Category Archives: Castle Willett

The “Kids” Are Back Again – Again

I haven’t been hearing the raccoons up on the roof at night in a couple of months, but there was one last night. He/she must have been the scout.

Tonight it sounds like a freakin’ herd of them up there and they’re playing football, or tap dancing, or sumo wrestling, or something.

The wildlife CAM is still up there – probably time to check and see if the batteries are still holding out. (It’s been months – the batteries will NOT have held out. That’s a sucker bet.)

Meanwhile, a better use for the camera (once I put new batteries in it) might be to watch some of the possibly broken screens that lead to the crawl space under the house. While we regularly (once a month or so, maybe twice) smell the neighborhood skunk in the worst possible way, it’s always a situation where you smell it at both ends of the house, inside, outside, all around the town! However, we’ll occasionally get a whiff, not bad, not strong, and only by the garage and/or connected laundry room.

It does make me wonder if they’ve found a way to make a pest of themselves even more so than average.

Time to go hunting. With a camera, just to be clear!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Critters

Sunset Don’t Know…

…that the world’s on fire.

It’s just a sunset…

…doing what a sunset…

…has got to do.

The rabbits were out in force tonight on the lawn while I was taking these.

Do the rabbits ever look up with awe and wonder at the sunset?

We’re stuck between the rabbits and the sunsets…

…aware and intelligent enough to appreciate and recognize their beauty, but too short sighted and stupid to bother to watch because we’re busy destroying the planet and our society.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Photography, Weather

Bird Brains

We’ve all seen parks where someone with a sandwich is subject to immediate attacks by flocks of pigeons, geese, ducks, crows, starlings, and just about every other kind of avian critter nearby. And that’s not to mention the squirrels and the raccoons.

However, all of those creatures have been taught over time to overcome their fear of humans. They’ve been conditioned to respond to the presence of humans and food in a completely different manner than would be natural for them.

Yesterday while eating pizza for dinner, I went outside and sat on the steps in the back yard. There were a couple of birds hopping around on the grass, pecking at seeds or bugs or whatever it is that blackbirds eat from our lawn. As I got to the crust on my piece of pizza, for reasons that I still can’t explain, I tore off a pea-sized piece and tossed it toward the birds.

It was a pathetic throw. I badly misjudged the wind loading on that tiny ball of bread and was only able to get it about three feet from me, barely out of kicking range. The birds were probably twenty feet away.

Prior to the toss my fleeting assumption would have been that the birds would fly away, startled, if I were able to get the bread near them. As I made a pure-de-suck throw, my assumption was that they wouldn’t even know it existed since it wasn’t anywhere near them. And if somehow they did notice the offering, there was no way on earth they would ever come that close to me.

I was wrong!

Immediately the two birds came hopping across the lawn, onto the concrete patio just a couple of feet from me. They pecked at the bit of crust and split it, then flew off into the bushes where I know they have their nest.

I had pizza crust remaining – it was time to test what was happening. I made a handful of additional crust ball bird treats and tossed them out onto the concrete. Over the next couple of minutes, the birds came back for all of them one by one. Even the ones that were just inches from my feet. Then they were back to ask for more. When I wasn’t quick enough to toss out more, they were at my feet, squawking at me in protest.

Cool. I fed the birds.

But where did they learn that behavior? I’ve never, EVER fed them before. I don’t see anyone else in the neighborhood ever feeding them. I don’t know of any bird feeders or other feeding methods in any neighbor yards.

Given all of that, how do we explain this behavior?

I’ve got nothing!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Critters

Home Alone

We’ve lived in this house for over twenty-six years. There have always been kids, wives (not multiple ones at the same time, smartass!), dogs, cats, etc.

Tonight I’m home alone for what I think is only the third or fourth day in that entire span. It’s a little odd.

For one thing it’s quiet. Like, really quiet. While I’ve been watching the World Baseball Classic on television (let’s hear it for the USA!!) I’ve found it easier to watch with the sound off. Fewer annoying ads that way, and no need to keep turning the sound off and on as the ads come and go.

Then the noises started.

Okay, so I’m not entirely alone. It sounds like Rocky and/or Raquel and the brood are up on the roof. I’m used to that, although it’s surprisingly loud when I’m not hearing it over music or the television.

Once they left, I started hearing a chirping every minute or so. Today, of all days, a smoke alarm started getting low on its battery.

Once I killed that, I was startled by some fairly loud gurgling and watery sounds. I honestly didn’t know what it was and was starting to fear the worst when I got up to investigate. It turns out my short-term memory also sucks – the sounds came from the dish washer I had started a while ago.

