Monthly Archives: July 2012

Rabbit fight

Sky

Got the last couple of things from the Palm Springs apartment Sunday morning: the bed platform, the step stool, a handful of cleaning supplies. Spackled the few holes we made hanging artwork and bolting bookcases, vacuumed up the dust from making a couple of the holes bigger so I could spackle them properly, Tetrissed everything into the car. Walking out for the last time I looked back and tried to summon up some gratitude for the place, the way I usually do when I move out of a house. It didn’t quite work. So I left.

There’s a high, thin cover of cloud blowing in from the southeast, from the Sea of Cortez and the Gulf. We’re going to get some rain in the next couple of days. Some parts of the desert will likely get a whole lot. I have my fingers crossed for flash floods cutting through a couple of solar projects under construction.

Our new neighbor moved away—was it something we said?—and as she fed the local cottontails and quail, I decided I’d better take up a bit of the slack until they got used to it. I picked up a bird seed bell at the supermarket. It’s not cracked corn and sunflower seeds, which would be better for the quail. But it’s something. The quail never got to it: the bell was discovered within seconds by the local scrub jay, and then fifteen minutes later the jay had been elbowed aside by the Boss rabbit.

It was an interesting glimpse into rabbit interactions. I’ve only ever had one rabbit at a time before, and though I did watch him boss around a dog and a cat, and a few humans, I never saw him with one of his own species. Subordinate bun was hungry and curious, and crept up toward the seed bell. When he’d get too close Boss Rabbit would charge, and each time Sub Bun would avoid the boss by leaping directly into the air. Three, four times in a minute and a half this happened. Then Boss wandered off and fell over in the shade of the peach tree, and Sub Bun carefully went over, tried a nibble of seed bell, then a mouthful, then eight mouthfulls, digging in with his bottom incisors to pry off great chunks.

He worked at this for five minutes or so, then Boss Rabbit came back. He took Sub Bun by surprise, but there wasn’t a fight at first. S.B. made a submissive display without moving away: He stretched his head out low to the ground, and Boss Rabbit came over and nuzzled him for a moment, then they both ate. For five more minutes. The Boss Rabbit changed his mind and chased Sub Bun away again.

At length the boss wandered off to find someone else to dominate, and a covey of about 15 very noisy quail—including one quite small youngster—wandered into the yard, eating everything but the seed I’d bought for them. Sub Bun took out a bit of his frustration by chasing the quail, barreling into groups of six or seven birds and busting them up. I don’t have the patience to watch the Olympics, but why should I when I have world class quail bowling going on right here?

Though tomorrow’s bout may well be rained out.

It’s official

We just moved the last of our stuff into the house in Joshua Tree.

We live here now.

This is something I first wanted a dozen years ago. It never occurred to me, after it didn’t happen a dozen years ago, that it could ever happen at all.

We had two dozen quail in our yard this evening as we unloaded the 14-foot U-Haul. A bat amiably checked us out as we unloaded the few things that fit into Annette’s Mini Cooper. There be rabbits here, and roadrunners, and this evening as we chatted with our next-door neighbor a Steller’s jay decided to holler at us. Yesterday I was scolded by a ladderback woodpecker for having the temerity to take out the recycling. That was a couple hours after Annette spooked a rosy boa from our driveway.

In the last month we have moved, and lost a Jeep, and I have started a new venture at KCET, and it has been crazy. But we have made it through most of July anyway.

I am sore and I am going to take myself and stand under some hot water for a bit. But y’all have deserved an update for some time. There will be more to come.

My penultimate evening in Palm Springs

The cat moves to Joshua Tree thursday night, and therefore so do we. He calls the shots, really.

It’s been around 117° here for the last couple days, and the power will be turned off on Friday. Not because we’re moving: because Southern California Edison decided it was a good idea to schedule important maintenance in a week when air conditioning is likely keeping some of my neighbors alive. And since the cat has a thick fur coat of which we are reluctant to deprive him, we will be placing him in the Little Scary Box and placing the Little Scary Box in the Big Noisy Scary Box and driving the Big Noisy Scary Box to San Bernardino County on Thursday evening, and he will Never Come Back to the Coachella Valley.

