Mirage

Humans are shifty creatures. It’s impossible to know who you can trust. A lot of the time, when people or organizations offer their help, they make it appear as if it’s out of the goodness of their heart(s) but it’s often just a financial opportunity or good PR ploy for them. I was just reading about how manufacturers of artificial intervertebral discs are co-owned by surgeons who recommend the use of those very discs. So if you see a neurosurgeon who takes a look at your back and they say, “yup your discs are all fucked but there’s this great brand of artificial discs which I can replace yours with,” you don’t know if they’re being honest about their assessment or the disc they’re recommending — there’s something in it for them in both aspects so there are a few levels of conflict of interest going on there, and I don’t like it one bit.

I find the whole world is like that. Corporations that make a big show of giving money to charities don’t do it because they care. They do it because it’s a massive tax write-off, and it’s good optics to look like you care about disabled kids. Same with politicians who are not currently in power and take up the plight of a group of people who claim to be hard done by — the politicians don’t care about the plight, they care about attracting voters who sympathize with the plight. It’s all bullshit.

Smaller people are just as dishonest and opportunistic too. Car salespeople, mechanics, trades people, dentists, scientists, police officers, judges and lawyers, whatever — if someone thinks they can get ahead at your expense without getting in trouble for it, they’ll usually do it.

It’s a sad world in that regard. You basically have to grope blindly through the dark and get fucked over a bunch of times in the process until you find a few people you can trust. Once you find those people, you have to hold on to them for dear life because they just don’t come along that often.

And that’s my cynical rant for the day.

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Gaahl has gall

I think my new rooster chick is going to be a tough customer.

Yesterday, a chickadee that was about the same size as Gaahl (the rooster chick in question) sat on the fence of Gaahl’s pen, looking at all the chicken food on the ground in there. After giving it some thought, the chickadee flew down to grab a few mouthfuls. The instant that chickadee landed in the pen, Gaahl jumped up from where he was at the opposite end of the pen and flew over at the chickadee, sending it on its way. Then he just stood there amongst the food on the ground.

At first I thought he had been scared by an alien entering his pen and basically just had a little fit about it but the fact he went right to where the chickadee had been, and then stood statue-like over the food, made me think that maybe he was being territorial. It’s impossible to say from the one event so time will tell.

But just now, I looked out the window and Gaahl was in the middle of a staring contest through the fence with Sandy, one of the full grown hens. She had her head lowered to his level, looking as if she would charge him if not for this damn fence in her way. I’ve seen Sandy do the same to our cats, whom she also hates. She’s at the bottom of the pecking order so I think she just likes to flex over anyone who she thinks might possibly be below her.

Anyway, her body language was clearly aggressive but Gaahl was giving her the exact same attitude right back. Sandy even tried to peck at him through the fence but Gaahl didn’t budge. He just kept staring at her with his confident little posture. Eventually another hen walked by and Sandy moved along but I witnessed the power struggle between this month-old rooster chick and a full grown hen, and that makes me excited. I don’t want a mean, aggro rooster, but I do want a confident one that will eventually defend his flock from chickadees and cats. I think that would be neat.

Here’s a great vid of a tough chick standing up to a hen. The tense staredown is just like Gaahl and Sandy’s. Only watch if you can handle a good nailbiter.

When to listen to your intuition and when to realize you’re making excuses: it’s a fucking blurry line.

Several weeks ago, I came across an ad for free firewood online. A lady in Duncan had a half dozen large trees come down in her yard during the big storm last December and she wanted someone to come deal with them and take the wood away. I’m always on the hunt for firewood so this sounded perfect.

I emailed her, and she called me back. There were lots of little details in that conversation that I didn’t like — she was secretive about her phone #, she wanted to know precisely what time I’d come by to look at the situation and a half hour window was too vague for her, and she talked in a nervous, flighty way — but I didn’t worry about that stuff because free firewood is free firewood.

