Thursday, 31 May 2012


  The world has become too complacent for its own good. Surprise. There may be more than one area where this is true, but I can only point at the falling sky in one place at a time. Right now it is your lawn and garden. You are in grave danger from a sneak attack.

   In the past I may have outraged some of the ancestors of the new enemy. Once I even fantasized about a revenge attack from them but I thought it was all impossible until a few days ago. They have come to deliver a nightmare. Probably in violation of the Geneva Convention or some other set of regulations the foe has attacked someone very close to me. I could have tolerated a similar onslaught against me but it is clearly against the rules of feuding to take it outside of the families involved.

   All I can do, aside from intensifying my efforts, is to warn you. Perhaps in doing so I can enlist your aid in trying to wipe out the whole slimy lot of the bad guys, along with fire ants, cockroaches and mice. This is our target.

    If I polled any group of people as to whether these things bite, my result would lean heavily toward laughter at even the thought of the possibility. Guess who is having the last laugh. In fact, they can kill a dog with one bite. They can make humans quite uncomfortable. Given a few hours, they can sneak up on you and wreak havoc.

   These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now … no, wait .. that one was used up back in 1776, but you get the idea. We must join together and face down evil

   Before you enter the fray you must, like me, fortify your home and property against the certain counter-attack. I’m building a six inch high copper wall around the whole place. Inside that will be a six inch deep beer moat. The latter may require my hiring a security guard to control other types of pests but it will be worth it to know my family is safe.

   I warned you about your pets. To be a little more specific, some slugs carry lungworms which may enter your dog’s body though the wound and make him stop wagging his tail … forever. They too must be protected. I wash mine down in salt water every day now. While salt does not necessarily kill slugs they do avoid it. The dog is not much fonder of the new procedure, but he hasn’t bitten anyone I like yet and I’d rather face him down than a slug.  One of those has bitten someone I like. Here is pictorial proof.
   How far this war may escalate, I’m not sure. The slug, along with its cousin the snail (which also bites) is a gastropod mollusk. That puts them in cahoots with clams, oysters, mussels and such. Proactively I am going to increase the frequency of appearance of those guys on my dinner table, and not as guests. Escargot is another story. I’ll leave that to the French and the idiots, which may or may not be distinctive groups.

   Aside from moving to the Sahara or Arizona you are going to have a hard time ignoring this one. There are places that do not have slugs and those that do not have snails. Those that have neither have cactus, poisonous snakes or, worse yet, camels. They will soon be full of refugees from this conflagration too.

   For the rest of the story, you’ll have to wait for the end of this conflict. History will be interpreted, as always, by the victors. Whether this one will be written in ink or slime remains to be determined.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Building a Better Mouse Trap

    If you have never heard some version of “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” You are … well … young, and aren’t reading this blog either. When is the world going to stop escalating the war against small rodents?

   There are other good questions too. “How do you unload the damned thing?”, “How much of your personal economy are you going to involve in wiping out a source of amusement?” and “What if I fail?” are three that come to mind. I’m not prepared to offer answers to your own problems but I do have a few thoughts or I wouldn’t be sitting here using up my valuable time. I’d be out on another mouse hunt.

   If I put up a likely collection of effective tools on the table, like maybe these:

You would probably just end up breaking furniture and making repairmen wealthy. Of course there is a chance that a mouse or two might laugh himself to death.

    What we need is some thinking outside the box, and I don’t mean one of these:

   It’s time for the good old American ingenuity, the kind of thing that has gotten us through world wars and filled our houses with things we don’t really need. I’ve brought along a good sized bag of that. It was on sale and I had a couple of extra dollars that day.  
First of all, we must understand the enemy

and consider some of the things that have failed to bring him to his knees in the past. Here are some of the collections of weak attempts that haven’t wiped out the rodent population yet.


  In my house the average mouse is about four inches long, not counting the tail. I know because I have seen plenty of them. Oddly a lot of them were floating in a bucket of water I left outside the back door, preventing me from trapping them. They don’t all play fair.

   They run, but not very fast. They zig and zag just enough to cause me to have flat feet after years of trying to stomp them out of existence. They don’t really bite or scratch aggressively, unless you pick one up, (still working on better lines in hopes of doing that) and they lack the talents of a skunk or an armadillo in the unusual defense department. The only thing they really have going for them is multiplication. It seems to work.

    Of note, things other than traps have been tried but they have not solved MY mouse problem. I refuse to spend money on an electronic gadget that says right up front that it doesn’t do anything detectable by humans. I suspect they are merely collection of obsolete computer parts that have been soldered together in an impressive manner that don’t really do anything, detectable or not.

    Mom won’t let me play with poisons or explosives. I think they might work, or at least be a lot of fun. I’ll never know. I’m still searching for that guy with the magic flute but secretly believe that, if I find him, his music will sound like acid rock or heavy metal. I’m not looking very hard. Most recently the experts have discovered that mice don’t like mint. I suppose all I have to do is entirely enclose my house in a giant mint flavored garbage bag but I’ll have to work out the entrance and egress problem that might be as difficult as inventing the perfect trap. I suspect within a generation or two they will acquire a taste for mint anyway. 

   Once I do discover the perfect trap, I’m going to sit on it until I need a couple of million bucks, kind of like the automobile companies are sitting on the perfect engine that goes a thousand miles on a drop of water.

   We also know what they subsist on. They will chew up and make a nest out of anything valuable and not stored in a lead box surrounded by a very short electrified barbed wire fence. As for food, the preference is anything that is convertible into tiny black turds.

   Common sense says we should be able to use what we know about them against them. Unfortunately, mice don’t have much common sense and don’t want any. They avoid such traps. Just south of 5000 patents to get the job done are on record.  

