Saturday, December 06, 2014

Snowglobe addendum

In case you were wondering, the futile search referenced in 'Snowglobe' can be revisited simply by taking U.S. 50 through Winchester to Capon Bridge, West Virginia, and continuing westward until you start worrying about running out of gas.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Meditative Ritual

The wedges, the four of them, were beaten and battered front and rear. Before anything else, they needed to be made right.

The four were more or less identical three pound splitting wedges. Three of them have been around since forever; I don't know where they originally came from. The fourth one I found on the side of the road last year; I literally reached down and picked it up while stuck in stop-and-go traffic on Beast.

They all exhibited a certain degree of mushrooming. The mushrooming is the main focus of my efforts. I remember a few decades ago, splitting with a mushroomed wedge and a sledge hammer on a cool Vermont fall day. There was pinging sound, and I felt a sting in my bicep. There I found a hot chip of steel, hooked with a little barb, stuck in my skin. I was lucky; people have been killed by flying bits of wedge shrapnel.

So I grabbed the hand grinder and set to work. Four objects, four facets, four edges, two facets. A section of log served as the workbench; my workpiece was held in place by another wedge and braced by my foot. A spray of orange sparks splashed faintly across the log and my shoe in the brilliant fall sunlight.

The deformed metal slowly burned away, transformed into a hundred thousand tiny grains of oxide hanging on the air. The facets of the wedge slowly reemerged as brilliant gleaming silver planes, intersecting as crisp sharp angles. When the facets were all plane, I ground the corners away, leaving gently rounded intersections less prone to deformation and mushrooming.

Grind, turn, grind, turn, grind. The world around me disappears, focusing down to the intersection of a rapidly rotating abrasive wheel, a three pound chunk of steel, a spray of orange sparks, the desired geometry. The hazard of deformation reduced, utility can be addressed.

A splitting wedge does not have or need a cutting edge, like an ax. It works by separating wood fibers; it is less effective if it cuts those fibers instead. But, a blunt edge will not make that first bite into the end grain; it will take more effort and more time. So some edge is desirable, and unlike the reshaping of the deformed metal at the blunt end, restoring the narrow end takes but a pass or two with the grinder.

Deformation removed, edges restored, the wedges are returned to their original form. I take them inside, scrub them down, and warm them over the stove to thoroughly dry them. I then repaint the sides a bright red to make them stand out in the litter and clutter of a woodyard, where the native dull color of steel seems to blend right into the background.

Four objects, four facets, four edges, two facets. Meditation done, now the work can begin.


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Leading Indicators

There's a bunch of things that provide useful information to a rider in advance of encountering an obstacle or potential hazard, which I will lump under the heading "Leading Indicators"--things that warn you of what's coming up.
  1. Those dark splotches across a lane. Those are accumulated oil droplets that have flung off the undercarriages of countless vehicles as they bottom out following a ridge or rise in the pavement. You should expect a decent-sized bump about three meters ahead of the splotch, and maybe get up on your foot pegs on the balls of your feet to absorb the shock. Also be aware there's probably enough collected grease and oil there to be a little treacherous when rain starts to fall.
  2. Wind-blown debris. Leaves, dust, dirt and debris make the wind visible; if there's enough of a wind to start lifting little things, there's enough of a wind to alter your trajectory, so be prepared. Be especially wary of 'dust devil' winds, which will hit you from both sides in rapid succession. They can be disorienting, to say the least. Besides being leading indicators of rapidly changing riding conditions, they are warnings to put your visor down to keep particles out of your eyes. Nothing worse than being momentarily blinded and tossed around. 
  3. "Guilt Lights." Drivers ahead of you tapping their brakes reflexively when seeing a speed trap. I've never ridden through a speed trap that wasn't telegraphed by the drivers ahead of me in one form or another. It always makes me laugh but I am also more than happy to let someone else 'rabbit' for me.
  4. Pedestrian Crossing lights. The countdowns running parallel to you let you see exactly how long you have before your light is going to change. No sense in braking prematurely, is there?
  5. Birds, particularly crows and vultures. Obviously warning of carrion ahead, a potential road hazard. But frequently a hazard in themselves, particularly vultures, who gain altitude slowly enough to be a frequent risk to riders. When you see crows ahead, think vultures. And slow down.
  6. Chasing your shadow. This is a leading indicator for others, mostly. If you're riding into your shadow, that means you're obscured by glare; the longer and more defined your shadow is, the worse the situation is for you. Slow down, turn on your high beam, get all big in the saddle (primate aggressive display behavior) stand up on your pegs if need be. Just remember that while you're always invisible, you're extra special invisible with the sun dead behind you.
  7. Smells. Smells are a weird kind of leading indicator, because they are ephemeral, vague and poorly defined. There are really only a few that matter in that they convey information about your immediate environment. And in my experience, you rarely get useful smell information about your own vehicle, unless something is really, really, critically bad. But in general: 
  • Diesel fuel/kerosene smell: Be aware of spilled fuel underfoot; slip hazard.
  • "Maple Syrup:" Spilled or leaking coolant; also a slip hazard. Could be you if you're riding one of those fancy liquid cooled gizmos.
  •  Burning brake pads or rubber...sometimes you'll smell a backup or sudden stop before you see it.
  • Gasoline: Rarely an issue, because it's not as slippery as diesel and evaporates almost immediately. But if it comes on strong, fast and intense, check for a burst injector line/fuel leak ASAP. 
  •  Grease/Gear oil-garlicky and unpleasant. Not very common but be aware.
To isolate the source of a particular smell, change lanes, speed up or slow down. You can frequently identify the offender in a few seconds, and take appropriate action.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Worst. Birthday. Ever.

