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Clockwork Crow

Last night a friend gave me a catalog page showing a striking tapestry called Clockwork Crow.  The catalog describes it thus:  “It’s like an Audubon print – steampunk style!  Geared, spring-legged and feathered in steel, this retro-tech corvine raises a squawk from everyone who sees him.”  You can see him at the Pyramid Collection online.

This proves to be quite thought-provoking.  For one thing, Audubon’s prints date back to the mid-Victorian era and fit right in with the Victorian-give-or-take ambiance of steampunk.  There was a Victorian affinity for natural history;  nature still felt like an undiscovered country.  The crow part of Clockwork Crow is a sepia-toned, carefully detailed, and rather stifffly posed bird.  Definitely evokes Audubon.

At the same time, I don’t like the idea of steampunk cyborgs any more than than slick high-tech ones.  For me, as for a lot of us, the gloss is long since off the idea of cyborging nature to make it better, faster, cooler, or whatever other technological conceit.   A creature with gears, springs and steel grafted on is no more attractive than one augmented by polymers and computer chips.

On the other hand….  If ever a crow were to get into steampunk garb – and a crow would:  they’re that smart, curious, playful and contrarian – why, this one is marvelous and elegant.  Complete with a metal bill-mask the better to preen steel feathers!

Clown car

Seen at the red light at the corner of Kirby and North Braeswood:  A brightly painted closed trailer, with lettering that said something about a party clown for hire, being towed by a nondescript passenger car, which was driven by a clown in full face paint, wide grin, red ball nose, and frizzy red hair . . . talking on a cell phone.

Camp Mascot

It’s the season for summer camp.  I heard on NPR that a New York City bookstore is even sponsoring a Camp Half-Blood for young fans of the Percy Jackson books;  the kids were enjoying it, sword skirmishes and secret rescue missions and all. Sunday’s Houston Chronicle reported that a camp for mascots had been held in Houston’s Toyota Center.  As in team mascots.  The people in hot fuzzy animal suits who stoke the enthusiasm of fans. The Fantasy Mascot Camp was led by Rockets basketball mascot Robert Bourwin, a.k.a “Clutch.”  It was attended by mascots from middle and high schools, a couple of universities, minor and professional league teams, and the Chick-fil-A corporate mascot (should that be a.k.a “Cluck”-?)  The pictures on the Chron’s Web site are priceless. All these people in their fuzzy mascot costumes, all jazzed up-!

Unfortunately, the article did not escape the prosaic perils of typographical error.  These days there don’t seem to be many articles, stories or books that appear typo-free.  Clutch was quoted as saying that the camp focused on psychology, more than stunts.  “We’re not hitting any trampolines, repelling (sic) from the ceiling….”

Of course, depending on the gig, maybe there’s a mascot or two who do repel from the ceiling.

Measure Twice, Deliver Once

So with Sears you can go online, order an appliance, and request delivery without talking to a human being – and the night before delivery, a robot calls you.  It wants you to press “one” if there will be somebody 18 years old or older who is authorized to accept delivery;  it wants you to press “one” if the two-hour time slot it offers is OK. Also – the robot emphatically tells you to MEASURE the place in your home where the delivered appliance or furniture is to be put, and MEASURE all doorways, stairwells and corners the item will have to go through, and if you find out it won’t fit, CALL A CERTAIN NUMBER TO CANCEL THE DELIVERY.  It sounds like a number of hardworking Sears delivery people have found themselves with uninstallable appliances or stuck furniture….

Weather Being Awe-full

I sure didn’t come to DC for the weather.  It’s been 100+  with high humidity.  It’s not impossible to get out and see the area, but it’s been a challenge.  The National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap with Joshua Bell was an uplifting but sweltering experience for the audience and the heroic musicians alike.  Arlington National Cemetery had a hot clear hush.  The National Cathedral was on the warm side, except for a Eucharist in a chapel in the  Crypt, which was one of the best cool spots in the city.

A storm blew through yesterday afternoon with a tornado warning, a shelf cloud and winds that raised a dust curtain off the construction site north of where I’m staying in Crystal City.  Then the air cleared and the sky blued. Last night was clear.  Today cooler weather is upon us:  it’s only expected to hit 90 degrees.  I’m off to the National Mall, armed with sun block clothing, water, and a hat.

Interstate Travel notes

Driving north on I-185 in Georgia I blew past a Georgia State Patrol car.  It was OK. The patrol car was aboard a Georgia State Patrol flatbed truck.

