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Thursday, March 26, 2015


Any bird lover who attempts to feed his feathered friends will tell you squirrels are very smart.  Squirrels will always find the feed, and they will always find a way into the feeder. 

Bird lovers hang their feeder off tree limbs; squirrels find a way to slide, leap or climb their way into that feeder.  Feeders are set on poles far from a tree.  The squirrels climb the pole with ease.  Bird lovers grease the pole.  Squirrels climb the pole with ease.  Bird lovers put barriers on the poles, squirrels laugh at the barriers.  Bird lovers put barriers that slip, slide or tip when touched by a squirrel.  The squirrels figure it out on the second or third attempt.

Eventually most bird lovers grudgingly become squirrel lovers or at least squirrel appreciators.  Their skills, their tenacity, their acrobatics become part of the bird watching experience.  Every bird watcher will tell you that squirrels are very smart. 

Then why, I ask, can’t squirrels learn to cross a road?

I almost ran over a squirrel today.  He scampered across the road right in front of me.  He waited to cross until I was in his range and then he shot across.  He could have made it too, but just as he was almost clear of my front wheels, he stopped dead waiting to be stopped dead.  I was too quick for him this time.  I have run over squirrels in the past, I was ready for him to stop and disaster was averted.

So the question is, how is it a creature can be so clever, so inventive, and so skillfully able to circumvent every obstacle imaginable to find his way to an easy meal,  yet he is unable to cross a road?

Apparently the squirrels DNA has adapted to finding food over millions of years .  His existence pretty much demands that the squirrel be good at finding food.  The car and roads, are pretty new on the evolutionary scale.  Except for the last one-hundred years or so, the ability to cross a road has not been much of a factor in the survival of the squirrel species.  From the many carcasses I see along the road, squirrels are not particularly fast learners.

Fortunately for the squirrel many of their other natural predators, particularly in rural heavily road traveled areas, have been decimated, so the car is the squirrels main enemy.  Perhaps after a few more decades of the evolutionary process squirrels will learn that the best way to avoid their new enemy is to scamper like hell, not stop squat and freeze.  The stop, squat and freeze helps them hide from their traditional predators.  This tactic puts them in position to dart in a different direction to avoid capture; it is a very bad defense against several thousand pounds of fast moving steel.

Until new instincts are developed through the survival of the fittest process, it is incumbent on squirrel lovers to be prepared to stop short.*

In the mean time, for us bird lovers, at least the buzzards are thriving.

*Val isn't the only one that can slip in a Seinfeld reference. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Soap Dispenser Dish

The Soap Dispenser Dish
I try hard.  I really do, but Mrs. Cranky is a tough cookie.  I try to follow her rules, even when her rules make it clear that the logic train does not stop at her station.  It is not easy.  I have this thing about stuff making sense. 

Mrs. Cranky and I have differing opinions on the meaning of making sense.

I believe I have already posted on Mrs. C’s penchant for not snapping the cap on the dishwasher soap dispenser.  She prefers to leave it open.  I snap it shut out of force of habit and well I just think that if something has a cap, it should probably be used for the purpose I assume it was designed…covering an opening. 

Mrs. C thinks otherwise.

“I don’t see a need to have to unsnap the cover all the time, and I like to use the residue soap that is inside the cap, and well, just don’t close it!”

All aboard!  “Wait, wait for Mrs. Cranky! Damn!”

OK, so I don’t snap the cap anymore.  I know to choose my battles.

But then:

“Why do you always insist on not placing the soap dispenser on the soap dispenser dish?”

“You mean that thing that is slightly curved and the soap dispenser will not stand upright unless you carefully balance it and when it falls over, and it always falls over, soap gets on the counter because the cap is never snapped closed?”

“Yes!  Use the dish, because when you put it on the counter and not the dish, soap residue from the bottom of the dispenser gets on the counter.”

“No it doesn’t, because I wipe the bottom of the dispenser with a paper towel before I put it down.”

“That’s another thing, you use too many paper towels, and it is wasteful.”

“That is what paper towels are for.”

“You should use a sponge!”

“When you use a sponge it gets moldy and stinky.  Paper towels are for using and tossing, and if you keep changing the subject this is going to turn into a whole nother post.

If you’re going to insist on using the soap dispenser dish then we have to snap the cap on the soap dispenser;  one or the other!”

“Oh, I don’t think so, uncap and dish…both…end of discussion!”

“Jeez, and you call me a jerk.”

“I heard that!”

I try hard. I really do.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


One thing that is consistent about late March and early April weather in the northeast is its inconsistency.  Snow is common.  It is usually a wet, sloppy, and not a whole lot of fun snow.  It is often gone in a day.  For some reason, in the spring it will snow even when the temperature on the ground is above freezing.

It can also get really warm.

The warmest I remember was Easter Sunday 1972.  It was April 2, and the temperature rose to above 90 degrees, and this was before global warming. 

On this Easter, my wife and our one year old daughter visited my folks in Maryland.  We returned home to a not so wonderful surprise.  It was hot, but the heat was not the problem, well indirectly I guess it was.  Inside, our home  was crawling with little flying bugs.  They were on the ceiling, they were on the walls.  They were trying to get out. 


This was our first house, we had moved in maybe six months earlier.  In the 1970’s termite inspection was not required on the sale of a home.  If it had been, the inspector would have seen hundreds of mud tunnels that came from the outside, ran under the shingles, and were all over and inside the cement crawl space.

We vacuumed the crawling termites up over and over; they kept coming from the crawl space for an hour.  My wife was quite a trooper and though she was upset, she remained relatively calm.  

The scariest thing was in a powder room on the lower level of this split level home.  There was a termite mud tunnel heading straight up in the air.  It was heading for the toilet which had a wooden seat.  I’m sure this was a coincidence, if not it is pretty scary how persistent these critters can be.

We called an exterminator, and the house was treated for about $300, cheap by today’s standards, a monthly mortgage payment at the time.  As we were living paycheck to paycheck it was rather painful.

The bad news was the termites were in the house structure.  The good news was these “Jersey” termites swarm every two years, and two years is not long enough for them to do any serious structural damage.  The other good news was that the $300 treatment would kill them all.

I did learn a lot for my $300.  I learned that there are termites all over New Jersey.  If you drive a wooden stake in the ground anywhere in New Jersey, termites will find it. I learned they require moisture and must have contact with the ground, which is why they build tunnels.  Sunlight will kill termites.  They swarm on the first warm day of spring with the intent to form new colonies.  Almost all will die before they find suitable soil and wood for sustenance.

The best way to keep termites out of the house is to not allow any wood to be in contact with soil.  Then you should periodically check for mud tunnels outside on your concrete or stone foundation.  The termites will build these mud tunnels to reach the wood in a structure.

It is a plus that in New Jersey; you can no longer sell a house without an exterminator certifying the dwelling is clear of termites or carpenter ants. 

The negative I have found is exterminators will ALWAYS find signs of infestation.  If they so much as see a carpenter ant on the property, or a hunk of termite ridden wood in the yard, they will claim infestation and treat the house for a sizable sum.

There is not a yard in New Jersey that does not at least have a carpenter ant or two crawling around.