I woke up this morning at 05:00 so I could make it to our data center in time for a scheduled outage window set for 07:00. But did you know the traffic on the interstate is every bit as bad at 06:00 as it is throughout the rest of the morning? So with half a cup of half-calf in me, I sat for forty minutes in stop-and-go traffic, finally getting where I was going around quarter of seven instead of plenty early.

The outage (install a new core switch) should have taken about an hour. We hoped it would take 30 minutes; we warned everyone it would be three hours (Thanks, Scotty!) and it ended up taking three and a half hours. That was three and a half hours I stood in the colo space with my head jammed into our rack, trying to hear the gravel-in-a-cement-mixer voice of the network engineer (who was assisting via cheap cellphone from somewhere in the midwest) over the howling white noise of the air handlers and screaming servers.

95% was done in the first hour; the remaining 5% took two-and-a-half hours, as is usually the case with things like this. At the finish there were twenty-two windows open on the desktop of my laptop. As things were up and running, I was caffeine-deprived, hungry, cranky as a bottle of hornets, and shell-shocked from the noise, as well as probably a little sleep deprived on top of everything else.

I finally grabbed breakfast at five of noon, at a nondescript diner with no apparent calendars on the walls of the kitchen. It was what they called a 'skillet,' which is kind of like you took some kind of breakfast thing and chewed it all up and put it all together on a pretty plate with a biscuit on the side. But it stopped me from being hungry, that's for sure.

The afternoon was kind of a slow-moving blur. It was hard to make sense of work after such a morning, so it tended towards the perfunctory, that's for sure. And today is one of those days that mi esposa works late, so there was no incentive to get home fast.

On the way home I stopped at the local Irish watering hole, and was served by none other than herself. I sat at the bar, surrounded by people drunk on their smartphones. One pint of Guinness, one shot of Bushmills, neat. Sitting at the bar, which I rarely do, I slowly worked them in turns and toasted my day. Gradually, the strains of that least Irish of songs, "Gimme Shelter*" diffused through the background noise. I paid my tab, left a generous tip on account of it being my birthday and all, and left.

But things are taking a turn for the better. 1) Spouse is coming home soon, with a bottle of something sparkling, and 2) I got a call from "Microsoft Computer." After spending the day with my head in a server cage, I was ready for some fun:

"...Microsoft computer?? Really?" "Yes, your computer is sending a report to the Central Server that there is a problem!" "MY COMPUTER?? Sending a message to THE CENTRAL SERVER?" "Yes, sir, it is very infected!" "What should I do? Is there ANYTHING I can do?" "Well, yes sir, the Central Server says..." "I'm in the kitchen cooking dinner right now, my computer is right here, it's very small...shall I put it in the oven to disinfect it? That's what I shall do! It's IN THE OVEN NOW, What should I do next?? Can the CENTRAL SERVER SEE WHAT'S HAPPENING TO IT? HMM?"
 I'm probably exaggerating. Not the worst birthday ever, for sure.

*Maybe during the Troubles this was pretty Irish. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Relative Distance

So as of this afternoon, Beast and I have covered approximately 1/1,000th of the relative distance from the Earth to the Sun. In only 11 years! That works out to 1/10,000 of the distance per year, more or less, right? Or, approximately 3-7/8 times around the Equator... or, roughly 1.497×10^18 Å (ångströms).

