Just leave snakes alone


Wasn’t this enough of a hint?

This Public Service Announcement is brought to you from an article on CNN.com (6/29/2017).

Up to 70% of reptile bites are provoked by the person bitten, based on cases seen by the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.

That does not surprise me, nor any of the Bird Crew, I am sure. Each one of us has done our share of antagonizing reptiles (amphibians, mammals, birds, insects and just about anything else that can be found crawling, walking, flying or swimming in the northeastern US). I don’t know why, exactly, but it just seemed like a good idea at the time.

Arizona has more, and more deadly species, for sure. But I have not seen very many animals unfortunate enough to cross the path of a gang of teenage boys escape unscathed.

“Most of them tend to be males under the age of 25 who have been drinking …

Holy shitake, stop the press! Under 25 and drinking?!

“…they’re out there messing around with snakes doing some dumb stuff,” said Goode. (Matthew Goode, a research scientist in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona)

 What I like best about this article is that, much like a well written poem or haiku, Mr. Goode was able to convey the entirety of his message with a minimum of well chosen words. Two properly constructed sentences, actually, that cover all of the ground most of us guys (and quite a few girls) know from experience.

Messing around with snakes is dumb, no argument there. But a snake basking on the side of a trail or swimming by when you are fishing is just asking for trouble. It’s not unlike waving a red flag at a bull. It prompts action.

And the addition of alcohol? That is just fanning the flames.

“Hey Birdwell! There’s a cot-danged rabble snake over here in the ditch. Grab me a stick…and another beer…”

That was in my younger years. These days I am much kinder and softer of heart to the local fauna. Just ask the 4-foot black snake that I uncovered while turning over the mulch pile with my pitch fork. I could have easily (and safely) skewered it, skinned it’s scaly hide and rendered it’s bones (for the collection). But I refrained.

Because I like rodents even less. And snakes eat rodents.

Like a lot of things in life, the hard lessons are the best lessons. I consider myself indeed fortunate to have all fingers and toes intact. It doesn’t matter much if the object of your scorn is lacking legs or not. If it has a head and teeth, watch the fark out.






The {{{ping}}} of DEATH

An anecdote from the debris strewn shoulder of the information highway.

Well, maybe from the roadcrew who works on the info hightway. Either way, this will be a tale of digirati that those of you versed in the use of command line tools, open ports, internet access and hackers et al may well identify with.

For those of you not so versed, I will put things into laymens terms as only I can.

‘Ping’, in the computer world, is a utility (tool, command) that checks to see if another computer is online and responding. You can equate it to shouting “Hey!” at someone down the hallway and them saying “Yo!” in reply. It always struck me as sort of an echo-like term, sort of an electronic equivalent of that sound the sonar makes in submarine movies. {{{ping}}}

Also, understand that connecting a computer to the internet these days is a lot safer and easier than it was, even a few years ago. Today, your Internet Service Provider (ISP, Comcast, cablevision, Sprint, AT&T, etc.) provide some level of security and monitoring to prevent malicious folk from running amok (roughshod) about the place and causing mahem, chaos, discontent, aggrivation, irreveerance, indigestion, agita, hair loss, irritable bowel syndrome… you get the picture.

But back when I was under the tutilage of the Dingo, things were still fairly unprotected. Not unlike a drunken hot tub party in the 80’s and we all know where that went.

The Dingo and I were fast getting a new office online, when our network monitoring application notified us that someone was scanning our ports. (Intruder Alert!) A port scan is an application the gropes the router in all of its errogenous zones looking for a way inside the network. That is to say, trying the doors and windows to see if anything was unlocked so that the malferous could enter and cause mahem, chaos, discontent, aggrivation…you get it, right?

Our first inclination was to shut down the router and force this jamoke to find other, easier fish to fry. But that would also blow all of our people in the office off the wire and that would create more people who would be experiencing the aforementioned bodily discomfort, which would then result in them projectile vomiting those ills upon us.

No bueno.

But me, being the Birdwell and all, thought differently. What could we do in the way of a counter-attack, I queried.

Well, reply-eth the Dingo, we don’t have any contra-attack applications readily available, but if we did we could simply send him a ‘ping-storm’.

“Ping-storm, eh?” I retorted. “Like if we just kept pinging him until his machine was overwhelmed?”

“Precisely. We call it…the Ping of Death.”








I liked the sound of that.

“And what if we were to just do that very thing ‘long-hand’, like from a few different computers in-house?”

I was met with a perculiar look that conveyed to me that I might be on to something.

Dingo obtained the IP address of the attacker as I went about garnering all of the available pc’s that were not being used. I came up with 3 – mine, Dingo’s and a spare. Then I went about opening a command line (DOS prompt) multiple times and pinged the offending address – 27 separate instances on each machine. We knew we had driven off our attacker when his response times slowed to a crawl, then died all together.

