In Memorium: Zephy The Lovebird

It is with great sadness that Pookie The ‘Tiel, Mrs. H., and I wish to let you know that Zephy the Lovebird passed away yesterday evening. She had was recovering from a spill in liquid laundry detergent, and went into respiratory distress. We have asked Pookie, our 21 year old cockatiel to take over tweeting for Zephy as @ZephyLoveBird. He said he will consider it.


Filed under Bird Stories

O’Henry Got It Right

Whenever one of those strange life events happens, I think of O’Henry’s Gift of the Magi . That O’Henry story was not the only ironic story O’Henry wrote, but it always comes to mind when something weird happens.

My recent strange life event was having sustaining a knee injury two days away from picking up my 24-year-old Giant Rincon hybrid bicycle from its annual tune up. How bad or what the actual injury is I won’t know until I can get into a doctor. But I now have a knee brace and a cane, so things do not get worse.

Whenever my bicycle returns from Belmont Wheelworks, it is like getting a brand new bicycle, or at least a bicycle that has been to a spa. Sadly, although my bicycle is ready to go, I’m not, until a doctor clears me to ride. In other words, now I need a repair/tune-up.

If it could express its feelings, I am wondering how my bicycle feels about this.

Hopefully, neither my bicycle nor I will have to wait a long time.

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Mt Everest Revisited

Today is the 60th anniversary of the first known successful assent to the summit of Mt. Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay. The reason why this date is important is my birthday falls on this day. My father, not a mountain climber himself but an avid reader, remembered the two events coinciding.

My father was also pleased the day I was born, because he looked out a window from the University of Pennsylvania Hospital and saw William Penn’s statue. What William Penn and I have in common I am not sure, but that is what my father saw.

I am not a mountain climber, but did climb Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. They can make you do a lot of things in summer camp, you might never do on your own.

Well, there you have it. To me, Norgay and Hillary are heroes, but so are the many who tried before and after them and almost made it or succeeded.

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Our Bird Mash

Now, I know all of you have just been waiting to hear about the bird mash we eat, so here goes. Pookie The Cockatiel and I have a primary diet of cooked grains, which Dad and Mrs. Highpants call mash. Periodically, Dad makes a trip to a natural grocer in Central Square Cambridge, MA. This place is completely natural, including occasional moths in the grain. To be honest, Dad doesn’t go there, because it’s natural, but instead because they have good prices on bulk grains.

Cooking the mash takes several elapsed hours, because everything has to cool. However, the actual cooking time is about 1 1/2 hours from prep to finish.

First, after the grains (and beans) are purchased, they are divided into three categories and three jars, long cooking, short cooking, and no cooking.

Long Cooking

Brown rice

Small beans like Adzuki


Wheat Berries

and any other grain that takes about 40 minutes to cook.

Short Cooking

Red/Orange, Green, or other kind of Lentil



Buckwheat (groats, kasha)

No Cooking

Wheat, Rye, or Oat Flakes


or anything that will cook (soften) from the heat of the other cooked ingredients


To a 4 QT covered saucepan, mix 1 cup of long cooking ingredients and two cups of water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for twenty minutes.

Then add 1 cup short cooking ingredients and two cups of water to the first ingredients that have been cooking for twenty minutes.

Heat to bring back close to a boil and then simmer for twenty more minutes.

Remove mash from heat.

Stir in one cup of no cooking ingredients, and let everything cool with the lid on, to preserve moisture.

This mixture can be seasoned with a little allspice. If you want to use other spices, check with your veterinarian or bird expert for spices that won’t hurt birds. We know about allspice, because it is used in commercially available bird mash.

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Filed under Bird Care and Feeding

With Apologies To Pee Wee King, Chilton Price, and Redd Stewart

I’m responsible for the software that keeps track of our town’s collections, water, real-estate, and motor vehicle excise bills, as well as parking tickets, and most recently assumed co-responsibility for printing the bills as well, so repurposing The Duprees You Belong To Me made sense.

See the water bills along the Nile

Parking tickets step out in style and

Real-estate payments begin to smile ’cause

They belong to me.

Excise service warrants wet with rain

You owe a bundle, and that’s a shame

But pay your bill on time to avoid the pain and

They belong to me

I’m still working on the rest of the lyrics. I find it helpful to bring a positive attitude to work.

And here is the original.

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Filed under Annecdotes, Municipal

Who’s Navigating In There?

I work with a Vietnam Vet, who, the other day, told me it was okay not to be able to do the things I’ve been doing for years. I think my friend’s being a vet is important, because if he could survive that, his advice seemed to carry a little more clout.

You know the kinds of things we used to do, but cannot do as well now. Removing all the snow from around your house in blizzard conditions, clearing all the neighbors walkways, and generally being Mr. Good Guy of the neighborhood are at the top of my list.

I do not know exactly what it was, but during all these heroics during our recent Blizzard of 2013, something happened to my left foot. I think it might have been taking a Mt. Everest mountain climbing step onto a huge snow pile, or not drinking enough fluids at work.

Either way, my left big toe joint — that is the metatarsophalangeal, or MTP joint really became inflamed. My gait changed,  because I had to stay off my left foot. I went into my doctor, and took a cane. Mr doctor thought I might have gout, and tried to get fluid out of the joint with a needle, not a pleasant experience. Good news, there was no fluid, so gout was unlikely. It’s probably tendonitis, he said. We will see.

I have not been in my thirties for years, but I still feel that way. I am not willing to surrender, at least not yet. But, is it wise to let the older me provide some navigational advice? Will he keep me off the large ice mountain, and make sure I drink my fluids? We’ll see.

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Technical Experience and Opposite Directions

Starting out in the computer industry, especially when I became a full-fledged software engineer at Digital Equipment Corporation in June 1985, meant doing lots of work. In software development, that meant writing a lot of program code, technical documentation, and tests. I was getting experience, doing the work I loved to do. That did not change too much over the next eighteen years, except the projects became more complicated, and responsibilities increased. But, I still got to write software.

Now, my technical experience is taking me a way from the technical tasks I enjoy. I review RFIs (Request for Information) and RFPs (Request for Proposal), a couple of tools municipalities use to go eventually out to bid for a product or service, and I had better be good at it, or my lack of reviewing will either scuttle or hamper the project. Even worse, not reviewing well won’t scuttle or hamper the project but scuttle me instead.

But I find it very curious that the more technical we become and the more experience we acquire, the less time we spend doing the tasks that got us there in the first place.

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Filed under Municipal, Musings