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Bird brain — or Feathered Fiend?

I had a couple of people ask me to reprint something I wrote a few years back, so here it is: (I actually still have the bird.)



When I was just a little fella, my parents got me a parakeet. He was a very typical parakeet, with a green and black back, a green chest and a little yellow head with spots on his face and a nose -sorry- a beak that looked like Jake Dempsey – for those of you old enough to remember. I won’t even get into his cauliflower-ed ears, as I could never find them anyway.

I named my parakeet Frisky, because he was.

My mother would let him out of his cage and he would fly onto the top of my head, whereby he would immediately start scratching around and pecking, much to my delight, for whatever bugs he thought he might find. (Back then, there may have been a few.)

One day we left him in his cage on the back porch for sun, as was our wont, and the lame- brained cocker spaniel from next door got across the ugly chain-link fence and broke into the cage. Our next-door neighbor brought the little bird back to me in her shaking hands. Man, did I cry my heart out.

What’s funny is that my mother kept saying that the bird didn’t seem to have even been bitten by the stupid dog. It must have just died of a heart attack.


Frisky didn’t smoke, because he couldn’t have even struck a match, much less popped open a Zippo, and besides, where would he have gotten the lighter fluid. (Hmm-my dad, maybe? – Nah…) And he didn’t drink, anything more that water; that I ever saw. And I used to make him run laps.

Maybe he got scared to death? Maybe.

About two months ago I went to the pet store while my wife was out of town (ha ha, got her), and bought the identical twin to Frisky (which took some doing by a young lady with industrial sized gloves, as there were several birds that were similar, and I was very specific about which one I wanted.) I didn’t even know that there were “white” parakeets. I think that they tried to pull off a miniature cockatiel in there, but they couldn’t fool me. I wanted Frisky II.

About two hours and $35.00 later (which is very cheap, I must declare), I took home a beautiful six-week-old little bird, with a cage and some birdseed. I ignored the optional mirror, swing set and newspaper in my glee. After all, it’s just the bird and me.

Now remember, this was two months ago.

My wife did not even have to admonish me or remind me that this was my pet and I had to take care of it. I’ve heard that before through at least a dozen dogs, five cats, several horses, but only one bird. (The squirrels, etc. don’t even count, as they never tried.)

So my little bird is settled in and I’ve custom-cut newspapers so that not one piece of poop will ever disgrace our floor. (And if you believe that I’ve still got a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge.)

Suffice to say, this guy, whom we named Larry-the-Byrd, is not the same bird I remember X years ago. I was afraid to let him out of his cage because he might fly away. To heck with that. I can’t poke him out of his cage with a BBQ fork. I even tried a little fire and only ended up with a burnt finger as he kicked over his little water dish and put it out.

Open the cage door? He shuts it.

We even put in a mirror with a ladder on it, and I didn’t even know that birds had a middle feather. We put in a swing and the next morning there was a little noose tied on it. I don’t know where he got the thread but the knot was professional. I actually went to extensive research on the internet and found out that one is supposed to also augment the so-called parakeet food with what we eat, like fruit, nuts, grain bread, etc. You ever had a peach pit hit you in the forehead, spit out by a bird?

But that was the last straw, (which is all he’s getting lately to eat). I’m not to be intimidated by a parakeet, no matter how expensive he was.
Therefore I started the proper psychological approach approach, which included a lot of screaming. Now he simply waits until I’m soundly asleep and starts cheeping at the top of his little bird lungs. When I wake up, swinging wildly, as though the bell just rung, I swear I see a little grin on that beak.

Once my wife stifled the noise, I started throwing (just lobbing, actually, for you animal activists) various peanuts, apples or loafers lying around. (Do you know how fast a parakeet can dodge?)

I thought of trying to get him another bird as a cellmate to teach some manners, but was afraid that the ASPCA would get wind of it and make me buy a separate cage for the new inmate.

So we’re at an impasse, because my wife saw me with the cage outside with the doors open and a barbeque fork in my hand.

Steven A. Jackson

© 2005

Open WiFi Networks Giving Google Your Physical Location

For quite sometime Google has been sending out vehicles all over the world to drive around taking pictures of neighborhoods for its Street View product. If you haven’t looked at Street View before, it’s an amazing feature. You can find a place in Google maps and then see just what it looks like.