You lose, thanks for trying.








It would be the same as you walking into a room with 81 people in it and saying “Hello, I’m the Birdwell’s minion, how are you?”, waiting for a reply, shaking that person’s hand and then saying, “Nice to meet you, talk to you again soon” to each person as quickly as possible all the while sampling hors d’ovres, sipping champagne, watching the clock and keeping a hacky-sack aloft (because that is what your pc is doing, or something like that). Your head would esplode and you would likely need to wash you hands.

What we had done was overwhelmed this bongo player’s machine to the point where it could not process – anything – anymore. At least until he performed a hard reboot. And by ‘hard’ I mean pull the plug. The three finger salute (Ctrl+Alt+Fark You) would not work because the computer could no longer process imput from the keyboard, it was way too busy responding to pings.  But by that time we had notified the ISP of the offending address this chucklehead was coming from and had him black listed.

Black listed. It’s as bad as it sounds. It means that the ISP knows you are up to no good and then trains a watchful eye on your digital ass.

I took a great deal of satisfaction in it, to be honest. It is not often one gets to stick an electronic boot up some deserved netizen’s porthole.

I am the Birdwell, Network Mutha, and you, whoever the fark you were, are not.




‘Cause I’m the tax man

and you are not.

Who was the jackass who decided (and approved) putting a check box on our federal tax forms stating: Check here if you would like to contribute $3 to the Presidential Election Campaign?

What is that, some kind of bad joke?

Fleece us for every thing you and your cronies can think of, then ask if we, out of the goodness of our hearts and pockets, would like to flip you another $3? I would be insulted, if it wasn’t so incredulous.

Wait, back up a sec; I am insulted.  So screw you and your election campaign, as well as the horse you rode in on.

I blinded them…with TAXES!

First, why the hell should I contribute to anyone’s election fund?  Who is contributing to my election (retirement) fund? You want me to help you out? Buy a few copies of my book. (Oh, that’s right; I will be helping you out, with the tax on each sale. GFY.)

Second, if you have decided to be a politician, fund your own election, dirt bag. Anyone running for president of the US has plenty of money of their own to do so. You don’t need mine, I assure you. (Here, have another 3 dollars out of my pocket so you can go to Washington and learn how to take many more dollars from me).

This is nothing more than another angle to play one side against the other.
Oh please, let me give another $3 so we can beat the godforsaken – fill in the political party of your angst here – in the next election.

I realize that you are well aware of this, but just so that I can blabber at the wall, let me spell it out.

You tax the dollars I earn in my paycheck, before they even hit my hand.
You tax the dollars that I spend.
You tax the dollars that I save.
You tax the dollars that I earn on my savings. (that one fact alone is dispicable).
You tax my income tax refund. (in the rare instance that I actually get one).
You tax just about everything I purchase.
You tax the roads I drive.
You tax the gas that fuels my car.
You tax the food I purchase to feed my family.

You tax the land I live on.
You tax the house that I live in.
You tax the fuel that heats my home.
You tax the electricity that lights my home.

You tax my health care insurance.
You tax me if I die.
You tax the spot where I am planted into the ground.
In the wonderful state of New Jersey, you tax me if I try to leave. (nice job, asshats).
You even tax me (by way of a service charge) if I file my taxes electronically! The very method that reduces the cost of their collection.

About the only thing you don’t tax me for is when I relieve myself…oh, wait. Toilet paper is taxed. So you’ve got that covered as well.

Can you hear me now, Birdwell?








But you want me to give you another $3, for the President’s Election Campaign.  Haven’t I already done that, about a dozen different times as listed above?

I understand fully that it takes a lot of money to run a country and tax dollars are what fund our way of life. But there are more and more people every day, so your tax base goes up, every day. Yet there is never anything in the way of relief for us. Instead, you spend your days devising ways to keep yourselves in office, playing smoke and mirror games to keep our eyes off of your wrongdoings and finding even more ways to bilk us out of our hard earned dollars.

It goes way beyond greed and insult. I’d say immoral, but that is a regular part of your day. This is like duping the poor kid down the block, who is a little slow; out of the pocket change he made delivering newspapers.

Before I give you another dollar of my hard earned cash, put a dollar onto my bottom line. Till then, you could save some money by removing that line from the tax form.

This stuff tastes like…



I’m eating the oatmeal.

Instant, to be exact, and I don’t like it. I’d much prefer a fresh made ham, cheese and egg sandwich, but I’m trying to eat healthy, so I’m eating something that is purported to scrub the arteries as opposed to slathering them with gunk.

