Deer Dere

For a number of reasons, most of them irrelevant to anyone on the other side of my keyboard, today seemed like a good day to remind you that not all of the four-legged cute things around here are cats.

Case in point:

They worked their way along the hillside, and I was hoping to get some video of them eating when they got a little closer.

It didn’t turn out very well:

Turns out that cameras work much more consistently when there’s electricity in their batteries. Who knew?

By the time I had swapped out the battery, they’d had their fill of hillside grass. The best I could do was a quick still of their departure.

I conclude that they’re English deer: Americans would presumably know that they should keep to the other side of the street.

Or perhaps they’re learning traffic safety from some of our less cautious local drivers.

Say Hello

Actually, these guys–or their kinfolk, anyway–have been around for years. They’ve been coming around more frequently than usual over the past few weeks. I’m assuming the quality of the graze is better here than wherever they’ve been hanging out.

As recently as a week ago, one of them was still pointy, but he seems to have finally shed this year’s decorations. Not, unfortunately, anyplace we’ve visited. They’d look good as yard decorations, I think. Properly placed and mounted, they could do fine work discouraging door-to-door leaflet distributors.

Despite their inconsiderate antler-disposal practices, on the whole they’re polite, at least by comparison with the turkey gangs and the marauding bands of trash pandas.

Home Turf

There are at least four deer in our neighborhood.

A few days ago, a small family group–Mom and two spotted* kids–came by. They ambled up the side of the house toward the street. A few seconds later, I heard a car drive by and all three deer came running back down the side of the house and around the corner of the fence.

* Pun intended. Their hides were spotty and I did spot them. Not sorry.

Less than two minutes later, this one showed up.


We’re calling her “Where’d Everybody Go Dude”, because she looked all around the area, clearly expecting somebody to turn up and hang out.

When nobody put in an appearance, she decided on a solitary breakfast.


I left her to her meal and went to prepare my own. And then I heard fowl language. (Sorry.)

Sure enough.


I got to the window just in time to see one of the Turkey Gang peck Where’d Everybody Go Dude’s hind leg, chasing her from the scene.

With the evil intruder vanquished, the newest members were allowed to come out and familiarize themselves with the gang’s turf.


The lion may lie down with the lamb, but there’s no sign of impending peace between the poult and the fawn.

Not Cats

It’s been a while since we checked in on the neighbors.

That’s partially because the recent family members have been so photogenic that I haven’t felt the need to look elsewhere, and partly because the neighbors have been keeping low profiles.

They coyotes are still around–we saw one on the sidewalk just a couple of weeks ago–which certainly contributes to the lack of other visitors, but there’s been a mini resurgence of late.

The turkeys are all over the neighborhood, crossing the street in front of cars and shouting rude things at the dogs.

And then there are these critters.


We’ve seen them in the common area several times in the past week. The youngsters are starting to lose their spots, but they’re still quite cute, and we’re glad to have them in the neighborhood.

Deer Here

We had some visitors the other day.

Yes, despite the continued presence of the coyotes–though they haven’t been as frequently seen lately–the deer are still hanging around.

It is Fuzzy Antler Season, so they’re a bit restless.

Maggie got a slightly better picture:

Complete with bonus deer butt.

Unfortunately, as soon as I went in search of a camera with a decent zoom, the deer remembered a pressing engagement elsewhere.

A great shame: I was hoping to get a better shot of the attractive pink insides of their ears. It looks very much like toe beans at a distance.


Today’s Short Attention Span Theater is not brought to you by disease or lack of sleep, it’s just an excuse to deal with my to-do pile.

First, a brief administrative note.

I will be attending the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival at the end of the month. I’m not planning a book signing or any other formal event, but The RagTime Traveler will be available for sale*. Come on down to Sedalia, enjoy the music, pick up a book, and I’ll be delighted to sign it for you.

* Dad’s ragtime books, both fiction and non-fiction, will also be in the festival store. In my totally unbiased opinion, you need copies of all of those as well.

While I will take my laptop along, I don’t plan to write any blog posts. I’ll make sure to have a post for Friday, May 31–I don’t want to be responsible for riots caused by cat deprivation–but other than that expect silence between May 28 and June 4, with a return to the usual schedule on June 6.

Second, I’m a little disturbed to discover that El Sobrante* is more dangerous than I’d thought.

* For those unfamiliar with the Bay Area, El Sobrante is the closest of the several cities that border the part of Richmond where I live.

Over the years, I’ve gotten accustomed to the suspicious sorts lurking in the local undergrowth, but it appears that a new threat is moving in.

According to a recent post on everyone’s favorite unbiased news source–Nextdoor–“[…]a somewhat large buck with velvet covered antlers jumped out from the side… he mean mugged us hella hard and took a few quick steps towards the car…”

That’s right. As if street gangs of turkeys and terrorist coyotes aren’t bad enough, now we’ve got to deal with deer carjackers. It’s a bad neighborhood, obviously, and getting worse.

But I have to wonder: how the heck did the deer expect to drive the car to the chop shop? He could probably hold the key between his hooves, but it’s not like the driver’s seat can be adjusted to fit his shape. For that matter, what kind of payment would he have been expecting? I’ve heard that fences pay chicken feed, but salt licks?

Anyway, moving on.

The big story a few days ago was that Microsoft is working on tools to (as the Chron’s headline put it) “secure elections”. Which is great news as far as it goes.

