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1.29.2006

I don't see dead people


Buena Vista Gravestone
Originally uploaded by honan.
Colma is the city of the dead. Dead people were outlawed in San Francisco more than a century ago; if you want to be dead, you have to do it in Colma.

There are precious few dead people here. There is the national cemetery in the Presidio, where you can find military graves. To the south, there's the Mission Dolores cemetery, dating back to 1776, the horrific conditions of which, with its open graves scandalized the city in the 1890s. In the Richmond, there's the Columbarium, where the ashes of the dead are preserved and cared for by members of the Neptune Society. And, of course, there is the Presidio Pet Cemetery, but that's a different beast altogether.

No, there are no dead in San Francisco. The Board of Supervisors decreed it in 1902, there were to be no more burials in our precious city limits. And later, from the 1920s through the 40s, those who were buried here were kicked out. Evicted. Dug up and sent down to Colma or points beyond.

Or at least some were. Renovations at the Palace of the Legion of Honor and the San Francisco Library's main branch turned up bodies. The wave organ at Fort Mason is built from old tombstones, from those sent to Colma, you presume.

And this. Forgive us, R. Boyce.

In Buena Vista Park, there are markers too. As you stroll up the winding paths, look closely at the gutters and retaining walls. They were built by the WPA in the 1930s. God save us; of the feast of horrors unleashed in California during the depression, surely this was a minor atrocity.

Yet there they lie today, funneling water downhill from the sky to the Bay. Some 600 feet from my window, the adornments of the dead. Shattered.


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1.25.2006

Why birds don't come to our feeder anymore


hawk in tree
Originally uploaded by honan.
Once, our feeders were the place to be. If you were a bird, that is. All the cool kids from the neighboring parks came by to hang out, eat, and splash around in the standing water on our neighbors roof.

But then, suddenly, everything stopped.

The Hummingbirds were the first to split. Not only were they not coming by the feeder anymore, but they quit their nests and perches on the two trees on our street.

Then we noticed that our feeders were staying full longer. And during the morning, when it had been bird central, our bird bar was virtually vacant.

The reason for this has now become self-evident. The hawk Harper saw earlier seems to have taken up a post at our house.

I saw him last weekend sitting on the telephone wire across the street, looking our way. And a few times now, he's been perched in the tree in our neighbor's backyard, just 50 feet or so from our feeders.

The first time I saw him there, I tried to run him off. I yelled and hollered and shook my rake from the yard down below. I could have been inside making baked Alaskas for all he cared.

Now he comes by every day. He's been out there twice this morning already. He left the second time to go after a dove. I don't know if he got it or not.

I've kind of given up on running him off, but I feel conflicted about him. On the one hand, it's a juvenile hawk and I want it to grow up healthy and strong. I hope he finds a permanent niche in our city ecosystem. And how many people get to have a pet hawk?

On the other... Dude! Stay away from our birds! With Harper being essentially trappped in our apartment until her back is better, the birds that stop by our feeder are one of her few sources of pleasure. Find yourself another niche!

I want him to eat, I want him to grow strong. But not off of our birds.

Oh, nature.


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1.20.2006

Los Amigos Del Horno



When I was a kid, I always kind of wanted an Easy Bake Oven.

I bet that's why I got beat up a lot.

But today, my friend, I can bake a damn cake.

PS: dear people who subscribe to my site feed. this is a secret message just to you. Holy Wow! the people on the web can't see it. fuck them! fuck them!

anyway, i am really sorry about the delicious links over the last few days. how annoying. oh, really? it wasn't for you because you don't ever look at it anyway? that's cool. well, it was annoying for me, but it won't happen again. love, mat.
p.p.s.: the falcon flies at midnight.


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1.06.2006

Expo Predictions

I've been covering Apple professionally since 2000, and for the last year, I've been writing at least one story per week on the digital audio market, primarily focused on Apple. I talk to developers, developers, developers very regularly, and on rare occasions, I learn something a little early about what Apple has up its sleeves. Or, um, supply chains.

Can a company have sleeves? I'm not sure.