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"...And What Is Good, Phaedrus?"

"Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" was first published forty years ago. That, among numerous other things, makes me feel old.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Code Switching, the vertebrates edition

A few mornings ago, I was out early tending to the birds. Nearby stood one of our turkey hens; in particular, the hen who hatched a poult and two keets earlier in the summer. She was simply standing there among the weeds and flowers--as turkey hens spend much of their days--her young charges milling around about her feet in a busy bustle of chirping and squeaking.

Then she made a single sound, a sound I had heard many times before. When I usually hear this and see the response it evokes, it brings Coleridge to mind:
"We listened and looked sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!"*
I looked at her, and as I expected from hearing the sound she made, she had her head cocked sideways and was looking skyward. She had not moved a muscle, and her young had not moved in response to her noise, nor had any other of the fowl milling about the yard. I followed her gaze upwards. A lone great blue heron was flapping majestically in their distinctive diagonal path across the open backyard, just at treetop level. By this time, the hen had gone back to browsing on the seeds of the tall grass, ignoring the sky.

I knew what she had said. I understood what she had said. Her single noise was noting the presence of the heron, but at the same time, not sounding the alarm she as she would have if a hawk, eagle or other raptor or large bird had intruded. Had she voiced the same sound as an alarm, the young would have either run for cover or huddled beneath her, and all the other birds in the open would have found cover in an instant. But not in this case.

She communicated a simple comment, and I understood what she meant.


*Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Part the Third. 204-206

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Weird little metaphor

On the way to work this morning, I saw a Bald Eagle on the wing. It was being harried by a large dark bird, possible a Black Vulture. That seemed like an oddly disturbing metaphor for today, of all days.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Heisenberg moment

Friday came early last week. Spring may have finally displaced winter*, though it's hard to trust that after such a long and tumultuous struggle. But the afternoon sun shone bright and warm; the recent rains have flushed the remnants of sand and salt from the roadways. Except for the wind, it was the perfect time to ride; but the wind, brutal, gusty and sideways, wasn't to be trifled with.

Despite the uncertainty of the weather, there were still a few of us on the road, and as I approached Gainesville, I noted a rider on a 'baby Ninja' in the distance before me. Something about their demeanor caught my eye, and I began to work on closing the gap between us. I approached and took up a staggered following position several car-lengths behind.

We continued west towards my usual exit at Haymarket, but I was enjoying having some simpatico riding company, so I decided that despite the harsh and buffeting winds, I'd make an exception and extend my trip as far as The Plains, then cut back south to Warrenton.

The narrow pass at Thoroughfare Gap made the winds confused and angry; the jersey walls formed a chute to channel dusty, gritty turbulence eastward through the gap. Both bikes, despite the difference in bulk between Beast and the ninja, were toyed with and tossed around in passing. It was somewhat reassuring to have two-wheeled company as we rolled westward past the gap and into the more wide-open hillscape of Fauquier county.

I accelerated past a long stream of tractor-trailers towards the sweeping curve of the exit, and was surprised to see the ninja change lanes and follow. I rolled off the throttle and sat up, letting engine braking and wind resistance slow me down as I approached the stop sign at the bottom of the exit.

I waited to turn left, and the ninja slowed to a stop in the right lane beside me, moving to turn right. I nodded in acknowledgement as the bike stopped, the rider put their left foot on the ground. And missed.

Just as the ninja came to a complete stop, a gust of wind hit it full-on sideways. That left foot never quite made it to the ground, and the bike and biker toppled over to the right. Checking traffic behind me, I pulled awkwardly to the shoulder, carefully put the sidestand down and made sure the bike was in gear. Then I trotted over to lend a hand.

The rider--a young woman, it turns out--was still extricating herself from under the ninja. Uninjured except for her pride, bike a little worse for wear (typical topple-damage--bent lever, scraped mirror and fairing) we quickly got the bike upright again. A little bit of confusion when trying to get it running again (sidestand switch, natch) but in a minute or two she had collected herself and was ready to continue on her way. She was heading out from Fairfax to Marshall to see a friend, and would spend the rest of the trip--just a few more miles--on smaller, slower, more sheltered roads. When she arrived in Marshall, she would have a slightly silly story to tell and a few bike scars to show off.

Was it a Heisenberg moment? Would she have still fallen over if I hadn't been there to watch? Did the presence of another motorcyclist somehow alter the circumstances? It kind of felt that way to me, but I hope it didn't feel that way to her. That would be a real shame...motorcyclists should always be able to enjoy each other's company in those rare instances.

