pruned his the same tree. Does this mean I'm a bad person?

In other news, Jack's back. He's a sweet little dog who has lived at the shelter for over a year now then last Saturday we thought his angel had finally arrived. A guy from Tahoe met and adopted him, all in the same day. I heard this was in the works and went out the next day to say good-bye but Jack had already moved into his new, 4,000 sq. ft. home on the lake. Unfortunately, it proved to be too much, too soon. Two days later Jack was back. It's hard adjusting to life on the outside. Ask anyone who's been incarcerated. Next time, the shelter is going to make sure that Jack and his potential adopters spend time getting to know one another before taking the plunge. Makes sense. I wish they'd thought of it earlier.

We had a canine guest ourselves last week, alias Jimmy. He was dropped off at the shelter on Memorial Day but, officially it was closed. Luckily, a few of us volunteers were there walking the residents. I was elected to take Jimmy home for the night. I think he had a great time... at least he ate lots of cookies, slept on a soft rug. We took two long walks and he slept right next to me on the floor that night. In fact, at one point, I woke up because he was standing with his head on the mattress watching me. A really sweet fellow. When I took him in to the shelter the next day, the receptionist recognized him right away as Chooey, a previous shelter resident, and called the owner. The idiot hadn't bothered to give the poor, old guy an ID tag. I don't know what people think. Apparently nothing.