A bird in the hand…

Thursday some co-workers found a baby crow at the park near the office. The poor thing couldn’t stand up; it had apparently tried to leave the nest too early.

We didn’t want to leave it on the ground; the area is too well-kept to leave any good hiding places, and while the mother was apparently there (she screamed at us every time we got near the baby), there were enough night animals that the baby would be a quick meal for someone. The nest was way too high in the tree for anyone to be able to put the baby back in. So we tried to figure out how to put a makeshift nest in the tree where we could reach, but out of reach of any predators. We tried putting a cardboard tray in the tree with zip ties; that worked well enough, but the baby backed out of that too and fell to the ground again.

A couple of co-workers were concerned about catching West Nile Virus from the bird; but everything we’ve read says that crows can just be carriers or infected by it — the virus requires a mosquito to actually spread. So that wasn’t an issue. Still, we kept him relatively isolated and washed our hands and clothes after handling him, just in case.

So we ended up taking him home for a night; we washed him off (there was some poop stuck to him where he’d scrabbled about in the box), and gave him some water (he was just at the point where he should be figuring out drinking; we had to point his beak at the water, but once it dipped in he got the idea and started trying to scoop water in his beak and drink it.)

He was reasonably awake and alert through all this; he didn’t make a sound unless there were other crows also making noise; even then it was a quiet cheeping. He kept his legs extended anytime he wasn’t on something; his feet could grip around fingers, but he wasn’t able to stand on his legs, or fold them underneath him comfortably on his own. We were able to slowly fold the legs underneath him, but he kept wanting to extend them — either under him or to his side.

We took a picture:
Picture of baby crow

We also tried to feed him a bit; we’ve fed baby parrots before, but not crows. Some sites recommended mixing up some dog food and water along with something grainy or mealy like cornmeal. We’d actually mixed in peanut butter with baby bird food for the fat and protein content; so we crushed up some dry dog food, mixed in a small bit of peanut butter and some warm water until it was a wet slurry. We tried giving the bird some with an espresso spoon, then letting him drink it like the water, but he wasn’t really all over it. The stuff didn’t smell quite as bad as dry dog food does to me, but I wouldn’t have wanted to eat it, either.

During cleanup we decided to try and sex him; for the most part, you can usually determine the sex of a bird by the width of the two points of the pelvic bones just under their tail. You’ll be able to feel the bones as two nubbins; if they’re really close together, it’s probably a male; if they’re far apart, it’s probably a female (‘egg laying bones’). It’s not 100% reliable, but it’s worked well enough.

Turns out baby Squibbs (my SO named him) is a she. We made up a box for her, so she could sleep. And she did:
Baby crow sleeping in towel

We put the box into a room where the dogs couldn’t get, and let her sleep through the night. The next morning, we tried another feeding, but she was more interested in just having water than the food mixture. We took the bird to Project Wildlife, a local organization that rescues and rehabilitates injured wildlife.

We were a bit apprehensive as to whether or not this would be a place that is a bit free with the euthanasia (a few years ago, San Diego’s Animal Control department was run by a person for whom euthanasia appeared to be the first and only option; fortunately she was ousted after an expose by the local paper). As it turns out, that appears not to be the case — the Project Wildlife office had lots and lots of cages, and from what we could see, there were lots of recovering birds, baby and otherwise. It was actually quite heartening to see. They even have a question and answer on their FAQ — “I found a hawk that was hit by a car, should I just let “nature take its course”?”. Their answer is absolutely not — that if you can get the bird to Project Wildlife it can be rehabilitated and rejoin the wild.

The person at Project Wildlife said that there might be something developmentally wrong with the crow; she said that at this size it should be able to stand and vocalize well. The bird did seem fine, other than being unable to stand. It still had lots of baby fuzz (not the real, interlocking feathers) covering its head and body, so with any luck she just decided to leave the nest early.

Here’s hoping baby Squibbs recovers and is rehabilitated well enough to rejoin the wild. I think Project Wildlife can do so. We enjoyed taking care of her for a night; I have to admit I had a couple of fantasies about a shoulder-perched crow making foreboding noises at opportune times, but gothic fantasy rarely matches reality. A bit sad to see her go, but she’s definitely in good hands now.

I found my Harris’ment

One or two of the three people who read this blog may remember that in early June I got Harris’ed — called by the pollsters and asked a bunch of questions.

I found a link to their press release for that poll here.

The most interesting thing about it I found was the table of “What do you think are the two most important issues for the government to address?” answers — they didn’t prompt, just took whatever you had to respond to. One of mine was the economy; I forget the other one, it might have been healthcare.

I find it very interesting that only 1% of people said that moral values or family values were an issue that needed to be addressed. They polled 1001 people; that means that a maximum of 15 people (1001*1.499% to allow for rounding) said that that was a big issue. Same sex marriage didn’t do much better — it got 2 percent, so maybe a whopping 25 people (1001*2.499%) said that that was a big deal. Even terrorism only got 4 percent — a whopping 45 people.