I might not either. Aside from cleaning the old apartment.

I have been reluctant to admit it. I have been wanting to think the best of Palm Springs. When we moved here in February ‘11 I was intoxicated by the beauty of the place, the staggering slopes of San Jacinto and the Santa Rosas, the color of the light across the Indio Hills at sunset toward the Little San Bernardinos. It was lovely, and it still is.

And yet nearly from the moment we moved in there have been those little things. They started out as little things. I told myself that.

It wasn’t long before I was running the tally in my head.

PRO: It’s beautiful here.
CON: If I don’t get out hiking before 11:00 am it’s too hot to go hiking, especially given the sheer and overwhelming verticality of the trails nearby.

PRO: Hey, lots of great-looking restaurants here to serve the tourist trade!
CON: Oh, right: tourists have lousy taste.
CON: What is it with these restaurants leaving their “OPEN” signs lit when they’re out of business?

PRO: Florian lives here, and he’s a great guy. Nice to have a friend in town even before I move in!
CON: Good lord, is that band at the Roadhouse actually trying to play “White Wedding”? Have they ever heard the song before?

PRO: Coffee in the neighborhood as good as I’ve ever had in San Francisco or Berkeley.
CON: It’s five blocks away and it’s 112° out already, at 9:30 am.

PRO: Thriving LGBT community in the desert!
CON: Thriving LGBT community in the desert that wants nothing to do with local residents!

PRO: The temperature’s finally down to 82°; let’s turn off the AC and open the window.
CON: Wait, is it only 11:30? Open Mike night at the Roadhouse goes on for another two and a half hours? Can we shut the windows again?

PRO:
CON: Open Mike Night was supposed to end an hour ago.

PRO:
CON: Sure, let me just meet that 10 am deadline after falling asleep at 4:30, once the fucking Harleys left.

PRO: Spending most days in the company of the rabbit
CON: Rabbit gets sick and dies

PRO: Veterinary staff treating rabbit and animal shelter people accepting donations of dead rabbit’s personal effects are wonderfully supportive and kind
CON: This constitutes the first sense of community we’ve felt in 13 months of living in Palm Springs

PRO: Palm Springs PD responds quickly when Jeep is stolen
CON: Palm Springs PD responds even more quickly when Jeep is stolen for the second time

And so on.

I remember setting up my home office here in Palm Springs and thinking “this is where I finish the book.” I have written not word one of the book since then. I have written most of another book, but nothing on the one I thought I would.

It’s been interesting. Palm Springs was never supposed to have been anything but an attempt to make things work for both my LGBT-urban sweetheart and my desert-rat self, and it didn’t work for either of us. Some of that is certainly our fault: we each have a degree of social anxiety. But some of it is just that it’s not a very welcoming place, Florian and Espresso Cielo notwithstanding. Annette has been singularly unhappy here, and not just because of the heat.

In May I had a brief speaking gig in a theater in Joshua Tree, and Annette came along. We were there for three or four hours, talking to local enviro-artist types and getting a look at the artwork of the theater owner, who was voluble and kind and quirky in the way we appreciate. Before we got back to the Palm Springs apartment that night Annette had decided we were moving.

This was fine by me, to put it mildly. Joshua Tree was a place I’d imagined living since I was here with Zeke about a dozen years ago. My ex-and I talked about making the move, and then our landlord sold the house out from under us and deprived us of the leisure we needed to move across the state, and we bought a house up the road a piece, and the rest is history. I love the place, but I would not have asked Annette to move there. It’s small. It’s rural.

But it has artists, and it has LGBT folk, and it has people so glad for kindred spirits that we’ve gotten emails from people we don’t know welcoming us to town and inviting us over. We were told we needed a certain credit rating to rent the house that seemed right and we didn’t have that credit rating. That didn’t matter if we could pony up first and last and the deposit for the cat and we couldn’t until August. That was OK because the agent was willing to finance the first and last and cat deposit so that we could get the keys July 1, which gave us a no-interest loan to make the move over the course of a month. We got the keys and went to our new place and looked at the yard and each of us thought “this back yard would work just fine for the wedding.”