*I started this many months ago



Bottled two cases of Acerglyn last night after I got home from work. I brewed this waaay back on New Year's day, with a total of five pounds of honey and 1¾ liters of maple syrup. It fermented down to about the lowest reading I've ever seen on my hydrometer, like off-the-scale-low. It should be about 8.7% ABV.

It's amazing, with a rich, warm golden color, a bouquet like fresh-baked bread, and a rich complex flavor I can only describe as the warm embrace of maple without the sweetness. This is a showcase project I thought about for a long time before executing, and it seems like nothing I've ever tasted before. I'm going to see if I can hold off until well into fall or early winter before I bust one of these out. Maybe for Thanksgiving?


In which the blogger engages in some literary criticism of the 'chanson de geste'

Dear France,

Your boy Roland is an asshole.


The Blogger.

Thursday, July 31, 2014


Beast rolled over 90,000 miles yesterday. At the end of September, it will be eleven years since I got her, and it looks likely we'll pass 100,000 by the end of the year...barring another winter like last year's.

Still running strong.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Hawks

It’s been some time since that early morning when we were working in the far garden and first noticed the odd, persistent noise coming from up in the pines.

We set aside what we were doing and went to investigate, having learned some years ago that unusual noises are unusual for a reason, and generally bear investigation. At the edge of the great corridor in the pines, in the first rank of towering trees bordering the gravel driveway, high above the ground was a rough nest of twigs, branches and pine needles.
Our old, familiar breeding pair of hawks—I still don’t know the exact type of hawk—who we have seen in the vicinity of the pines off and on over recent years, was in residence. With them were at least two young.

A brief digression: A baby hawk is called an ‘Eyas.’ The plural form is ‘Eyasses.’ The female mother is simply known as a ‘hen,’ while the father is called a ‘Tierce*.’

With binoculars, we could intermittently see two small, fuzzy heads with bright, fierce eyes and angry little beaks peering through the branches. If I made a small clicking sound, they would look about alertly for the source. From day to day we could monitor their progress and growth amid all the squeaking and crying and calling; we moved a pair of chaise longues nearby to better observe the aerie at length in comfort. It was hypnotic to observe them for extended periods, peering almost vertically into the canopy where they flitted from branch to branch and tree to tree.

The Eyasses became more bird-like with each passing day, at first exploring tentatively. They would fall off branches awkwardly, tumbling briefly before unfurling their novel wings and converting from ballistic objects to aerodynamic bodies. Clearly, at the outset, flying does not come naturally or easily to them; it’s not their first choice or natural mode. Sitting still in the warm sun and having hot meals brought to them is their obvious preference. But all good things must come to an end.

Within about ten days, maybe two weeks, the Eyasses were flying freely and skillfully among the pines. At one point there erupted a torrent of calls in multiple voices from the aerie.

We investigated, assuming from the character of the noise that a feeding was happening. In fact, there was, though the actual meal was obscured from our view. One hawk, age and gender uncertain, perched on the edge of the nest, tearing bits of flesh and gulping them down voraciously. A second hawk approached, eager to join in the feast. But the first would have none of that. One angry cry, one swift shove with an open foot, and the interloper simply slides backwards off the branch, falling a good five feet before remembering those things attached at its shoulders and taking flight with a cry of indignation.

Now we hear the plaintive squeaks ranging farther and farther afield from the aerie. The binding ties are loosening, and the eyasses must be near fully fledged. What becomes of juvenile hawks? Do they stay in the neighborhood? Must they compete with their parents over a limited territory, with the result that the young must move along to more sparsely inhabited realms?

Yesterday, I think I only heard the distinctive cry once; Mary says she heard them a few times during the day. They seem to be spreading out, moving farther from the nest. I keep listening, waiting, thinking I’ll be lucky enough to catch another glimpse of them perched in the branches of the pines. We’ll see what happens; this gets filed along with the two other significant hawk-related sitings—the migratory kettle in, what, 2010? And last January’s close encounter in the Turkey yard. What beautiful birds they are.

* According to Helen MacDonald in "H is for Hawk," this comes from the root of 'third,' as the male hawk is a third smaller than the female hawk.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Willful Ignorance

Ever since sometime around fourth grade, maybe (when the Commonwealth of Virginia mandated that we be taught the History and Geography of the Commonwealth, and Miss Carver, bless her reactionary heart, executed that mandate), my mind and spirit have been drawn to those low dusky ranges to our west.

