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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Plan Your Trip To Guam After Spring, And Please Pack Plenty Of Tylenol (And Maybe A Helmet)

Readers, back in 2008, I made you this vow:  When there is a good animal vs. human story, I am all over it.  Proudly, I have never shrunk from this promise, nor have I ever shirked this responsibility.

Today, it is no different.  I am happy to say that Your Government, beset as it is by Gridlock and General Fussiness, is still able to maintain some sense of Priorities.  I am speaking, of course, of its Program For Dropping Toxic Mice Over Guam.

Hey!  Before you get yourself all in a self-righteous uproar, let me tell you why the Feds are flinging rodents around.  Trust me:  for you, and especially for me, it made a big difference in how I viewed this Enterprise.  It is in order to kill snakes.

See?  How can this not be a good thing?

(Personally, my phobia of snakes is so deep that I cannot even view them on television, in a magazine, or in any photograph.  When I once encountered one on a long-ago camping trip, I screamed, ran away, screamed again, took a breath, then screamed again.  Then I remembered why I had screamed, and screamed once more. I just now got hit with a wave of nausea, simply from recalling it.)

Anyway.

The brown tree snake, which can grow as long as ten feet, arrived in Guam from the South Pacific as stowaways on US military ships after WWII.  It infested the island and decimated local wildlife, especially some avian species.  It now even knocks out electrical power by slithering onto lines; it bites residents, especially sleeping children since it is nocturnal.  Their population is estimated to be approximately two million strong.  And growing.

So the US government, in the forms of the Dept. of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, Dept. of the Interior, and the Dept. of Defense came up with a plan.  They would take advantage of two idiosyncrasies of the brown snake:  one, it didn't mind eating already-dead prey and two, it is defenseless against acetaminophen.  So they loaded up some dead mice with generic Tylenol, grabbed a helicopter, and were ready to go.  But they had to make sure that the Mickey Mice (sorry, but really--no way to resist that!) didn't land on the ground.  They had to stay up in the canopy of the trees so that nothing else would eat them.  What to do, what to do...?

Aha!  Researchers "developed a flotation device with streamers designed to catch in the branches of the forest foliage, where the snakes live and feed."  Wonder what that looked like...

The Toxic Mouse Drop is set to begin in April or May.  And it isn't just Guam that is hoping for its success.  Three thousand miles away, another island, a more familiar Tourism Mecca is holding its breath.  That would be Hawaii.
 
Because just as the brown snakes found their way to Guam on the hold of a ship and ended up liking it so much they made their home there, these snakes could board a 747 or cargo plane to Hawaii and relocate. 
 





Oh, if only it were that easy, Samuel L.  If only!  Like Guam, Hawaii lacks natural predators of these motherf--, er...brown snakes to keep their numbers restrained.  One spokesperson for Hawaii's wildlife agencies complained that native Hawaiian birds "literally don't know what to do when they see a snake coming."  (They could try my method, outlined above, but I am doubtful it would save their lives.)  She became even more dire, "Once we get snakes here, we're never going to be able to fix the situation." 

So, I love this idea.  I think it's a winner all around.  We knock off some snakes, some mice, and we save some Tourism Havens.  We save some naive Hawaiian birds.  We boost the production of acetaminophen.  We give a few people a great ice breaker at parties:

Her:  So, what do you do?
Him:  I drop dead, Tylenol-filled mice wearing tutus out of a helicopter.
Her: (choking on a vodka tonic) You what?!
Him:  Yeah. It's true.
Her:  But why on earth...?
Him: So that the government wipes out brown snakes.
Her:  Er...which government?
Him:  Ours.  The US government.
Her:  Oh. I see.  (looks wildly around)
Him:  Yeah. We don't want them getting on planes and boats and stuff and going off to Hawaii.
Her:  Are you here with anyone?  Should someone be with you?

Oh, yeah.  Love it.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

In The Throes Of Winter's Discontent: SAD Is Making Me Crabby

Like the proud people at Maker's Mark distilleries, I was unwilling to dilute my content here at the Dept. just to satisfy demand.  Although it has been a long time between postings, and I know that I am retired and should be posting something far more often since I have loads of time and something to say about everything, I didn't want to throw any old thing together. 

Then I thought, Oh hell.  If I wait for something erudite or wonderful, it might be April before I hit Publish again.

So in my severe and advanced state of Seasonal Affective Disorder, I have brought together this Flotsam And Jetsam from my winter-numbed brain, encased as it is in polar fleece and cat hair. 

=*= How Hard Is It?  A few days ago, the Walgreens near me, which is astonishingly busy at all hours of the day, advertised this on its electronic sign:  WHOPPING COUGH SHOTS.  This is the same store that I called regularly to correct when it advertised DEODERANT.  You have the label!  Look at it! 

Similarly, the Catholic church has been running a recruiting ad in our area.  Sponsored by the diocese, it features a woman who has decided to return to the faith.  At the end of the ad, it had a graphic that included the phrase "at your Catholic CHRUCH."  That ad ran with that misspelled graphic for weeks.  I went to the website to contact them and tell them--as a polite and helpful person--but there was nowhere to do it.  The ad on the website had been corrected.  Eventually, it got corrected on air.  Boy, first the Catholics' proofreader quits, then the Pope. They can't catch a break!