Of course there is one open source thing we KNOW works

which is pretty much the benchmark for building a better mouse trap. If you get one though, you will have merely exchanged one small furry pest for a larger one.

In the end, I suspect the only reason we really need a better mouse trap is an ego thing. We are not quite ready to admit that we will probably go extinct before they do

Friday, 11 May 2012

Mothers and Bricks

   There is one of those motivational or inspirational things, maybe both, running around the internet right now. It tells a touching story and is worth forwarding elsewhere but it makes one slight mistake. It asks me to send it on to seven friends, making the assumption that I have seven of those. As happy as I almost was, now I am crushed by the reminder.

    The story is of a man who is driving his expensive car through a neighborhood, carefully but a bit fast.  Suddenly a brick comes flying out of nowhere, putting a decent sized dent in his precious car door. After stopping and getting out he is able to catch the boy who did it (mainly because he is not running).

    Crying, the boy apologizes and tells him that it was the only way he could think of to make someone stop and help with him with his brother who has fallen out of his wheelchair and is too heavy for him to help back into it.

   The story goes on to remind us that God has given us special things and loves us all of the time. It comes back to the start of the parable, reminding us not to go through life so fast that He has to throw a brick at us to get our attention.

    It’s a good story and is worth passing on. Kind of makes me wish I had seven friends. Instead I am reminded that, on at least one day of the year, I do need that slowing down thing. That day is Mother’s day, this coming Sunday as I post this.
    The brick only leaves a mark when Mom isn’t there anymore to say “Happy Mother’s Day” to. Of course she’s always there, but she won’t always be there in a way that allows you to hug or kiss her, according to what your family custom is. Sometimes it is just a quiet little thank-you.
      Before you get hit in the side of the heart with that brick, make sure you slow down and take a little time to appreciate the gift you have been given. Make it a special day for her. Everybody has his or her own definition of that. Make sure yours includes both a verbal thank-you and some demonstration of one. It’s rare that a few words and some flowers and maybe even a breakfast are going to be enough for you in hindsight. Don’t let yourself regret that ‘last year’ you could have done a bit more and ‘this year’ she is not here. Pay attention to that little parable I led off with.

    The thing about moms is that they are not going to remind you that you could have done better. You’ll do it for them. Any little thing you do on that day is enough. They know that you care. The person that is going to stone you is yourself. A careful but quick trip through the neighborhood is not enough.

    If I sat you down with a sheet of paper and asked you to write a list of the ten best things Mom ever did for you, you would, or should, have a hard time narrowing it down. Now, write a list of the ten best things you have done for her on Mother’s day. List is a little harder to complete for most of you, isn’t it. Work on improving it starting this Sunday.

   If like mine, yours has already passed away, take the same time and effort to do something nice for someone in her memory. Make it worthy of being on that second list. She’s watching. I know she is. I mean I really know she is. She’ll appreciate it as much as anything she ever got from you along with a kiss or the flowers or the breakfast. There will come the day when she tells you that.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Importance of Having Periods

   I could have titled this “The Importance of the Comma”, or “The
Importance of the Apostrophe”, or perhaps even the ‘The
Importance of the Colon”. Usually ‘”The Importance of the Colon” attracts only small audiences and questionable celebration parties. The period gets right to the point and is so … so … so final. Yes, it is once again National Punctuation Month.

  To demonstrate the need for good punctuation, I’ll continue the rest of this blog without using any. I’ll pile up the unused hardware below and you can slip them back into place where they belong if it’ll make it any easier to read. Hell, I’ll even throw in a few extra commas in case you like to over-punctuate.

…………………………,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,’   ' ' “”””()

   When I was younger periods were much more important than anything else Each one put an end to a thought Over the years they became less and less of a concern almost always showing up when they were supposed to sort of ascthetically Im sixty-four years old now and rarely think about them anymore
    I noticed that there were a lot of times when a period wasnt there and a question mark took its place Those would usually cause me to think Since that was not always a situation I wanted to be in I avoided them whenever possible but inevitably they were around
       Commas can really help when used properly For instance The cowboy enjoyed the tryst with his boots on the floor and The cowboy enjoyed the tryst with his boots on the floor can convey very different thoughts Inserted properly the comma can prevent some embarrassment later
       Colons and Semi-colons are a good alternative to commas but require a little wider understanding For that reason many people dont use them very often If you are interested in the colon I am sure there are entire books out there that go much deeper into them than I am going to
    As you progress you may want exclamation points to emphasize feeling or thought While there are some places where they are inappropriate for me it was always rewarding to find the right places to for them
    Slash and back slash not nearly as popular before computers always reminded me of a trek through the jungle Together they are one method for separating the bush and making a clear path for the prize the trophy
    The dollar sign indicates an amount of money to pay for something There are often better alternatives like barter and begging that can eliminate the need for purchasing what you want For instance a good bottle of liquor sometimes even a cheap one or box of chocolates can be traded for something you want The dollar is a last resort
     Asterisks are used when you are not really sure what you want or how to clearly state it up front In my opinion they are a poor substitute and I seldom use oneThere is nothing really wrong with their doing so however and many people enjoy using them
   Though Ive never been to one a punctuation party might be just the thing for group exploration I’m not sure it would become a fad since many people would rather not display their shortcomings in group settings but I think it would be worth a try to host one You might even try a little game of punctuation swapping and see the differences that makes
   Good punctuation is clearly something that most people appreciate and this is the month to do it Really every month is good for that but it is nice to have one set aside like this where it is encouraged Practice practice practice and you will soon find better and better ways to do it Your efforts will make your work much more enjoyable for others