Fancy Pigeon (and English Carrier, top right) Breeds

Easily domesticated, with short generation times and friendly disposition, pigeons have long been ideal for “fancy” breeders - people who wanted to breed an animal based on looks, like the majority of modern dog and cat breeds.

Where the standard carrier pigeon is the simply-colored greyhound of the sky, fancy pigeons are everything from the problem-ridden, overly-droopy modern iteration of the basset hound, to the functional-but-fancy Cardigan Welsh corgi, to the ornamental-but-sound Maltese.

A fancy pigeon show is more like a cat show than a dog show, though. The breeds have largely been derived for their looks, though a few (such as the Maine Coon cat, or the Scandaroon pigeon) served additional purposes at some point in time. The animals are kept in cages, divided by color and type, and are most prized if they’re relaxed with handling, but still the type to “strut” and show off.

Read more about some of the most popular fancy pigeon breeds on Mental_floss.


Illustrirtes Mustertauben-Buch. Author unknown, 1880.

I never really know what to say

“What if I’d loved the other one more than her?” 

“What other one?” I asked, distracted by the acrostic puzzle I was working on. I started my response unthinkingly half-aware. By the time the words formed in my mouth I knew exactly what she was talking about, only then it was too late to stop them from tumbling out onto the kitchen table and spilling on the floor between us.

“You know what I’m talking about.” I did know, so I didn’t dare say anything else. Her words were bigger and meaner than mine; they chased mine across the kitchen floor, under and through the table legs. My words had almost seen their day when then the cat cornered them both, flicked at them, batted them around like blind mice.

Weekly the therapist told me that the best thing to do in cases like this - and it was always a case like this- was just to listen. The therapist made it seem like if I just listened the right way my wife would divulge. She’d flood open and wash out all her questions.  Just listening was hard. I waited awkwardly to see what she’d say if I gave her the space to talk. Mostly though, I didn’t have a damn thing to add to this conversation that we’d already had a hundred twenty three times.

For a while she didn’t take my quiet bait. She was drying dishes. We’d used the pretty ones with the robin motif- the ones we both like best, but avoid using for fear they’ll break. Her drying was so methodological I set a mental metronome to the sound. In my head I counted the towel swipes until I couldn’t hold it together any longer. The space I  created with my silence became a giant pit at the center of the kitchen. It was a screaming dark abyss of silence and it scared the hell out of me. I thought of sacrificing myself, throwing myself in to spare her.

“But you know there isn’t any other. There never was.” The therapist had told me to never start a counterpoint with the word “but”. It negates what the other person has just said. It trivializes the importance of their feelings. But I obviously hadn’t taken that to heart.

She stopped wiping the dishes long enough to whisper, “I don’t think I ever loved her.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “I don’t know what to say.”

For a long time she stared out the window, the one above the sink. Maybe she was studying the pattern of freckles on the wings of a sparrow in the next yard over. Maybe she was planning on yanking up the garden radishes, finally. Her thoughts were quiet, but not faraway. And the longer she was quiet, the smaller the kitchen hole became. It fell in on itself. It shrank down to a dinner plate, something the cat would skirt around, but not fall into. It folded to an origami robin’s egg, a wine stain, a caviar pearl, a quiet sigh.

“I never really know what to say.”

“Me neither.”

If I were a betting man, I would bet that it is the Higgs. But we can’t say that definitely yet. It is very much a smoking duck that walks and quacks like the Higgs.
Oliver Buchmuller, senior physicist, CERN. Happy Higgs Boson Day!

May Day street art, spotted this time last year in Oakland. 