But I don’t like it.

I am sitting at my desk – eating ‘al desko’ as its termed. This is instant oatmeal, surely one of the lowest forms of the stuff. About the only level below this is a generic brand. To be fair, it is cinnamon flavored, which is only a rung or two higher than the detested ‘maple and brown sugar’ variety, or any of those ‘fruit and cream’ concoctions they purvey.

More or less freeze-dried yakk, if you ask me. Just add warm water. (You know, yakk…don’t make me add synonyms, please…)

Losing weight? I doubt it. The beer counters that effort. Satiated? Not hardly, but at least I’m not nauseas from hunger.

Yeah, yeah, I know, there are poor people who would gladly take my cup of crap.
If there was a way to get it to them, right now, they could have it while it is still warm.

No thanks, Bruce

The following is a re-worked piece I originally posted in 2009, when Bruce Springsteen came out publically in support of Barak Obama.

Then, as now, Springsteen, and a lot of other celebrities, made their party affiliation and discontent for the opposing party known in no uncertain terms.

Then, as now, I feel that I should make my disdain for such rhetoric known. I also want it known that the following is spread thick with sarcasm. I will also state that I am a fan of Springsteen’s music, NOT his (or anyone else’s) political stance.

Bruce Springsteen has come out publicly against supporting Donald Trump and if I am going to listen to anyone tell me who to support or not, politically, it’s going to be Springsteen.

Put aside for the moment that Trump was elected President by the same system that elected every previous president in recent memory. And, like every previous election, the losing party cries FOUL, whines endlessly and looks for ways to discredit the other.

As most of you know, I hold nearly all politicians in disdain, party loyalty not withstanding.  This election, like every previous election that I have participated in, I had to decide between two despicable people, whose negative marks far outweighed any good.

But, as a loyal, patriotic American, one must vote and when it is time to vote, who better to listen to than a wildly successful rock star or high priced celebrity?  I mean, you could listen to Meryl Streep, Oprah, the douche-bag Kanye West, or any one of a number of other wealthy mouthpieces instruct you in the proper way to cast your vote, because you, an educated, working, middle class, taxed to f-ing death commoner couldn’t possibly make up your own mind.

Of course not.  But Springsteen, the Boss, well, shiate.  How can you argue with him?  After all, who better to have a finger on the pulse of the hard working, blue collar, middle class than one who writes and warbles about such things in a down to earth, gravely voice – and wearing faded jeans, no less?  Ignore the fact that he has raked in so much money that he can afford to buy up every house, farm and plot of land around his home in Colts Neck, NJ, where real estate prices rival that of any other you can think of, including Beverly Hills, CA.

And that, dear readers, constitutes political savvy in my book.

Who among us has the time or stomach to navigate the pile of spin-doctored bullshiate being thrown at us continuously?  We are too busy, strung out on the wire, getting our backs burned, facts learned, in the darkness on the edge of town, or some rattlesnake speedway, looking for two tickets on that ghost city bus, all the while dodging the skeletons of burned out Chevrolet’s ‘neath Abram’s bridge.

It’s the working life, I tell you, just the working life, for us born in America, in our home town, while we wait on the rising. (or is it the Reisling? I think we would be better off waiting for that).

Ok, enough.  Now, Bruce (I include the word ‘boss’ in my list of ‘4-letter words’), I appreciate your wanting to stand up and lead us towards the promised land and all, thanks, but no thanks.  I feel that after 40+ years of listening to the same rhetoric spouting from the same pundit about the same issues and watching absolutely nothing change for the better, that I am fully qualified to make up my own mind.  And you could do us all a favor by conveying this message to your celebi-friends.  Save us all some time and yourselves some breath.

To be fair, should you, yourself, decide to run for office, you would have my vote. This is more due to my disgust with the ruling elite than it is with your political posture.  By the same token, I feel that I could do a better job than any of those idiots running at the mouth on the nightly news, but that’s just me.

In conclusion, I would say that, when the night’s quiet, and you don’t care anymore, and your eyes are tired, and there’s someone at your door
(let them in, for pete’s sake)
and you realize you wanna to let gooooooo-ooooooooooooo.  And the weak lies, and cold walls you embrace eat at your insides, and leave you face to face with streets of fiiiiiiirrrrre.

(hands down my favorite Springsteen song, and one of the best lead guitar breaks in rock).

You know, that’s not what I thought you were saying, all these years.  It must be that south Jersey accent thing, or a north Jersey hearing issue.  Thankfully the Internet and your website have set my @ss straight.