What did weigh on people’s minds? The war, immigration (sigh — all the press and jibberjabber it’s been getting would be driving that), the economy, and healthcare. Yet oddly enough, one hears more about Congress focusing on the tiny 1% and 2% issues, not the ones people are really worried about.

Just thought I’d throw out that observation.

crazy big

So in idly browsing the web today, I find a link to Sun’s CEO blog, who links to Sun’s Tuesday press conference, in which they introduce their crazy new Sun Fire server, the X4500.

Sun Fire X4500 top view
image copyright Sun Microsystems

When I first started out doing computer stuff, I started on DOS and early Windows, then moved onto Sun Sparc and Solaris equipment. Ten years ago, Sun with Sparc was the workhorse of the server and workstation computing world. With the advent of Intel-based servers (and the fact that you can usually buy ten to twenty Intel servers for the same price as one Sun Sparc server that performs the same or less as one of those Intel servers), and Sun sort of became the slow creaky grandfather of servers — everyone had a few in their back closet they couldn’t get rid of, but the Intel computers stole the show and ran the new, exciting, intensive applications. Solaris was a pain in the butt, too, but it worked for the business application side of things. If you were a funky internet company, you’d run Linux or FreeBSD to serve those newfangled “web pages”, but the database backend (and the real value of the business) would always be running on Solaris.

So Sun struggled along for a few years to find their way; they went to the super-crazy-big stuff with the baby-Cray type E10k and E15k, and tried the SGI method of trying to sell an Intel box for twice the price after adding a few pieces of plastic to the case.

It sounds like they let the nutty engineers with clue back in the driver’s seat, though. They came out with a couple of very interesting products today, the most interesting of which is this Sun Fire X4500 system. It’s basically a 2-CPU (AMD64-based) system with an assload of hard disks — 48 500GB disks, making for 24TB of raw storage. Even if you RAID-5 those, that’s about 19.2TB of space. Now granted, Sun’s listing this for $70k fully loaded, so it’s not exactly within reach of a Mr. Average Middle-Class Budget like me (of course I’m thinking of the MythTV system from hell), but still — most “enterprise class” storage systems that would give you even 10TB cost way more than that, if you throw in the server and other stuff necessary to make it work. And it all fits in 4U of rack space. (Which, as the guy in the press conference said, lets you put 1 petabyte in 4 racks. Not bad, that.)

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spring doing stuff

So despite the awful awful heat:

graph of temperature
(the blue and brown lines are in the attic; the green, red, and purple lines are more realistic) I’ve been more or less wanting to build things, improve things, etc.

Last weekend, I weeded a corner of the lawn; we’ve been talking about putting in container gardens in the front yard, with pea gravel all around them so that we could grow what we wanted (veggies!) and not have to worry about maintaining a lawn or dealing with a dirt patch.

Of course, me being me, I want to put sprinklers in the ground first. So I’ve got to dig trenches for the irrigation pipes. But of course, it being TOO HOT lately, I haven’t done any of this. There’s a half-dug trench from when I freaked out about a leak a couple of months ago, but that’s about it.

Then, of course, I’ve found a project in the “Family Handyman” project annual that seems like fun. It shows how to use a small pond liner (small as in 2-3 feet in diameter), a small pond pump, a few ceramic dishes, hardware cloth and rocks to make a decent looking fountain. (Normally I’m more of a “Fine Homebuilding” person, but this issue looked interesting enough to pick up.) So now I need to think about how best to get electrical out there as well.

I can’t let a small project be simple, you see — it has to be elaborate, complicated, and fun. Whatever the project ends up being, I’ll post something about it.

oh also — a rusc plug

I almost forgot — one more thing I wanted to do was to plug RUSC.com. “R U Sitting Comfortably” is a web site that collects recordings of old-time (30s & 40s) radio shows. When I was growing up there was an AM radio station that would replay shows like Burns and Allen, The Life of Riley, The Jack Benny Program, You Bet Your Life, and the Green Hornet. All great fun.

So recently I got a bug up my ass (not sure why) to find one of those shows, and lo and behold there are websites that collect them! RUSC seems to be one of the most complete; they have some of all of the above shows and tons which I had no idea existed or had only heard mention of. (Did you know that Allen Funt did “Candid Microphone” before he went on TV for “Candid Camera”?) They’ve also got old time baseball and football broadcasts, as well as some historical stuff (news/NPR-type broadcasts from Europe during WWII).

I’m a bit of a history buff in that it can be interesting to find out what went on during a time period and who influenced what. I love James Burke’s show “Connections” which traces a thread of connection from one seemingly unrelated item to another and another. (I don’t like going to the extent of writing papers proving a theory, though.)

So it’s also interesting to see shows like “I was a Communist for the FBI” from the middle of the Red Scare, or “Boston Blackie” and “Charlie Chan”, presenting an oh-wow-that’s-really-bad stereotyped view of certain ethnic groups. The shows even have commercials from the time; it really is something of a look into people’s lives (okay, as much as radio reflected that) and society’s views and values from sixty to seventy years ago.

Anyway — the SO and I are having fun listening to shows from old time radio, and the subscription fee is pretty tiny for what it is (we’re paying about $6/month). They have a few samplers; I heartily recommend them.