I went to her place a few days later and she was even weirder in person. She talked a lot, and she talked a lot of shit about various service people who had come to do work for her — the flooring people, the arborists, and a carpenter. All were completely inept according to her. I figured she’d probably talk shit about me after I was done with her trees too. It wasn’t a pleasant meeting but the tree situation looked fine so I said sure, I’ll come deal with these for you.

Now, I’ve done a mountain of firewood in my lifetime already. I don’t mind the work. But this particular time, I was dreading it. I really didn’t want to do it but I thought I was just being a baby about the lady, about driving to Duncan for wood, whatever. I went ahead and got one cord of the wood. It was ball busting hard work but the first day went fine.

I was pretty sore from all the work so I took a few days off before I returned. That second day there, I didn’t get half a cord in the truck when I tripped over some branches while carrying the saw and stumbled in an awkward way. I didn’t do a face plant but I managed to jam my left leg in just such a way that I hurt my back. I immediately had the unpleasant and recognizable disc injury sensation of a aching buzz that radiated from my back to my outer left hip and down the front of my leg toward my knee. I thought, “fuck,” packed my shit up and left before the pain really set in. By the time I got home any movement was a real bastard.

It’s been a week and a half since then and it’s slowly improving but that’s not what I’m concerned with right now. What I’m concerned with is that my intuition was telling me not to get firewood from the weird lady but I did it anyway, and then I wound up hurting myself, and that makes me want to listen to my intuition more.

But I don’t think it’s that simple. If someone is giving away firewood and it’s too hot out, will I be able to differentiate between what I want or don’t want to do, and my intuition? How is a person supposed to tell the difference between the two? I feel like if I had said, “ehhh, that lady’s weird and really negative, I’m not going to get her free firewood,” I would just feel lazy, like I was looking for an excuse to avoid some work. It’s not until I have the hindsight and a fucked up back that I can say, “I shouldn’t have gone there.”

So how the hell is one to know when to listen to their intuition? I struggle with this.

Spirit of the Boogie

I love dancing. When I think about my favourite party memories, they usually involve late nights with lots of dancing with lots of good people, and when I think about what kind of fun nights I want to have in the future, they involve the same — dancing then, dancing now. Dancing forever.

Of course, I’m not what you’d call a ‘good’ dancer. I just flail madly like a tall bastard with little to no coordination. But dang, it just feels really good to cut loose. I remember when I was a teenager, if I was alone and listening to something that really got me going, I would dance around the house like crazy. But at that time I would never, ever have danced in front of anyone. It was too silly, too vulnerable to let anyone see.

Then I went to Retronight at Evolution with Bill one time in my early 20’s and the combination of 1980’s music, freaky art college patrons around us, and darkness mixed with party lights was too good to resist, and I finally danced publicly for the first time in my life. It was an extremely liberating event, I actually couldn’t believe that I’d done it. It was honestly more mind-blowing than losing my virginity. And from that moment on, I knew that a good night of dancing was one of my fave things to do.

That’s not to say I’m always in the mood for dancing. I’m still not so comfortable with it that I feel like busting a move in a brightly lit room, or surrounded by people who are definitely not into boogie-ing, or if I’m not into whatever music is playing. The circumstances have to be right, the stars must first align.

But when everything is just right, man, dancing feels good.

I have lots of friends who aren’t really into dancing, and I can’t imagine what life must be like for them. I think about all the late nights I’ve danced for hours on end, sweaty and ecstatic, and how different those nights would have been if I weren’t dancing. I mean, when it’s a really great night of dancing, I get a natural adrenaline high — it’s a wonderful, euphoric feeling. If I didn’t get that from dancing on all those party nights long past, if I had done other things, would I have experienced the same joys and highs? I’ve also had lots of really fun nights that didn’t include any dancing so maybe I’m giving The Boogie Man too much credit here, but I really don’t think I am. I think that, nine times out of 10 or something like that, a good night of dancing would beat a good night of anything else, or at the very least, a good night would be made great with the addition of rug-cutting.