On, on, mondrian

The carpet at the Intercontinental looks like some lesser Mondrian: squares, rectangles, boring euclidean parallels. It’s out of place here, in San Francisco, a city where every corner marks the junction of an odd number of streets. Mathematically speaking, these intersections seem highly improbable, and are therefore more likely a psychic phenomenon. Pacing the carpet and working math equations is making me hungry. Why do we have to eat so often? We have space elevators and french kissing. Surely society so advanced can break the mortal shackles of nutrition. Why isn’t there food that keeps us full for days? Jet pilots pop pills to stay awake for weeks. I heard that snipers take pills that let them piss and shit through their skin. That last one might be a myth. My hitchhiker told me about it as we were driving through New Mexico on the lookout for alien aircraft. 

Back in San Francisco the Mondrian carpet is populated by creepy men in creepy business suits. Interminable suits. I lose track. I think about a lioness stalking zebra on the savanna. How the stripes of the herd coalesce so no single creature is dissociable from the collective. It’s like that but with charcoal and navy and herringboners. The Mondrian is a geometric grassland. 

The question now, at 8am is whether there is enough coffee in the world to sustainably fuel my ongoing stream of thought vomit, the mental math and the hunt. A man walks by and tells me I’m very perky this morning. Caffeine is coursing through me so hard I almost thought vomit my soy latte onto the Mondrian and the man’s loafers at the prospect of this small human interaction. I’ve already had a lot of coffee, I tell him. In that case, he says, you’re very percolated! I like this guy. His voice cracks even though he’s easily 40. Apparently, I’m easily enchanted. 

If there is enough coffee, will there be enough words?  The other day I invented “angstious”. But the Intercontinental suits take the coinage cake. By 8am I have learned “scalability” and “pipelining”. I’ve been introduced to a “solution architect”. I read about “multitenancy” but I’m pretty sure even the suits don’t know what that one is; it’s a word they made up for Intercontinental Intramural Mondrian Scrabble. I skim an article about “human capital procurement”. I think this is a thinly-veiled code for sex slavery. I wonder if the secret ripped-up message I found in my ice cream sandwich the other day was involved in human trafficking.

The man who told me I was percolated comes out of a meeting and pokes me on the shoulder with an underripe banana. The world insists on interacting with me, in no subtle terms. I am left speechless and in awe. Each time I push at life, it pushes right back. It’s surging up from this awful carpet, it’s hitting me between the shoulders. So now I’m smiling at every damn person and they are poking me with bananas in a perfect tit-for-tat. If I quit now then the world may drop its nonstop weirdness campaign to charm my socks off. Can’t risk it. On on, Mondrian. 

I moved to the Bay Area one year ago today. I’ve heard time is supposed to move faster when you’re older but I never noticed that chronological illusion until now. I had to look back for visual proof that time had really happened. Where had I been? What had I done? Here is a tiny sliver of some sparkly highlights:

  • I left my heart in West Oakland. (Be right back).
  • The strange incident of the rickshaw driver in the night.
  • Midnight luchador wrestle mania at the Oakland Metro, with Billydalto and Nika States- shortly after finding a chicken tied to a tree in Nika’s yard. Wait, is this a Marquez novel? No, Oakland just is magically real.
  • The Bay is covered in street art. Once you notice it, you’ll never walk alone. 
  • Secret stairway walks of San Francisco with Mademoiselle Petitchou.
  • Mr. Ourcoldsummers, looking ghoulishly dapper as usual, at a theme party for the above-mentioned Petitchou.
  • Point Lobos. Not the Bay, technically, but as you can see from this photo, technicalities are out the window here.
  • One of my biggest objections with Boulder was that there wasn’t enough public nudity or street performances. San Francisco more than makes up for Boulder’s lack on both fronts. Other eyefulls from the Folsom Street Fair
  • Occupy Oakland, early November. I haven’t finished wrapping my head around how the Occupation has changed me and my relationship with this place, though I’m happy to bear witness to so much history. Isn’t this an exciting time to be alive?

I didn’t expect anything when I moved here beyond a measure of quiet happiness. I kind of wanted a lemon tree, but I was willing to wait for such earthly pleasures. A year later I have a job and an income. I have friends and a lemon tree. Upon reflection, those things sum up to be greater and I realize that what I have is an entire life, which I think means I’ve made it here.