(Which is also weird. I’m proud of my “dish washer Tetris” skills but had to start it when it was less than half full. With just me and my visiting son here for a few days, we used paper plates but ran out of silverware. I thought it better to run a half-empty dishwasher rather than going out and buying more silverware.)

Then the music started. I was in the living room but I could hear music from my office. I came in here to find some great tunes playing from my usual Sirius-XM station. The only thing is that there’s apparently no browser open, and it’s not playing a recording from an earlier broadcast, so I have no clue why it started suddenly or how it’s playing.

At least my poltergeists share my taste in music! (Or they can’t change the channel.)

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Filed under Castle Willett, Computers, Critters, Family, Music

Another Year Forward

Another year in the rearview mirror.

Mourn the passing of the one gone, or celebrate the arrival of the one to come?

How about we do both? We’ll gather what family we can, build a funeral pyre (well, light off the gas grill – same thing), and sacrifice some meat to the gods of BBQ?

As one does for the first BBQ of the season.

Here’s to another 365.25!


Filed under Castle Willett, Paul

Fred The Wonder Lizard!

Last Sunday was finally warm after days and days of wet, grey, gloomy weather. Coming back in from breakfast and grocery shopping, we found Fred out sunning himself. (Or herself – we’ve never checked that closely and wouldn’t know what to check for if we did and would just get bitten for our effort, so screw it.)


Normally at the first sight of us Fred will skitter off at Warp Eight. But not on Sunday. He just sat there. We actually had to be careful stepping over him, expecting him to make a break for the bushes at any second.

Nada. Ten minutes later, when I came back out with the camera, he was still there in the same spot.


I was quite surprised at how close I was able to get with the camera, down to about six inches. At first I thought he might be dead, but then I could see his eyes were open and darting back and forth.

He might have been waiting to soak up those last few photons that he needed to reboot his cold-blooded little carcass, because all of a sudden he spun about 10° to face me, opened his mouth in astonishment (okay, he might have been hissing at me), and took off at Warp Sixty-Four.

I had thought that he might be in danger out there of the local hawks and other birds, but then I realized what his game was. He’s Fred the Wonder Lizard! He was luring the hawks down by playing dead, at which point he was going to kick their ass and take them as prey back to his lair!

A tough guy, indeed!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Photography

Power Interruption

I woke up this morning to some clicking noises. Some were coming from my phone. Some were coming from the cable box, DVD player, and television in the room. In my hazy state I knew that they had all started up for a reason – we had had a power outage. The phone was buzzing with notices coming in from our security cameras that they were back online and had been out for ten minutes. The electronics were all powering up, resetting, resyncing, and restoring service.

The power outage led to problems. Some of the equipment, such as the DVR, hadn’t handled the outage very well and needed to be reprogrammed. One of the cable boxes appears to have gone insane and will probably need to be replaced.

The computers throughout the house had to be rebooted and some of them had problems to be resolved.

Shortly after noon I tried to send an email on my work account, only to get error messages that it couldn’t be sent. It took a few minutes, but it occurred to me that the problem could be that our server at the office was offline and if the power outage wasn’t just our neighborhood, that could have been the cause. That would be a problem, and I would either have to face it and fix it on Tuesday morning (when it was a much bigger problem and when I’m already double and triple booked) or I could fix it now (when it was a relatively small problem).

A “no brainer” if I’ve ever seen one. Ten minutes later I was at the office and yes, they had gone through the same power outage. The server had powered back up, but was not connecting. I called our networking guru and a couple hours later we were back online.

So what?

It occurs to me that this is a microcosm for some of the bigger things in life. We’re so used to our routine, but our routine (and the expectations we have on a daily basis) is so tied to the assumptions that there will be uninterrupted power. That power might not be strictly electrical as in this morning’s mess, but could also be social, cultural, political, or any number of other “al’s.” Interruptions always have the potential to cause chaos.

Think of a transit strike, or one of the legendary Southern California grocery store strikes. Those interruptions to our social systems can have big consequences.

Think of a political interruption. We saw in the US what happens when Congress forces the government to shut down because of their budget battles. We always see sudden and often unexpected changes during the switch from one Presidential administration to another. (Some more than others…)

The first step in dealing with any of these interruptions is to cope. I’ll get a new cable box for the one that fried. I rebooted the computers and reprogrammed the DVR. We find other grocery stores and put up with the long lines and lousy selections. We find other ways to get to work and around town.

The second step, once the situation is a little bit more under control, is to figure out what went wrong and what kind of systems and safeguards can be put into place to prevent it from happening again. Maybe I can get an Uninterruptible Power Supply for the computers. Maybe we can try to diversify the monopolistic grocery store market so that we can be sure to have options if one goes on strike.

Politically, let’s keep those two steps in mind. First, cope. Second, figure out what’s broken and work to change it or fix it.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Politics