I wonder when the last time I danced was. It’s been a while. I didn’t dance at Ben’s NYE party, or at Festivus. We had friends over from Vancouver last summer and they had a bit of a dance party late one night but I wasn’t into it. Fuck, I think the last time I danced may have been at Ben’s wedding, one year ago yesterday. I wonder if that’s part of why this is on my mind. Hmmm. Spooky shit.

No, I guess that’s not true. I’ve danced at home by myself lots since then. But I definitely need a good night out of dancing, ASAP.

…and another near-cry today.

I had an emotionally fraught time yesterday, and today was about the same.

Yesterday, I put the new month-old chick named Gaahl in a pen with my most agreeable hen, Big Red, and hoped for the best. He tried to treat her like a mom but she wasn’t interested, and they spent most of the day just standing several inches apart.

Come nightfall, I went to lock them up in their makeshift coop. I had used a small crate for this because I wanted them to be forced to really bunk together and bond a bit, and my idea had worked well — Big Red was in there, all puffed out, and Gaahl was out of sight, somewhere underneath her, purring and tittering away happily. Finally, one month into his life, he had some quality time with a parent figure. I thought that even if he just gets this at night, it will still be better than the heat lamp he’s had for a parent so far.

I hadn’t expected things to change much from yesterday but after their cozy night together, something must have clicked for Big Red, because today she was doing all the classic mother hen stuff: squatting down and puffing herself out for Gaahl to nestle under her, making excited sounds when she found food she wanted him to eat and then breaking that food into small pieces for him, getting her hackles up when anything alarmed her. It was incredible. I honestly didn’t believe it at first and thought each thing was just a coincidence but nope. She happily mothered him all day long, and he could no longer care less about me — just like it should be. Here they are. It’s a shitty flip phone pic but you can see him peaking out from the safety of her feathers. Yes, Big Red looks quite stern here but it’s just the angle. She’s actually supremely easygoing.

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I spent a lot of today just watching Big Red and Gaahl interact, marveling at how life works sometimes. For those that don’t know chickens, it’s important to realize that most chickens put in a pen with a baby that is not their own will attack it and possibly kill it. This happened to poor Gaahl when I tested out just putting him in with the flock straight away. So for Big Red to be so chill about being put in jail with this annoying, needy baby who appeared out of nowhere is pretty remarkable to begin with — for her to adopt him and essentially become broody (that’s a chicken term for “I’m in the mood to have babies now,” and many chickens go their whole lives without ever becoming broody) is something I’ve never even heard of, or imagined would actually happen. It is surreal and heartwarming.

Cue the near-cry. That’s four in two days now.

I really have to hand it to Big Red. We’ve had her since she was just three months old herself, and she’s basically a chicken grandma now at five years old. She’s always been a pleasant and friendly bird. She still lays eggs (many hens stop laying by age two or three). She’s been mauled by dogs twice. Both times, her back was torn half off — imagine when a person gets scalped. That was what happened to her back. Now imagine if your back got scalped, twice, and you miraculously healed up with nothing but polysporin and several days of rest, and then you went back to laying eggs. It’s incredible.

And now, she has happily adopted the needy baby I foisted upon her.

Big Red, you’re a hell of a bird. You have my love, gratitude, and respect. Do chickens read blogs?

*Following day additional note – Big Red spent this morning in her crate and so when she came out of it, I checked and she had laid an egg. So she is both raising a baby and still laying — yet another thing I’ve never heard of. Normally, hens stop laying, sit on fertilized eggs for three weeks, raise the chicks for 2-4 months, and then finally forget about their kids and go back to laying. Big Red continues to amaze me.*

It’s just a three-near-cries kind of day

Last night I picked up a rooster chick that someone was giving away. It’s one of the all-black breeds, like this one…

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…which I’m a big fan of, even though I’m not usually wild about roosters. I brought the little gaffer home and found he was very friendly with people, which I’ve never experienced before. He was most happy sitting on the shoulder, arm, or lap of Jenn or I, being gently stroked and spoken to. Pretty cute. Once it got dark out, we tucked him under one of hens in the nesting box. She’s not broody but we hoped they might hit it off and she’d be his step mom or something.