What I didn’t know was this same vehicle that was snapping these pictures was also collecting the names and unique MAC address of every open WiFi network they encounter. The MAC (Media Access Control) address is a unique identifier assigned to network adapters or network interface cards, this address is intended to be a permanent and globally unique identification number. By collecting the MAC address and a GPS reading they can tell exactly where on the globe these WiFi connections are located .

When you are using an open WiFi Network that Google has indexed, they will be able to tell where you are.

If I have a question, I ask Google because it know everything, doesn’t it?

Google Blogs about this.

More about Naps, and, even better, dreams.

A little while back I posted some information about the benefit of naps, and was surprised at some of the response, even though I’ve been accused of just wanting to justify my need for naps at my age. Pooh!

Now along comes even more great info about the benefit of naps. The following article is from the May 14, 2010 issue of The Week (which, if you haven’t read yet, I highly recommend) under the Health and Science section and published verbatim herein:

To dream, perchance to learn

A good night’s sleep and even a nice nap can boost your brain’s ability to remember and learn new information. But dreams can help even more, a new study suggests. For the Harvard study, 100 volunteers were asked to take a test on a computer that involved finding their way around a maze. After a five-hour break, they took the test again. Those who had stayed awake in the interim improved their time by an average of 26 seconds, while subjects who took a 90-minute nap did much better, improving their time by 188 seconds. But the most dramatic improvements were among the four who actually dreamed about the test; their performances improved 10 times as much as the nondreamers’. “I was startled by this finding,” Harvard neuroscientist Robert Stickgold tells Science News. “This study tells us that dreams are the brain’s way of processing, integrating, and really understanding new information.” Researchers suspect that dreams don’t directly improve memory; rather, they’re byproducts of a deeper thought process in which memories are being integrated. In any event, “if you’re studying something tough, get the basics down and take a nap,” says sleep researcher Michael Breus. “If you dream about it, you will probably understand it better.”

Velllly interesting!

The last part about dreaming about what you’re studying may seem a little tricky, if not impossible. However, I can assure you that I studied techniques on how to create lucid or cognitive dreaming years ago, whereby you are conscious of the fact that you are dreaming and actually capable of manipulating portions of the dream. Although difficult to accomplish, they actually sometimes worked, sometimes somewhat disturbingly so, simply because it seems weird to be able to do it.

I believe my first knowledge came from an old Omni magazine (now, out of pubication) but you can Google cognitive or lucid dreaming and find some fascinating stuff.

At any rate, I’m 100% for anything that makes Me Improve my mental performance and makes me feel good at the same time, probably also improving my attitude and what little congeniality I have towards others, no matter what anyone says about naps at my age.


Junk Faxes

People are always sending “The 800 Directory” e-mails looking for information on toll free numbers listed in junk/spam faxes. They want the information so they can contact the companies sending the faxes and make them stop. Unfortunately these companies don’t list their numbers with us. They make sure and hide any contact information but the toll free number. That way when things start getting too hot, all they have to do is change their toll free number and they disappear.

However, there is a way to deal with problem faxes: On line Faxing Services

Most faxing services offer two things that will help:

  1. Spam/Junk Fax Filters  -These filters will move junk/spam faxes into a junk folder (just like e-mail spam filters). While you will still be paying for these faxes, you will not be see them or using resources to print them.
  2. Block lists – This lets you block certain people from sending you faxes, some services even provide you with lists to help you in stopping problem faxes.

There are other advantages to use on line faxing. It sends faxes to your e-mail saving you time and effort looking at the fax machine. It saves paper, they are never busy, can’t jam or run out of paper. If you still have a fax machine and are paying for a fax line ($30-$60 per month), on line faxing should save you money. Think you’ll find your current local fax line cost greater than the fax service.

The only downside to using on line faxing is you have to scan your documents into your computer to send them out. Once you have he document in the computer it’s just as easy to send an e-mail, but then some people demand it as a fax and then you use your service.


