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I used to work with this guy Stephen, who was a tech guy who liked to tinker around.  Before you could go into a store and buy  a digital picture frame that could play a slideshow of your JPEGs and JUH-IFs (that’s how we are supposed to spell and pronounce “GIF” now, folks!), Stephen took apart a laptop and made it into one. For what it’s worth, I think he got the idea from the tinkerer’s bible, MAKE Magazine.

I remember Stephen talking about wanting to use a personal Wiki to maintain a shopping list.  As you may or may not know, Wikipedia happens to be the biggest wiki on the web (it’s what I linked to for the article about wikis), but you can install its underlying software yourself and run your own wiki.

Stephen figured it would be nice to have an editable website that he and his wife could both maintain various things on, among them a shopping list.  Stephen could be out shopping, and his wife could add an item at the last minute which he would see while he was at the store, purchase it, etc.

I don’t know if Stephen ever got his Wiki working in a satisfactory manner, but I was happy when ShesAllWrite told me about a free smartphone app called AnyList.

It’s a simple, free app, but it does exactly what Stephen wanted.  You can maintain a list and share that list with others.  When someone updates the list, the other people accessing it will see the list dynamically updated.

You can make any kind of list you want, but they have some extra support for grocery lists.  They appear to have a database that contains a lot of common food and household items.  This is helpful because, as you type something, it auto-suggests grocery items that match your input text.

So this post, in a nutshell, is me saying, hey, this is a pretty cool free smartphone app which I think you might like.

I kid you not, I stopped a mom with two young kids at a supermarket and told her about the app.  She was carrying a PIECE OF PAPER and PEN to do her shopping!  What the hell?!!!  Yes, I probably creeped her out.  I meant well.


Note: While writing this post, I was listening to Electric Six’s album Fire.


Camera Flashes and Nighttime Dogwalking

Confession.  For the past several months I had my dog Ollie do his business in the back yard.  Every few days I would walk through the grass with a claw-mechanism pooper scooper and a bucket double-lined with plastic bags to collect and dispose of all his piles of earthly delight.

However, partially due to a dumbass bird situation, and partially because we are trying to get some grass to grow on a large hunk of the yard, I’ve been taking Ollie for walks.   I used to take him for nighttime walks at ShesAllWrite’s place in Chicago.  Her old neighborhood, though a tad on the dicey side, was well-lit by sodium vapor streetlights.  It’s a lot darker in my neighborhood.

Tonight, ShesAllWrite and I took Ollie for a walk, and he did his business.  I honestly wasn’t looking SUPER closely at where he dropped his doody.  Being a good neighbor, I had about seventeen plastic grocery bags stuffed in the lower-left pocket of my camo cargo shorts.  But I didn’t know exactly where the stuff I had to pick up was.

I tried shining the display of my phone in the general direction of where the package had been dropped, but couldn’t find it.  The grass was glistening from a recent rain, which made finding a shiny piece of poo that much more difficult.  I gingerly walked in the grass.  “Be careful,”  ShesAllWrite warned.

The scent of the doody gradually wafted up and into my nostrils. Oh, yes.  I was close.

I got the idea to use my smartphone camera’s flash to find what I was searching for.  After several pictures, EUREKA!  Land, ho!  Mr. Watson!  Come here!  I need you!

I bagged the crap and threw it in the trash.  I got home, plugged in my phone, and began to pull down my photos of the day.  The last pictures were the ones I had taken to locate Ollie’s leavings.  So, of course I made an animated GIF of the pictures.  You’re welcome!

Dog poop.  It's in there somewhere.
Dog poop. It’s in there somewhere.

Dumbass Birds

It was only weeks ago — WEEKS AGO — when I was relatively optimistic about the robins nesting on the flood lights in back of my house.


So, we stopped using the back door to our side porch, as to not disturb the birdies.  Soon, we saw a piece of robin eggshell on the ground.  We could see some baby birds popping their heads out of the nest.  How many?  2.  No, 3!  Yeah, 3.  Wait….  4.  There were 4 baby birds.

Mama and Papa Robin were bringing home the worms to the babies.  We were in the backyard a lot, doing some major gardening.  My 10 year old son found a worm when he was digging and dropped it on a part of the yard we weren’t working in, and one of the robins got it, gave it the what-for (i.e. killed it) and brought it home to the babies.

A few days later, the shitting began.  It was all over the steps.  ShesAllWrite sprayed the crap off with a hose, but immediately after that, like magic, more bird crap.

Ahhh, birdcrap.
Ahhh, birdcrap.

But that wasn’t the end of the dumbassedness of the birds.

ShesAllWrite and I were sitting in the back and I looked over.  “Hey, is that one of the baby birds?”  A small, young robin was standing on the steps.  It hopped down into some plants, went through the neighbor’s fence into a bush.

Jesus.  Is this supposed to happen?  The bird tried to fly a bit, but it was clear it wasn’t ready.  Had it fallen out of the nest?

It didn’t take long for all the birds to be out of the nest.  ShesAllWrite saw one of the birds actually hop out of the dumb nest.   Another time, she saw Mama Robin hopping around with one of the Baby Robins around the yard.  Well, that’s good.  Mama Robin knows where at least one of her kids is.

At one point we let our dog Ollie out in the backyard to do his business, not realizing one of the baby birds was there.  He went up to the bird and licked it.  He’s a sweetheart.  I have no doubt he would be a great Mama Dog to the robins.

Still, we thought it was best that Ollie didn’t lick any more birds, so now the backyard is an Ollie-free zone, at least until the birds clear out.

I saw a baby robin fly half-assed in the alley behind our house, smacking gently into the wall of a garage wall.  Was it one of ours?  Or another dumbass bird?

I was taking out the trash and saw a baby bird standing in our garden a foot from me.  It just stood there, blinking.   Jesus.

I hope these robins survive.  Jesus.  I hope Mama Robin doesn’t lay eggs again in her dumbass nest.  Jesus.


Do No Bird Harm

Nest Beard
Exterior flood lights with a nest beard.

A couple weeks ago I was exiting the side porch of my house and saw some junk hanging from over the door.  It was a nest.  Aw, heck.

What should I do?  Should I move it? Had a bird laid her eggs there yet?  I couldn’t get to a place where I could actually see into the top of the nest.  I did what I do many times in uncertain situations —  nothing.

When I was a kid, our neighbor had a big pine tree that butted up against our driveway.  I remember hearing some squeaking coming from the tree when we got home one day.  I looked closer through the branches and saw a baby bird.  It was on the ground, and didn’t appear to be happy about it.  I wanted to do something.

It must have fallen out a nest up in the tree.  I asked if we could move the baby, find the nest, something.  My folks didn’t know what to do.  We left it there.  It took a couple days for the baby bird to stop squeaking.  Ugh.

I’ve gone out a few times in the last week and a robin has flown from the nest as I open the back door.  I don’t want to kill any baby birds. And I don’t want to freak out Mama Robin every time I want to go to my backyard.

I looked on the web, seeing if anyone had recommendations about maybe moving the nest to a less-trafficked area.  I found some anecdotes about successfully moving a bird’s nest, but most people said not to do it.  Others even said it was a crime, a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

I’m going to have my family stop using the back door, at least during the spring.  It will be a mild inconvenience, but maybe we won’t kill any baby birds.  That would be nice.