But this morning I went out first thing and let the hens out. His would-be step mom came out of the coop but without the little gaffer. I checked in the nesting box and there he was, alone and slightly cool. “Fuck,” I thought.

I brought him inside again and Jenn and I took turns swaddling and cooing at him for an hour or so. Then it came time to get on with the day and I realized I still had no idea what to do with the little fella. After a few ideas that fizzled, I ended up putting him in a separate pen with his step mom so that he would have company and a good role model, even though she’s not nurturing him like a broody mama hen would. He cries and cries when I walk away and continues to cry for a few minutes, and it breaks my heart. I wish I could be a broody mother hen for him but this is better for him (and us) in the long run.

Even worse is when I go out to check on him he starts peeping excitedly…only till he sees me leave and his peeps turn to wailing cries again.

That’s near-cry #1.

Near-cry #2: I was working in the yard today when I heard a chicken sound from somewhere weird. It sounded like it was right by my feet but I couldn’t see a chicken anywhere. I looked again, and there was my favourite hen, Little Shirley, looking like she had wedged herself in between some pallets and the outer wall of the horse barn. She was chirping away at me like she usually does (she’s very talkative and friendly). She frequently explores stupid places like this and she didn’t seem alarmed so I figured this was nothing unusual and left her to continue with whatever silly game she was playing. But I passed by 10 minutes later and she was still there, craning her stupid head out at me. I went and looked from the other side and saw that she had laid an egg and taken a huge shit back there — this was not a good place to lay an egg, and they don’t usually take a big ol’ shit on their eggs so this was not usual. I pulled the pallets away from the wall and Little Shirley eagerly hopped out but her right leg wasn’t working so she fell on her side when she landed. She hobbled up and tried to walk away but her leg wasn’t working at all and she basically rolled onto her right side with every step. My first thought was, “I’m going to have to kill Little Shirley,” and my heart sunk right into my stomach.

That’s the second near-cry. Luckily, within 15 minutes, Shirley was trucking around almost like normal, and still very hungry and acting herself, so it seems like she may avoid the chopping block yet. Fingers crossed.

Next one: while I was outside, it suddenly started raining really hard. Chickens don’t like rain much so they started running for cover. I went back to check on Big Red and the little guy to see if they were smart enough get under the tables I put in their pen for them. Big Red was under one but the little dummy was still out in the rain — dang, the idiot. But right then, almost as if he knew his daddy was watching, he made the connection and toddled under the other table. I haven’t had this chick for 24 hours but it was such a ‘proud poppa’ moment that, well, I almost cried.

That’s three, count ’em, three times I almost wept like a baby today. I swear, backyard chickens aren’t usually this exciting. Normally you just let them out in the morning, curse when you step in their shit, and lock them up again at night.

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But really, who can blame me for loving the little fuckers so much?

Technical components of a great disco song

  • 4/4 time.
  • Constant quarter-note bass drums.
  • 8th note hi-hat, closed on the 1, 3, 5, and 7, open on the 2, 4, 6, and 8.
  • Bongo drums.
  • Interludes of just drums and bongos.
  • Hand claps.
  • Bass guitar mimicking the bass drum and hi-hat: root note on the 1, 3, 5, and 7, root note but one octave higher on the 2, 4, 6, and 8.
  • Lots of strings, real or synthesized.
  • Horns can be a great addition, if available. Must be real though.
  • Confidence and attitude of the singer is more important than technical talent.
  • Fun lyrics.
  • Sparse, clean guitar. Similar to guitar is played in funk.

That’s all it takes, folks. Now go write a disco hit and start the disco resurgence.