Microsoft is doing it right: making the source code freely available, so anyone can audit it and any company in the voting machine field can use it.

The thing is, it’s not a complete voting system, and the value of Microsoft’s software is only as good as the implementation. Voting machine companies have a justifiably poor reputation for the quality of their coding. You can have the greatest software in the world for allowing voters to verify their ballot, and it’ll be absolutely useless if the rest of the software and the hardware it’s running on is riddled with security holes.

How many voting machines run on Windows XP, an operating system that has been completely unsupported for half a decade? (Probably fewer than the number of ATMs running on OS/2, which has been dead for three times as long. But I digress.) Sorry, not totally unsupported. Microsoft just released a security patch for XP. How many of those voting machines running the code are going to get the patch? I’m betting on a percentage in the single digits.

Also, as the articles point out, Microsoft’s new code doesn’t support Internet voting (something far too many people want, given the woeful state of the art) or vote by mail systems, which are increasingly popular.

I’m not running Microsoft down. As I said, it’s a step in the right direction. But we as a country need to take far more than just that one step.

And, finally, no SAST post is really complete without a mention of either the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch or the Transbay Terminal fiasco. I don’t have anything on the BBBB, but there was a brief note in the Chron a few weeks about about the terminal.

The cracked support beams are nearly repaired–though we still don’t have a date for the grand reopening. What we do have is word that the paths in the rooftop garden are going to be replaced.

Those paths, you may remember, are made of decomposed granite, and even before the terminal was closed, the granite was decomposing even further. So the decision has been made to repave the paths, this time using concrete.

As local megaconstruction repair projects go, it should be a comparatively cheap fix, no more than half a million dollars or so. The city and the contractors are, of course, arguing over who is at fault for the failure of the paths. We all know who’s going to wind up paying for the repair, though, and it isn’t either of the arguing parties.

The Price of Liberty

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

–Leonard Henry Courtney (among others)

Leonard may not have been a tuxedo cat, but ours keep his spirit alive.
Who do they guard against? What villains do they seek to warn us against?

29-2You might think it was these guys, but you would be wrong. They don’t come into our yard, and if they’re outside of the fence, Sachiko and Watanuki don’t, you should excuse the expression, give a shit whose yard the deer shit in.

No, the Tuxedoed Terrors sit forthright against a flock of evildoers so fowl even their name causes the homeowners’ association to quake in its collective britches.


What crimes do they commit?

That’s right: turkeywalking. (What, you thought they would stoop to jaywalking?)

The Natives Are (Almost) Friendly

We had company earlier this week. He dropped by one afternoon and hung out behind the house for a while.

He seems a trifle shy, though. When Maggie went out to put food in the backyard bowl, our guest remembered an urgent appointment somewhere else.

Hopefully he’ll be able to stay longer next time he visits.

Deer, Deer

So there I was, holed up in my den, staring into space as I fought the thesaurus to a standstill in a forlorn effort to find just the right word to conclude a chapter.

And then the doorbell rang.

I tried to ignore it, but I had completely lost my train of thought. I stomped my way downstairs, noting in passing that the cats, as is their wont, had vanished into the depths of the closet at the sound of the bell.

I threw open the door. “What do you want?” I snapped at the youngster on the front stair.

“I’m very sorry for interrupting you,” he said. “I was just wondering, on behalf of my family–especially my little sister, it would mean so much to her–if you would… if you could, take a short break from blathering on about cats–nasty little creatures, begging your pardon–and remind your readers that there are other wild creatures in the neighborhood, some of whom lived here for centuries before the cats arrived.” He took a deep breath. “That’s all. Thank you, much obliged, greatly appreciated.”

And with that, he turned and trotted away, down the street.

After such an impressive request–sixty-five words, and spoken on a single breath–how could I possibly do anything other than accede?

So yes, we do have deer in the neighborhood. They generally hang out in the green belt behind the house, but sometimes stroll up the hill past the backyard bowl, cross the street, and browse on the shrubbery to the east.
It has apparently been a good year for them. The herd consists of at least five; prior to this year, we’ve never seen more than four at once.

We’ve signed a treaty. They don’t come into the yard and rummage through the garden. In return, we don’t import cougars.

Oh, and unlike Coleridge’s experience with an unwelcome visitor, I did eventually come up with just the word I needed: earlobe.

Meet the Neighbors 07

The “cute cats” drought will continue for at least another week. In the meantime, meet some more of our neighbors.

These guys tend to show up, hang out for a while, and then vanish again. They’ve been around lately, munching on the greenery.

Their numbers vary from year to year. I’ve seen as many as six of them at once. They usually travel in pairs, making those two pictures somewhat unusual; here’s a more typical shot. (Yes, we really do see boys as well as girls.)

Unlike the other neighbors I’ve introduced, the deer don’t come into the yard or hang out at the Bowl o’ Krunchies, but I have seen them nibbling on the trees that hang over the fence.

As our neighbors go, the deer are probably the most boring. Unlike the turkeys, the deer go out of their way to avoid confrontations with cars. They don’t bully each other, they don’t ask for handouts, and they don’t break things. They just leave hoofprints and the occasional pile of droppings in the common area.

We’re not totally blas√© about them–they may be boring, but they’re still wild animals right outside the house–but we get more excited about a chance to say hello to Grey Tabby or fire the SuperSoaker at the raccoons.