Up in South Carolina on I-85 I saw an exit marked GREENVILLE-SPARTANBURG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.  International?  Their Web site lists  maybe four dozen flights for the month of July including Punta Gorda Florida but no apparent international flights.  Maybe the international part is general aviation?  Somebody flying a bizjet in from Monterrey Mexico-?

On I-95 in Virginia I squeaked by two double-wide mobile homes being transported.   They extended far enough into the left lane to make me cancel Cruise Control and pass with great care.  Whew.  Cruise control back on, I flew on up the freeway.  Three or four miles further on I passed a pickup truck with fluttering flags and flashing lights and signage saying WIDE LOAD.  Yoo-hoo, aren’t you supposed to be in actual proximity to your charge?

Catch of the Day

I’m in Georgia taking care of my mother (she’s in assisted living here) and it’s been a busy week.  I’ve checked e-mail on the fly.  Today’s e-mail includes a reminder from the Rice University IT Department that a) there are new phishing scams landing in e-mail inboxes all the time and b) IT is blogging a kind of perp walk of these things called Catch of the Day, drawn from reports from the Rice community.  Catch of the Day lists some usual ones -like the Bereaved Widow’s Plea for Help and the fake messages from “Rice  University IT” that want to harvest your passwords.  And here’s one that’s news to me:  a malicious Web site that fakes the Rice University Webmail log-on screen.  Conceivably it could take in somebody like myself who’s on travel and in a hurry to check Webmail.  Ack-!  Catch of the Day wisely reminds us, Make sure you look at the destination for your URL before you begin typing in your NetID and password. Likewise any other Website that involves personal information, passwords and/or money.  Does the fine print in the URL sound like whatever self-respecting outfit it purports to be?  Nobody wants to be a phisher’s catch of the day….  Caveat user!!

Collect for Healing the Life of the Gulf

Prayed in church today:

Oh merciful Creator, our waters are bleeding through the work of our hands and our consumptive appetites.  We are mindful of the infinite complexity of your world and the limits of our knowledge and skill.  Send your Spirit of healing, wisdom, and comfort upon those who are affected by this tragedy and those who seek to make right this awful wrong.  May we, remembering the account that we must one day give, be strengthened to be more faithful stewards of your bounty.


Father’s Day Fledgings

A friend of mine happens to work in the same office as a wildlife rehabilitator.  Through that channel, I’m told that wild bird fledgings peak around Father’s day.  Well, the half-grown pigeon on my balcony certainly seems to be on the verge of it.  And yesterday the last of three baby robins in a nest in a tree outside the West door of the library where I work made it out of the nest.  My department had been watching the nest for days.  We were worried by the report of a hawk hanging around.  We had a lot of sympathy for the overworked parents bringing bugs to three increasingly demanding beaky little maws! It turns out that robin parents sit in a branch on the same tree or another tree and sweetly chirp to persuade a chick to take the plunge.  Pigeon parents – judging by the example on my balcony – coo to the near-fledglings to encourage them to come and get food and finally take flight.

This time of year it’s easy to see that parenting is in the warp and woof of life.  So, as a matter of fact, is surrogate parenting.  The wildlife rehabilitator has been watching a wren in her back yard for years.  This female wren annually lays eggs in a neat little nest.  By the time the eggs hatch she lines up a second boyfriend, so the chicks have three adults feeding and fending for them.

The rehabilitator brings cheeping shoeboxes to work because chicks need feeding every three hours.  Her colleagues take a lively interest in the contents of the shoebox.  Presently the shoebox contains a baby shrike.  Shrikes are technically songbirds – not that they act like it:  they are carnivores.  So what do you feed a baby shrike?  It turns out that you can buy minced mouse from pet food suppliers (!) I visualize the rehabilitator carefully dropping bits of mouse meat into the baby birdy’s  eager little beak.  And the many other rehabilitators, women and men, boys and girls, being surrogate parents for a wildly different species:  tending baby birds (and other creatures) this time of year in order to get the little things to the point where they can be grown-up birds that fly away.  Happy Father’s Day to all of them!

Full Disclosure

Anybody who’s gone through the process of buying a home comes away with an elevated interest in the process even if they plan to stay put for years.  This is why I always read the Houston Chronicle’s weekly HOMES section.   It’s interesting to know how much the McMansion on a local street is going for;  how Realtors think;  or how to weatherstrip a door or replace a bathroom vent fan, as detailed in the Handyman column.  Then there’s this gem:

Q.  Must I disclose  if my house is haunted?

A.  In our opinion, if you have a reason to believe a house is haunted, you should disclose it….  If that disclosure drives away a potential buyer, so be it.  However, such a disclosure, if true, can be a magnet for buyers.  It’s all in what you know and believe about the house and what a prospective buyer thinks about haunted houses.