In any case, one thing I've learned is that it's useless to predict what Apple is going to roll out. Unless, of course, you're talking about the Cube, nano, shuffle, or ROCKR. But this time around, Apple has done a pretty good job of maintaining it's secrets, with one notable exception. But I'm going to take a shot anyway. Legal eagles be aware, I have no inside knowledge about any of these. (Well, there is one thing, but even it's speculative. You'll see.) These aren't forecasts, just guesses, and yours is as good as mine. That said, here are my predictions for Macworld Expo 2006.


Peace out, losers. I'll see you next week at Moscone.

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1.03.2006

100 BIRDS

There are more than 10,000 species of birds in the world. You can see more than 800 of them right here in the United States. One of the better books I read last year was The Big Year. It's the story of three birders who all attempt to see as many of those 800 or so species as they can in the course of a year. As the writer Mark Obmascik explained it to the NewsHour:
[T]he Big Year is a contest with no referees and few rules. The idea is, who can see the most species of birds in North America in one year. So you can see them however you want. You can fly to see them, ride a bike to see them. In one case, they even took a helicopter to see them in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada.
Due to climate change and habitat destruction, The Big Year chronicled in Obmascik's book is likely to stand for the ages. Every year, there are fewer and fewer species to identify.

Now, I'm not going to try a big year--I haven't the time, money, knowledge, or even inclination. But it did get me thinking. What species have I seen that I might not see again? Do I even know? Migration patterns are changing rapidly and radically due to global warming. We're on a major flyway here in our little apartment. Our feeder--situated directly between two parks and on a flight path through the city--is a stopover for all kinds of birds on their way up the coast. What am I seeing that's unusual for my area?

I've been a casual birder since the late 1990s. My parents were both birders, and my grandmother is a birdus obsessivenious. Even at 92, when she can't remember where I live or what I do, she can still tell me which birds she's seen out her window today. I set feeders out myself, and love watching the hawks and crows that circle outside our apartment, or even the falcons that land on our roof. But I hesitate to call myself a birder.

I formally identified my first bird--that is too say I recorded it in the field guide my father gave me--at the bird sanctuary in Alameda, with my friend Heath on August 6, 1998. It was a Long-billed Curlew. Over the years I've added others to my guide. A Black-Shouldered Kite here; a Belted kingfisher there. Yet I've never been systematic about it. And if you were to glance at the back pages of my field guide and examine my species checklist, it would appear that I've never seen a Blue Jay or a Blackbird or even a common Cardinal.

Oh, but I have.

Nor am I very good with identification. Especially when it comes to raptors, which we have here in the Bay Area like most places have sparrows. Is that a Coopers or a Sharpshinned Hawk? Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, or what?

So this year, one of my two New Year's resolutions(A) is to identify and catalogue 100 species of birds. I don't care if I've seen it before or not. It can be a crow or a crake; it's all the same to me. I just want to try to nail down 100 of them and definitively check them off on my list before the year's over.

This year, I'll identify 100 birds.

I expect the first 30 or so should be pretty easy, and that after that it's going to get exponentially more difficult. Living by the water makes it easier, but at some point, I assume I'm going to have to begin to leave the city with the express purpose of seeing more birds. I'm going to start off with the easy ones that I see daily at our feeders, all of which I've observed today. Here goes nothing.

1. Anna's Hummingbird
2. House Finch
3. Mourning Dove
4. American Crow
5. Scrub Jay
6. Oregon Junco (sub-species of Black-Eyed Junco)
7. Black-capped Chickadee
8. American Robin
9. Rock Dove (Commonly known as a pigeon in urban areas)


(A) The other being to train for, compete in and complete a triathlon.

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1.02.2006

Goodbye, My Redolent Evergreen Friend

I enjoyed your company and you were nice to have around. You made our apartment a pleasant place, thanks to your gorgous green boughs and aromatic fragrance that greeted me every morning. But tomorrow is recycling day, and so I am afraid you have to be on your way. I hope you are recycled into something beautiful and permanent. Peace out, little tree.


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