Update from the trenches of the workweek


My patient, LB, is 103 years old. She has Einsteinian hair and Beethovian hearing. She is not merely frail: she is a wisp, she is a quiet exhalation of a body. Her eyes are huge in her thin face. She’s shockingly lucid and cogent- until she isn’t. She becomes incensed and wants to know where her dinner guests are. She cannot believe how rude it is of them: you invite people to dinner, you spend all this time preparing, and they don’t even show up! I tell her I’m here, and we can have dinner together.  I hope I can devour strawberries like she can when I’m 103.

Wednesday - Friday:

A new tracheostomy patient comes into my care. Trach patients need swallowing therapy to get them off tube feeding and back on regular food. This patient is fed through a nasograstric tube, which goes up his nose, down his throat, down his esophagus and into his stomach. In the next 48 hours, he will pull out this tube a total of three times. Three times up out of his stomach, up his throat, out his nose. The entire tube. Three times. He will also pull out his trach. It appears we will begin feeding him orally sooner than we expected. 


I call a patient’s son. “How do you say ‘swallow’ in Farsi?”

Friday, 9 pm:

This late, it’s quiet in the nursing facility. One of my favorite patients, G, is playing UNO with some other ladies in the small dining room. She’s always perfectly and fully done up: lipstick and earrings, a shawl. All the more impressive because G can’t move the right side of her body. She puts herself together left-handed and does a smashing job. Several years ago, G had a left hemisphere stroke resulting in fluent aphasia. Her auditory comprehension is great but when she talks it’s utter gibberish. Every once in a while there’s a real word, but mostly it’s linguistic white noise. G was surprised to see me so late; I usually do therapy with her at lunch. She looks up, concerned and says in perfect prosodic nonsense, “Well you sure here are light”.

What can be explained is not poetry.

W.B. Yeats (via bodasdesangre)


What cannot be explained is poetry.

Poetry can be explained as that which cannot be explained.

Poetry can be explained, so poetry is not poetry.


(via tristn)

Now hold the goddamn phone just a minute. I’ve been mulling over this very issue for some time now, which is maybe partly why I haven’t written a word in as long. It seems to me that poetry is itself the act of explaining. Great literature and poetry transduce experience into words. We all live this world in the here and the now but relatively few people can deftly articulate that minutiae. Lay-people lazily say, “It is what it is”; such platitudes hardly pull back the drapery on the platonic puppet show, let alone scratch the surface of real experience. A good writer exposes the bleeding red underbelly you knew was there all along, but which you never had the words to describe. 

As for wordplay, hats off to Monsieur Tristan, who exposes logical fallacies that tugged at our sleeves. But then, we never had the words to describe those, either. 

(via eush)

Top 12 things I’d like to see in 2012

Here are some things I’d like to see this year. And if not this year, then sometime soon, I hope.

  1. Compostable produce stickers and/or paper-recyclable staples;
  2. Abolition of marriage as a state institution. Why does anyone care who’s marrying whom? And why does the government have any say in what a marriage is or isn’t?
  3. Eradication of bedbugs. Don’t you miss sleeping on strangers’ couches?
  4. Large-scale barter economies;
  5. Seedless lemons. Limes don’t have seeds. Clementines don’t have seeds. What is even possibly the holdup with this technology?
  6. Flat-rate BART fares;
  7. Universal health care;
  8. Cure for hangnails;
  9. Cold fusion or Higgs bosons. I’ll settle for one or the other;
  10. A lifted Honda CRX. Given where I live, it’s only a matter of time, really;
  11. The sun settling down just past west Oakland as many times as possible;
  12. A paycheck.

What’s on your list?


… the days are already getting longer.