(man, I could use a cold beer right about now)

Of Italian decent

Fig tree

Fig tree

I have a fig tree (ficus something-or-another) in my backyard that I am particularly fond of. I haven’t been able to determine exactly what species of fig it is, as a search turned up more varieties of ficus than I was prepared to investigate. Bro says it is a Petite Negro. I’ll go with that.

I take very good care of my fig tree. In fact, I may worry about it more than most of the other plant life in and around the compound. You see, this fig has a long history that dates back to Italy itself.

My fig tree started out as a cutting from a tree in my grandparent’s backyard in Union, NJ., sometime in the late 1990’s. That fig tree was more of a large, prolific bush-tree, as fig trees tend to get when planted in a good location. Protected on all sides by the two story brick homes that are the norm in that section of town, it was rooted in good soil and exposed to sun for most of the day. It was a prolific bearer of fruit.

My grandparent’s fig bush-tree began as a cutting from a tree that grew in my great-grandmother’s backyard in Irvington, NJ. That tree grew from a cutting that she had brought to America with her from Italy. Not sure how she was able to do that, perhaps with a gift to the inspector of a few dried figs and some prosciutto as a snack? Then again, at the time, the inspectors at Ellis Island were more concerned with human diseases coming in-country than they were with foreign plants.

All of my grandparents children (my mother, aunt and uncle) have a cutting from that tree, as do most of the grandchildren (my sister and cousins). I might be inclined to give out a cutting or two as gifts or in trade for an equally valuable clipping, but I am stingy with them. Just can’t go gifting heirloom fig cuttings like they grow on trees, ya’ know?

Fig trees love sun – the more the better. They can tolerate some fairly poor soil, so long as they have water and sun. Not too much water, they don’t want wet feet, but my fig can slurp up a good 2-3 gallons per week, easily.

Growing a fig tree in NJ can be difficult. I would love to be able to plant my fig tree in the ground and let it achieve its full potential, but the winter wind will turn it into firewood before the spring. NJ winters are not fig-friendly and special care is needed to keep them alive. Some folks go so far as to bury their fig tree over the winter, but that is way too much work for my limited schedule and aging back.

Mine is growing in a half whiskey barrel (fitting, don’t you think?). I move it into the garage after the leaves drop in the fall, wrap up the bottom snug with corrugated cardboard and let it go dormant.

When spring arrives I expose it to as much sun as I can, until the threat of frost is past (usually after Mother’s Day, in these parts). Then I move it outside and carefully monitor the weather for the following few weeks, so as not to be surprised by a frost. If temps dip too low, or if a frost warning is issued, I build a tent and lovingly cover my fig tree with flannel blankets.

Yes, flannel blankets. Wouldn’t you like to be swaddled in flannel if you had to spend a evening outside with the threat of frost about?

That is more work than I do for any other herbaceous life, anywhere. It sounds like a chore, but if you watch the weather and don’t bring out your fig too early, you might only have to do it a couple of times. After that, the fig only needs water, a little lime and some fertilizer to take care of itself.

I’d be interested to know if the parent fig trees are still alive. I hope so. They have propagated quite a legacy.

Dot and company

tinfunnel orangecateye


The other day I was wandering aimlessly through the Castellano property, just checking things out, when I saw some vagrants. The must have been vagrants because I had not seen them on the property previously. That, and they were hooked arm-in-arm, skipping and singing. Not typical Jersey-like behavior. From what I could see it looked like a farm girl in a blue dress, a hobo, a lion and some dude dragging around a load of duct work.

I called out to them, but they glanced back and said something that sounded like ‘veer off and pee on a lizard!’. The hobo flipped me the finger. Then they started throwing apples at me.

Douche-bags. (That’s Jersey-speak for ‘how rude’).

Thinking that they might need a few marbles launched at them, just to establish authority, I pouched an orange cats-eye in me trusty slingshot and considered the target-rich environment.

I didn’t aim at the farm chick. She was cute and I didn’t want to hurt her. Not the lion, either, because lions eat people and it’s best not to provoke them. The hobo just seemed full of duff, what with his ratty clothes and lanky gait. I thought I saw some straw falling out of his sleeves. More of a tinderbox than a threat.

Maybe my lighter…?

But the tin-knocker was toting a two-handed axe. That made him armed and thus, a combatant. Not only did it seem like he could endure a direct marble strike, but it would make a nice sound…might even echo.


I drew back and let the marble fly, clocked him but good, knocking the conical hat off of his gourd. The bohemian quartet suddenly weren’t interested any longer in launching surplus fruit or cryptic insults in my direction and dashed off into the woods.

Take that, bitches! I’d bet they won’t be back around until monkeys sprout wings and fly about.

Upon inspection, the hat turned out to be a tin funnel. I picked it up and began searching for a goose with bowel issue, to test out a theory I had heard of…


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