Then the Jeep got stolen. I got it back and it got stolen again. It was totaled the second time and I was on the hook for $200 in towing charges. This afternoon I found that someone had charged $338.00 of my bank account funds toward their Southern California Edison account; it may be a mere coincidence and accident of transposed numbers entered by an SCE employee, or it may have something to do with the checkbook that was in the Jeep when it was stolen the second time.

And I’m like “Okay, enough with the stick: the carrot was working just fine.”

Last night, Monday night, I sat in our Joshua Tree backyard waiting for a local friend to come by with a copy of the Zeke book he wanted signed for his dad. IT was cool and comfortable: only about 97° at sunset. I had my phone, and I had a set of binoculars, and with the two of them combined in uncomfortably awkward fashion I managed to grab this photo of my new neighbor:

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He has a small freckle inside his left ear, and so I am calling him Spot, at least until he tells me what his real name is. He is one of half a dozen rabbity habitues of our yard, that I know of. And there are quail, and bats, and mourning doves and hummingbirds, coyotes and cactus wrens and no motorcycles at 2 am, from what I can tell.

I remind myself that if it weren’t for a year and a half in Palm Springs, neither Annette nor I would appreciate our new place quite so much.

Ouch

Taken earlier today:

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Goodbye, old friend.

And yet I can’t be thoroughly sad, given that my still-alive, non-mechanical associates include the likes of Mr. Hank Fox, here. He’s asking people to pitch in to help me replace the Jeep, but even if you’re not inclined to do so you should go read what he has to say anyway just so you can get a sense of how touched I am. Though I will confess to feeling a bit like Tom Sawyer in the rafters listening to his own eulogy.

RIP The Zheep, 1992-2012

This one's for Sherwood

RIP The Zheep, 1992-2012, stolen tonight for the *second time in two weeks* and totaled. True to the kind and generous nature is inherited from Sherwood and Diane, its last act was to save the life of the jerk that stole it, ran it into a lamppost while running away from cops, and rolled it. It was a noble machine and it deserved a better end, perhaps with its roof cut off and turned into a flower bed.

The photo here is how I’ll always remember it: parked in Nipton.

Google Ads: Biodiversity does not exist

Another data point for arguments that Environmentalism has been redefined as “all about climate change, and never mind habitat destruction, air and water quality, invasive species, or any of those other non-climatey things.” I was attempting to change what kinds of advertising I see via Google Ads, to see if I could make those ads more relevant to my interests. I was offered a pull-down menu listing a whole lot of possible interests, and drilling down to find the interest I find most interesting, I found it interesting that I could not find the interest I find most interesting. Screenshot:

Pull-down menu in which the only category in topic environmentalism is climate change

I wrote a piece for KCET a couple months ago that talks about why this is a problem. Short version: Climate change is one huge facet of the larger problem of biodiversity erosion, and if we focus on climate change to the exclusion of other facets of that larger issue, we do so at our peril. And more importantly, at the peril of the millions of other species on the planet, of which we are but one.

Ten Things You All Need To Stop Doing Immediately.

1) Making web sites that I have to join even to browse. Especially if your web site exists with the intention of selling me something. If I had to sign up for a mailing list to walk into a store, I’d never walk into that store.

2) Using that “beverage on keyboard or monitor” joke. I love tired old stale jokes as much as the next guy, as evidenced by my continued enjoyment of LOLcats. And even I got tired of the “you owe me a new keyboard” thing sometime before Mosaic was released. It was a clever witticism when first used back on Usenet before the Great Renaming. Now it’s just a supremely inefficient way of saying “LOL.”

3) Creating links that always open a new tab or window. This is a lot more common than it used to be, and there may well be some people who expect it as the default. If your machine has enough RAM, this may not bother you: you may even find it convenient.  I like being able to open things in a new tab, too, so that I can check out a link and continue reading your page where I left off. I do that when I want to by holding down a key as I click. Having that choice taken away from me means every single link I click eats more RAM, and it costs me an hour a day or more dealing with RAM shortage induced slowness.