This came to me in a migraine

In one headached night

Three dozen and a half

halfling, half-breed poems press through me-

Punctuated by whistles of runaway trains,

I’d like to tie this muse to the tracks.

By me, last night, as I was trying to fall asleep.

The best show in town, yall.

Oakland Nights…live!
EPISODE TWO: teachers12/3 8pm free 
dope dish - Oscar & Robert & Apron, feat. TurtleneckHISS & HUMCocktail Corner - Jennifer Heller & Will Roby (Lushes in Love)SMOOCH talk - David CohenThe All-Mouse Band - Al DanielsStand Up - Philip Huang 
And two Oakland school teachers!

The best show in town, yall.


Oakland Nights…live!

EPISODE TWO: teachers
12/3 8pm free 

dope dish - Oscar & Robert & Apron, feat. Turtleneck
Cocktail Corner - Jennifer Heller & Will Roby (Lushes in Love)
SMOOCH talk - David Cohen
The All-Mouse Band - Al Daniels
Stand Up - Philip Huang 

And two Oakland school teachers!

(Source: penelopepopsicle)

Words wholly related: vanilla, vagina

Phallic symbolism is everywhere. Whatever the reason, people see dicks in all kinds of unlikely places: buildings, vegetables, Disney movies. There’s even Accidental Dong, a website dedicated to in situ phallus spotting. Logically, statistically, post-sexually, shouldn’t just as many things be vagina-shaped? And yet, vaginal imagery gets way less press. There is no Accidental Vag website (though Acidental Dong has an occasional Accidental Vagina Friday feature, but even then, it’s just one day out of seven). Maybe the problem is that people aren’t quite sure what vaginas look like. This brings up a whole host of sex-ed issues which are beyond the scope of this blog. I just do words. 

One instance of people seeing vaginas instead of their penile counterparts is the case of vanilla. Vanilla is extracted from the pods of tlilxochitl orchids indigenous to Mesoamerica. The pods look like desiccated, tar-colored string beans. Really.

(Image via wikipedia)

Cortés and his conquistador thugs first encountered the pods in Mexico and brought them back to Europe in the early 1500s. The conquistadors win the non-obvious naming award: the stringy brown pods reminded them of vaginas. The word vagina comes from Latin, meaning sheath or scabbard; vanilla comes from the Spanish diminutive form of that word, meaning little vagina. How … sweet. 

I encourage you to find some appropriately inappropriate time to share this tasty morsel with your partner. 

From the lonely hearts etymology club straight to your brain, have a sunshiney day.

Thoughts deep and seedy

So you’re telling me that the phrase is “deep-seated” and not ” deep-seeded”? How could that be? “Deep-seeded” makes so much more metaphorical sense. You plant seeds deep in the ground where they are covered by dirt and time and history. In a continuing seed metaphor, deep-seeded traits can sprout up, or come to light later on. Recessive genes are deep-seeded, like red hair that skips five generations: surprise! Deep-seeded has the added bonus of sounding intentionally Freudian, alluding to wellsprings of hidden passions: your obsession for Buffy fan-fic or latent homosexuality. In contrast, what does deep-seated mean? It sounds like a transitive verb: to be deep-seated is what happens when you are swallowed bodily by a really squishy couch. 

Strangely further, I’ve had the opposite (and parallely erroneous) misinterpretation of tournament bracket seeds, which I thought were “seats”. Forgive my ignorance, dear readers, but I eschew competitive sports and the sports section in equal measure. I managed to never see the word in print until I googled it to double check just now and discovered my deep-seeded misunderstanding. In terms of brackets, “seats” are more logical than “seeds”. When two teams play, one of them is unseated from the higher-ranking position, which makes you think of a king’s throne being toppled over, which makes sense in terms of the sport-as-battle analogy. If the team were “unseeded” it sounds like they were dug up by a hungry godzilla squirrel, which is just distracting, frankly.

Previously, in misunderstandings: flawless and ruthless (part 1 and part 2)