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Night sounds

If everyone was together
I guess no one would be alone
Life's a lot of trade offs in the end.
Somewhere in the fields of heather
The proud souls laugh and love together
somewhere between passion and losing friends

(from Proud Souls, Jason Boland)
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Stealth vacation

I have a confession... I spent the last five days in San Francisco, visiting with Dale (bikerbaer) and Les (nashobabear a.k.a. sfbear79). I took advantage of Dale's generosity, and what seems to be nearly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of his having actual TIME OFF (!!) for a few days while he is between jobs. I didn't tell anyone else I was coming, and other than extremely brief chance passing-in-the-street meetings with that_dang_otter and Terry (don't know his last name, the big tall one with all the hair and beard) I didn't visit with anyone else. My profound apologies to other dear friends that I missed (especially ogam!!), but this was the first chance for actually visiting with Dale after about 2 years of constant correspondence, spanning several major upheavals in his life including one that was nearly fatal. And it truly is an exceedingly rare thing for Dale to have more than just a brief, rushed weekend off from work... so we decided to make it a quiet private visit. Next time, I PROMISE, I'll make time for more socializing!
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About American old houses

One thing that our Brit and European friends might not appreciate when we deal with 100 year old buildings as "old" and "historic." This is on beyond the relative shortness of our history versus old world history...

Given the American obsession with "new" and "updated," even architectural styles from as recent as the first half of the 20th Century are lost rapidly. In some ways it is like endangered species conservation. This area where I live was settled in the late 19th Century (shortly after our civil war, and after al the natives had been removed) by german and swiss immigrants. Yet, in the entire county there is exactly ONE surviving example of the 19th century swiss-style gingerbread that was in wide use at the time: OUR FRONT PORCH. All the rest have been "updated," which means torn down or allowed to rot, and replaced with something bought at Home Depot. Of those wonderfully rustic hand-tooled limestone chimneys that predominated in the 19th century across this region, only a handful remain intact and standing in the county -- and we own two of them. My mom's turn-of-the-century Queen Ann is almost unrecognizeable inside and out -- no chimneys, no fireplaces, vinyl siding, cheap panelling, linoleum, and slapped on additions that have destroyed its lines. That is the normal condition for anything built before 1950 in this nation, unless it was just torn down entirely.
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Stinking predators

Night before last we were awakened by sounds of distressed chickens. Dashed outside with flashlight to discover a great horned owl in the chicken house closest to our house, having entered through a gap in the roof. No harm done to any chickens yet, and the owl was throughly panicked, unable to find a way out. Being careful to stay out of the way of snapping beak and slashing talons, I opened the door, got myself out of the way, and the owl flew off into the night in that amazing silent way. I'd never been that close (like, two feet) to a wild great horned owl before. And one of the first things I noticed was...

The STINK!!

I've heard about it from raptor rescue people, and been told that museums hate freshly-arrived great horned specimens because of the stink. Seems that one of the major components of the diet of a great horned owl in the wild is... skunks. It was so strong that when I came back to bed Peggy could smell it on me, and I had not even touched the bird. The next morning the chicken house still smelled of skunk, and had I not seen the owl I would have been certain that a skunk had broken in during the night.

Trade off -- does the owl itself do more damage to the chickens than the benefit it creates by eating all those skunks (and minks and possums and raccoons and weasels) who are fond of eggs and chickens, too?
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Blaming victims...

About New Orleans -- saying that parts of the city should not have been residential areas and should not be rebuilt as such is not blaming the victims. It is a criticism of city planning, which the individual victims had little, if any, part in. Now the city has the opportunity to make difficult choices that will improve the situation permanently, and provide fair and just compensation for those who will suffer from these choices. But they seem to be talking themselves out of doing so.
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Unnatural disaster

I'm listening to all the residents of New Orleans talking about how the Katrina flooding was a man-made, not a natural disatser (as a justification for rebuilding the city just like it was).

Yup, they're right. It was a man-made disaster -- caused by having a huge city with way too many people living in really stupid places for neighborhoods to exist!