4) Variations on the “You Win The Internet” comment as a means of agreeing emphatically. This isn’t nearly as time-worn as the joke mentioned in #2, but wouldn’t it be nice to let it remain slightly funny by going on to another joke?

5) Running web ads that load after the page does, and then cause other items on the page to shift positions as it loads. Most commonly, this is seen in top banner ads that push everything else down the screen a couple of inches. Usually just as I click on the story I want to read, only to have that link scroll out from under my pointer causing me to open up either an ad or a resource-intensive page I had no intention of loading.

6) Ending a comment by saying something like “Flame away.” Or “Go ahead and ban me.” You are almost certainly not as heroically iconoclastic as you think you are. If you were, you wouldn’t claim to be. It’s like being “innovative” or “a maverick”: claiming you are usually means you aren’t.

7) “tl;dr.” This is first cousin to the perennial “I don’t care about this unimportant topic” comment, which is a self-refuting comment. Going out of your way to proclaim a post too long to retain your interest says more about you than it does about the essay. Sure, plenty of people online go on at great and self-indulgent length where they could have been much more concise, and this blog offers a number of examples of the practice, possibly including this post. But an effective counter to that involves using actual words to detail your objection to longwindedness. Saying “tl;dr” isn’t an effective criticism of longwindedness: it’s a confession of your short attention span and laziness.

8) Calling them “infographics” when they aren’t. This is an infographic. It conveys information in graphical form, using text as labels rather than the sole source of actual information. This is NOT an infographic. It’s a bunch of information in text for with pretty pictures to decorate it, and would be no less informative if you took the images out.

9) Using images to publish a piece of text you like, as in:

When you post images with words in them but fail to provide a caption or alt text, you are saying that you do not care whether blind people are included in your sharing of information. And quite frankly, that sucks ass. -Helen Keller

In addition to the accessibility issue, you may have noticed that Helen Keller probably didn’t say anything like the above.  Misattributions of people’s words are rampant with these things. That’s probably inevitable: asking people to factcheck whether Chief Seattle actually said anything about thousands of rotting buffalo carcasses is almost certainly too much to expect of people. (He didn’t, by the way.) But in addition to the whole accessibility issue, images take a lot longer to download, and a lot more memory to display, than the text you’re actually sharing. Not much of an issue for a single image, but when was the last time you went to Facebook and saw just one of these on a page?

10) Speaking of #9: those things that are essentially the same thing except they have a bunch of animated gifs in comic-strip sequence, showing an interaction or event with dialogue that was originally part of a fully web-compatible video? Cut that shit out this instant.

Moving to Joshua Tree

Annette and I signed a year’s lease on a house in Joshua Tree today.

We spent a little bit of time this afternoon lying on the floor in the living room, feeling the breeze come in through the big palo verde in the front yard.

It’s an unremarkable tract home. Unremarkable except that we’re remarking on the amount of storage and the presence of a dishwasher and a couple of laundry-related appliances we need not share with neighbors, and that kind of thing. And the six mature Joshua trees in the back yard. And the shed with rooftop deck. And the three patios and ungardenable yard filled with Audubon’s cottontails and Gambel’s quail. And the absence of drunken motorcycle noises. The second bedroom — my office — is smaller than the one I have now, and I will have to share it with the cat’s litterbox. I am making immense sacrifices here. I expect the appropriate sympathy from all of you.

We were a bit distracted and tired when we took possession of the place today, and I failed to take photos. Some will come. For now, this one the realtors took from the roof of the shed, which we are provisionally calling Annette’s opium den, will have to do:

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That’s our house at right. Beyond is part of the unincorporated community of Joshua Tree, California, which is causing me to challenge my two-decades-old habit of not capitalizing the t in “tree.” The low rise in the distance is the Bartlett Mountains. Unseen behind the photographer, a northern alluvial fan of the Little San Bernardinos rises toward the boundary of Joshua Tree National Park, three miles away from the spot where our kitchen table will go.

I am 52 years old, and as near as I can figure it this is move 50 or so. A year’s lease is good. We plan to move to the city at some point, and life is short. But It will have made sense, when I account for my life, to have spent some of it with a Joshua Tree, CA address.