From a dozen or so strategic vantage points in the outer suburbs, you can cast your eye westward—there's a feeling I get when I look to the west—and see them undulate along the horizon from gap to ridge, the measure of detail depending on exactly where you are looking from. Regardless, whenever the opportunity presents itself I will at least glance towards those modest mountains, and remember countless days spent hiking and exploring the long wooded spine of Virginia.

So it was with a certain amount of chagrin that only within the last year or so I have had to confront my own willful ignorance of the true nature of Northern Virginia's geology and geography.

What I have viewed so wistfully on so many occasions from the outer suburbs, more often than not, is in fact Bull Run Mountain. Technically the easternmost constituent of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Bull Run Mountain is the southern extension of the Catoctin Mountains, which run northward through Maryland towards Pennsylvania, and peter out and die towards the south around New Baltimore, Virginia.

What I recall hiking on and exploring is the Blue Ridge proper, that broader, longer and taller range some twenty or thirty miles farther towards the west across the rolling Piedmont. Bull Run, Blue Ridge, Massanutten, Alleghenies. While Bull Run Mountain comes and goes in a short distance, the main process of the Blue Ridge extends more or less uninterrupted from Alabama to the Maritimes before diving beneath the waves and heading towards Iceland. It is that range that carries the Appalachian Trail, that hosts Shenandoah National Park, and that accretes so many things of beauty along its forest-draped flanks and hollows.

I was forced to confront my willful ignorance when we started regularly traveling the flank of Bull Run Mountain, and I began to recognize it as an entity in its own right with its own charm and distinctive nature. I also had to try and understand exactly how my brain had managed to willfully ignore the countless times I crossed that twenty of thirty miles of rolling valley without mentally acknowledging the two different sets of mountains. Amusingly, I am fairly certain that of all the places and times I have hiked and explored, exactly one was on Bull Run Mountain, it was short, it was utterly unremarkable and it is now almost completely forgotten.

 I laugh to myself now when I look westward. My new understanding of the true nature of gently rolling Virginia doesn't materially change the feeling it gives me to look towards the mountains. In fact, it increases my appreciation, now that I know it in greater, more honest, detail without abridgement or elision. It still makes me happy to look out and see Bull Run Mountain, knowing that just behind it, somewhat obscured by the turn of the earth's surface, lie what I always used to think I was seeing.

Never too old to learn, never too old to recover from a mistake.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Will it never end?

Twenty-eight degrees this morning, a biting wind from the northwest, and snow on the mountains. But then there's finally the smell of hot dust as the new furnace kicks in. What a relief.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Cutting class, leaving campus...not just for kids.

Today was just too nice a day to be stuck at school, eating a perfectly cromulent and pricey free lunch in a corporate-style conference center restaurant. So the moment the morning session ended, without hesitation I ducked out and fired Beast up for a trip down memory lane—the best use of a lunch break I could imagine.

It was brisk out, and I admit to not being fully ATGATT-compliant, but whaddaya gonna do when you're short for time and long on get-outta-dodge? I revisited one of my absolute favorite local rides from when we still lived in the burbs, and it was delightful to see I was not the only motorcyclist to have the idea; the joint was filthy with us. I remembered amazing amounts of details about the road; I was accurately anticipating what was over the next hill or around the next bend more often than not. There were forsythia bushes in bloom and tons of other signs of spring everywhere. Couldn't have asked for nicer riding weather either—brisk, blustery, bright warm sun and clear blue skies, gusty winds toying with me.

I thought I had thirty-five minutes (turns out I actually had fifty minutes) so I did a truncated route instead of giving the road its due. I got back inside with two minutes in change and had time to park my helmet in the classroom before the next event, a droning and soporific presentation that began fifteen minutes (=12 miles, more or less) late. Oh well. I sat in the front row to force myself to stay awake and pay attention, and it mostly almost worked, sort of. But I do think the rest of the day went better for getting out and getting the rust off instead of staying in for lunch. It was a centering exercise, and I felt more 'at one' while riding than I ever get the chance to experience while simply commuting.

I expect this may be habit forming, and maybe I can eventually coax some of my companions to join me. That might just be fun.

Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31st, 2014

Yesterday we had white-out conditions in the northern end of the county, with fierce winds blowing snow sideways. This morning, the mountains have as much snow visible on them as they have had all winter. The air is thirty-eight degrees, with brutal blustery winds, yet it feels balmy in contrast to what we have come to expect. It is the last day of March.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 27th

Today is March 27th. It was eleven degrees this morning and there was still five inches of snow on the ground in places. There was not a clear track on the road out; much of it was still ice. In December I was already lamenting the length and depth of the winter; had I known...