For a long time there were two types of computers for the common user, laptops and desktops. Years ago I mostly used my desktop, my laptop was just used on trips or when I went to remote locations. Then wireless networking came alone and my laptop started get some use at home. There is value to being able to move with your computer from room to room. When I got my laptop I went for the big screen and fast computing power, it was going to replace my desktop. The problem with the big screened laptop is you have a big laptop to haul around.

Enter the Netbook. The Netbook was small and light, easy to take anywhere I went. It was less powerful than my laptop, but as it turns out, that didn’t really matter for the things that I use it for.  Netbooks are the size of a book and you can hold them for hours with out getting tired or cooked by the heat. When you add the extra long battery, you can go all day without plugging into a wall. Making is possible to charge it while you sleep and then use it all the next day on the battery.

Lots of people talk to me about how much they love their Blackberries and Iphones. Their screen are just too small for me and I like the idea of a full computer. It’s the Netbook, that device that falls between laptop and Iphone that I’ve fallen for. It’s got it all—games, books, movies, music and the much used wireless Internet connection.

For now the Netbook is my favorite computing device. My costly laptop it went unused for months, my wife is taking it over.

McAfee Update Crashes Some Computers

Automatic updates in anti virus programs have caused me problems for years. On many occasions customers would call because their e-mail programs couldn’t connect to the mail server.  I’d spend a couple of minutes checking the obvious stuff-like are they connected to the Internet. Then the next step would be to turn off anti virus and/or firewall software. Like magic that alway seemed to fix the problem, the customers almost always asked, “Why did it just now stop working, I didn’t change anything?”.

Those un-noticed and un-asked for changes these programs make are not always as harmless as they would like you to believe. Just last week a McAfee antivirus update wrongly identified a critical Windows system file as a low-threat virus and removed it.  Apparently thousands of computers refused to boot properly, lost their network connections, or had both problems.

In my mind I can see all those people looking at their computers and thinking, what happened I didn’t change anything.

Selfishness in Hard Times

We live in a city which is having significant problems meeting its budget without layoffs or raising taxes, and still maintain quality services needed by the general public, just like hundreds of other cities nationwide.

Therefore, our new mayor proposed that the city employees take a 3% pay cut across the board, which is less than dozens of private companies I know have already done. The response?

The president of the  union representing the city’s mid-level managers not only issued a flat rejection but came came out publicly and said,”Please understand that we are at war, a war of survival and a right to exist, and we will not go lightly into the night.” !!

As the newspaper aptly asked – at war with whom? Well, the paper suggests, “Unfortunately, the enemy would be every resident of the city, including those union members who live here, shop here or dine out here; anyone who pays the taxes that provide the money for the salaries of these public servants. ”

I don’t normally agree the all the views of this paper, but they are right on.

They went on to say that the pay cut was not the only alternative. They suggested that the city could raise taxes and fees, therefore making  it more expensive for those who live here or do business here – including themselves. But since there are a lot more of us than them, their 3% would be safe and cheap.

It really comes down to selfishness, with the attitude being we can’t pitch in and take less, so you people just need to pay more. It’ s not only childish it’s absolutely totally illogical. It also bolsters the stereotype of unions claiming they are taking care of their own, when they are actually demonstrating that they don’t care about others or reality.

Unfortunately, there are probably hundreds of cities out there saying the same thing.

By the way, the very next day it was announced that the city’s unemployment had risen to 9%.  Maybe the unemployed could picket the union for unfair practices.

A sad day!

Please join me in remembering a great icon of the entertainment community. The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 51.
Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Bu…tterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours.
Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was considered a very smart cookie, but wasted much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, he still was a crusty old man and was considered a positive roll model for millions.The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.

Occasional happenings

There are a few times in one’s life when events occur that are both serendipitous and significantly important at the same time. The concurrence of these two events are, at the very least, momentous and irrevocable.

Those moments are to be treasured.

Take a nap!

A good night’s sleep triggers changes in the brain that help to improve memory. Also, a nap during the day increases productivity and even allows for the brain’s functions to expand creating better problem-solving capability.
The Japanese have known this for decades and even encourage it among the workforce. In the U.S. we discourage it, to put it mildly, and that may be obvious.