=*= Will You Visit Me At The Home?  My sister Susan, my mom St. Patsy, and I had another game night Saturday night.  It was a marathon, and let me tell you why.  It's because we are old and pathetic women.  Naturally, we had to play THE GAME.  (Memory Game, the nostalgic wayback machine Susan bought for $50 on Ebay that is like Concentration.) Well, Susan, whose memory is sharp, was distracted because she had one teenager due home from work on a snowy night and the other at home entertaining two friends;  I have Menopause Mind and am working through a bit of stress at the moment; and St. Patsy is 82.5 and on some new pain meds for her hip.  St. Patsy turned over one, same card ON EVERY SINGLE TURN.  And she was surprised every single time.  I kept forgetting where one of a pair was as soon as it was turned back over.  Only Susan was drinking.  And she won.

=*= I Hope They Donate Their Bodies To Science.  While I was cowering under a fleece blanket in my fleece pants and fleece slippers, some yahoo on television was blathering about Cleveland winter weather.  All I heard was "blah blah blah Well, what do you expect in Cleveland in February?  But I love the snow!"  and then I picked up my space heater and heaved it at the tv.  Okay, so I didn't do that last part, but what I did do is start in on a rant about People Who Say They Love Snow (aka People Who Are Stupid/People Who Shouldn't Be Allowed To Speak Aloud/People Who Make Me Forget That I Am Against Assault Rifle Ownership).  People Who Love Snow are also These People, then:
1.  People Who Love Shovelling
2.  People Who Love Sitting In Traffic Due To Slippery/Snow-Covered Highways
3.  People Who Love Cleaning Off Snowy Windshields
4.  People Who Love Walking Like Penguins On Icy Surfaces
5.  People Who Love Hideous Looking Salt-Marked Cars, Shoes, Pants, Coats
6.  People Who Love Wearing Bulky Garments
7.  People Who Love Dry Skin And Hair
8.  People Who Love Chapped Lips
9.  People Who Love Getting Bundled Up To Simply Take Out Trash
10. People Who Are Sadists And Masochists, Obviously

I got spoiled last winter, The Winter That Never Was.  This year, I feel put-upon and ill-used.  And all those other negative, hyphenated adjectives.  And crabby!  Really, really crabby.  So, commiserate with me in Comments, and don't you dare try to Cheer Me Up.  Let's crank around first.  You know me:  Right now, I just need to wallow.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Easy Does It

Listen, I don't mean to get all philosophical on you or anything, but (and maybe you've already noticed this) Life Is Hard.  And I am all about Making Life Easier.  Oh, sure, Americans have taken this to ridiculous heights with things like spray cheese and vending machines that sell birth control, but there are several appliances that I have come to appreciate for making my life much comfier and less of a hassle.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1.  Snowblower.  When I was much younger and living at home, we kids had to do all of the shovelling.  My dad had a really bad back and four able-bodied kids.  Why shouldn't we have?  When I left home and eventually got a house as a wife and mom, Rick and I shovelled a lot.  So did the boys, under duress (once they got wise to the idea that it wasn't "fun").  Finally, we got sick of all of it and in 2005 we bought a snowblower.  Holy crap, was that one of The Best Days Of Our Lives (and one of The Smartest).  What used to take us forever now takes Rick about half an hour.  Oh, once in a while I go out there after a snow and shovel off the deck and a path to my car, and I clear off the front steps and walk for the mail lady.  But for the Big Job, I wait for Rick and the snowblower.  So wonderful.

2.  TV Remote.  Don't laugh.  I cannot be the only one who remembers The Old Days when there was no remote control, or at least a day when the remote got lost.  (There was one horrifying day here at the Dept. when all four of us had a debilitating flu, and no one could see the remote.  Not one person could move to look for it.  We were stuck watching PBS for about ten hours, including a terrifying period of Elmo on Sesame Street.)  I am almost daily amazed by the remote.  Volume, channel, TV Guide, go back to previous channel!  Set your sleep timer!  All from the comfort of my chair with a cat on my lap while playing Words with Friends against my almost-daughter Kait on my iPhone.  The only remote my parents ever had was, again, four kids.  "See what's on 3!  Bring me the TV Guide!  Go turn it down."  All while we sat the required three feet away so we didn't ruin our eyes.

3.  Mini-Chopper.  My mini-chopper came as an attachment to my hand blender, which I also love.  But I would miss my mini-chopper more if I lost it.  Need half an onion diced up?  In about ten seconds it can be done and tearlessly.  And if you needed a clove of garlic and a jalapeno, too, just put it in at the same time.  So convenient.  It has revolutionized and streamlined my guacamole production.  I've chopped up mushrooms for meatloaves and whizzed up overripe bananas for cakes and quickbreads.  Who wants to haul out a bigass Cuisinart all the time, or stand there and dice up everything?  And I'm not going to pay someone to do it for me by buying overpriced precut stuff at the store.

4.  In-the-Door Icemaker/Water Dispenser Combo.  Oh, I know.  This is the same contraption that viciously and supernaturally attacked me right before Christmas.  But it and its predecessor are terrific inventions.  How terrible and tedious is it to have to fill and refill ice cube trays?  How irritated and irate do you get when you find an empty tray in the freezer?  The icemaker eliminates all of that as well as the loss of skin on your fingers from them sticking to the frozen trays as you handle them.  I can just press my waterglass to the lever and the ice clamors into it. Then I move it over a bit, and a freshet of filtered water joins it.  So easy.  I am admonished by my medical professionals to stay hydrated.  This makes it a pleasure.  (When it is not looking to kill me.)

Modern Life, despite its advances, remains a challenge for all of us.  Computers own our very souls and SmartPhones have turned our society into a strange place where we are isolated, yet loudly sharing our lives with strangers. 

In spite of that, there are machines that improve our lives daily.  What are some of the appliances or overlooked machines which you now realize are the Heroes Of Your Life?

*image credit
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