On the plus side, a brilliant Venus rose next to a crescent moon in the early dawn. It was beautiful.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saint Patrick's Eve

The day slowly clogged with increasing grayness below a thick shroud of clouds. Like all Sundays in recent memory, the warmth peaked midday and slowly dwindled with each passing moment to a meager, flinty chill. Around sundown, the promised snow began. Anticipating the coming morning’s troubles, we drove the car up the long lane and up to where the roads would be passable come daylight. As we climbed the hill, a furtive motion caught Mary’s eye.

In the corner of the field, separated from us by the tree line and a narrow ditch, a defiant red fox, looking as large as a German Shepherd, stood above the bloody carcass of a newborn lamb. It froze in place, staring at us motionless until we drove on.

When we returned on foot down the lane, snowflakes swirling about us and sticking to our clothes, the fox still remained. Unflinching, it stared us down again, bloody scraps of flesh in its jaws, steam issuing from its mouth. Then it turned away from us, dragging its bounty through the cover of the freshly-fallen snow as darkness closed in.

The world is a hard place.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Close Encounters...

It was nose-hair freezing this morning when I went out in my long underwear and slippers to warm up the car—about six below.
I stepped out onto the porch, and something in the turkey pen caught my eye. The birds were milling around as they usually do when it first starts to get light and they see one of us come outside, hoping that maybe we're bringing breakfast and warm water. But one of them was hunched down on the roost all alone, looking small and haggard and bedraggled and pathetic. We had been keeping the guineas inside the shed during the bitter cold, and I was worried that maybe the extreme cold had stressed one of them past the point of no return.

But it wasn't a guinea. I looked at it, and it looked up at me. It was a Red-Tailed Hawk. On the turkey roost all by itself. Inside the netted turkey pen.

The milling about wasn't because I had come outside; it was because THERE WAS A FRIGGIN RED-TAILED HAWK SITTING ON THE TURKEY ROOST.

I went back inside, dropped the car keys, called to Mary to grab the camera, her coat and the fireplace gloves, and hustle outside ASAP.

When I came back outside (still in long underwear and slippers, mind you) the hawk took off and immediately flew into the net roof; he hung there briefly, then dropped to the ground, regained his footing, and flew to another roost in the distant end of the pen. The commotion his passage created among the pen's residents was remarkable for its intensity and fervor.

I snatched the bird net—a long-handled fisherman's landing net with the net bag shortened by half, which I had just gotten a couple of weeks ago to make guinea wrangling a little easier. I went into the pen, and slowly approached the hawk on the roost, looking it directly in its brilliant dark eyes and talking to it quietly the whole time.

 As I got closer, it went into full threat-display mode*, beak agape, eyes filled with rage, and wings held up and spread. It held this posture, never breaking eye contact, even as I slowly lowered the net over it on the roost. It actually rotated backwards, sliding off the roost until it hung by one ebony talon upside-down, never altering it defiant display. It dropped gently onto its back, and I held it to he ground supine, while Mary brought the foundry gloves over.

Holding the landing net down with one hand, I slipped the gloves on one at a time, then slowly reached under the net to secure both of the hawk's shins in my left hand. We never broke eye contact (the eyes are right next to the supremely daunting looking pointy bits), and once I had a firm grasp of its legs, I lifted the net away. (When you have them by the shins, their hearts and minds will follow). I expected a flurry of flapping and struggling, but it never altered its posture a whit; wings spread defiantly, beak agape yet never striking.

It seemed strangely frozen, and perhaps it was exhausted and frightened; if it had misunderestimated the resolve of the turkeys, it may have had a rough time of it before I showed up and intervened. But there was no obvious evidence of a bird-on-bird struggle, and no one on either team showed any overt signs of damage.

Mary took a few pictures of the magnificent bird, and I walked it slowly into the back yard, where I had no option but to place it on the ground on its back, wings still spread wide. It
would not look away from me and would not turn its back on me; it lay inverted until I had been inside the house for half a minute. Then it righted itself, and in one swift and balletic motion, took to the air and swooped down the yard and away into the frosty pre-dawn forest.

*At that very instant, I realized that in my whole life I had never realized that the Great Seal of the United States  presents the eagle in a 'threat display' posture. That's not exactly flattering, is it?