Cold Spring Road

I was going to title this entry ‘cold fish sandwich’ because that’s what I am eating while I write it. I would prefer that it was a hot fish sandwich, but these are leftovers from last night’s dinner and I am hesitant to put it in the microwave, as I have found that fish doesn’t reconstitute favorably that way.

Cold Fish Sandwich

Cold Fish Sandwich

As I am sure everyone has noticed, warm weather is slow in coming this year. It truly is a cold spring. But it is spring nonetheless and for that we should be grateful…and patient. No, the temperature is not what we would like it to be. But 50 degrees, plus or minus, is still better than either side of 30.

The trees sure don’t have an issue, as anyone allergic to them can attest to. My friggin’ allergies arrived right on time and are hanging around, just to underscore the effect.

But a cold spring, extended version or not, isn’t all that bad. Keep in mind that with the sudden onslaught of warm weather comes with it and equal eruption of undesirable insects – flying, biting, stinging, chewing, crawling, molting, pupating, cocooning and/or otherwise. And who couldn’t use a break from that nuisance while our bodies are adjusting to the warmth?

The sun is shining (when its not cloudy and raining), the spring peepers are peeping (longer than usual) and the a**hole brown wasps are slow to make their nests. Enjoy!

Sooner than later, when the warm weather settles in, people will start complaining that the temperature is too hot, their arm pits are fluid, their asses are swampy and they don’t need to salt their food as much, because the sweat on their upper lip takes care of that.

I say put on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, open a cold beer and stfu.

We all know how fleeting summer can be.


Toxic Birdies

I usually spend one day per week at the manufacturing plant for the company I work for. The plant is located in Newark, NJ, a city notorious for, among other things, pollution and toxicity. The plant is unnervingly close to one of the flight paths of Newark International Aeropuerta. As it turns out, the ancient creek that runs through the middle of the plant is a Superfund site – none of which are good for the health of any living thing.

The plant itself manufactures chemicals in the form of liquids and powders, mostly by combining other chemical liquids and powders (‘better living through chemistry’). As in any manufacturing process, a certain amount of product gets into the surrounding ecosystem (if you can call the area around a chemical plant such) through spills, dust clouds, exhaust pipes, etc.

Now, let’s not get the wrong idea here. Modern society needs chemicals of all sorts and what better place to manufacture these substances than in the industrial section of an industrial city? Keep it all in one place, I say. It just seems like a good plan.

In addition to all of that is the jet engine exhaust constantly blanketing the entire area from above, like the polar opposite of ‘mana from Heaven’. So, the bushes, trees and grasses, the litter on the ground, the very dirt itself, is contaminated with one sort of poison or another.

But Nature always finds a way. Trees, plants and grasses grow all around. So does a certain cross section of animal life. You can tell they are not the healthiest specimens of their kind, but they have eked out an existence for themselves.

There is a small gathering of house sparrows (Passer domesticus) that live in and around the plant. Not enough to call a flock, they tend to be in small groups. They seem happy enough, always chirping, flying around, eating seeds and bugs, crapping on car windshields and doing whatever else it is that small birds do.

Because they have small brains (bird-brains), they have no clue that everything they eat, touch, drink and nest in has some level of chemical in it – toxic or otherwise. Not that they have much choice in the matter or could do much about it. They are truly a product of their environment. Thus, by extrapolation (and exposure), they are toxic themselves.

Toxic birdies.

There are other creatures in the area – cats, rats, mice and bugs – that crawl around at ground level, absorbing whatever chemical du juor is present. Some of those creatures eat the toxic birdies and thus are toxic themselves.

So the toxic bugs eat the toxic leaves of the toxic trees. Then the toxic birdies come along and eat the toxic bugs and toxic seeds and every so often die (of toxicity). Then the toxic rat and/or mouse comes along and eats the toxic carcass of the the expired toxic birdie, after which the toxic feral cat with the one eye and malformed tail catches and eats the toxic rat, then takes a toxic crap that gets infested with toxic maggots that turn into toxic flies that the toxic birdie eats.

A vicious (and toxic) cycle, indeed.


RAT Traps

Costs about a dollar

I was hanging at the bar the other day, staring mindlessly at the television, because there wasn’t much else to look at. The Three Stooges were on. Although not a huge Stooges fan, I know they are good comedy. At some point in the act, one of them gets a hand (foot, face, ass, whatever) snapped in a rat trap, or two.

Not a mouse trap, a RAT trap.

RAT traps. Oh, yes, RAT traps. The device that launched my youthful trapping career.

For the uninitiated, a rat trap is soooo much more than an over-sized mouse trap. The Stooges don’t give them the respect they deserve. Respect that is earned by working with, toiling over and making critical errors in judgement with them. Whereas a mouse trap closing on your fingers will wake your ass up, post-haste, and maybe sting a little, a RAT trap could well break a couple digits.

 

Notice how big, as compared to the thumb

Notice how big, as compared to the thumb

Just setting the damned thing alerts you that you are working with something that can cause some serious injury. The torsion on the spring needs to be dealt with as you crank back the breaker bar, hold it down while you flip the arm over and latch it on the small trigger that is cut on the pedal. (Remember to bait FIRST, set SECOND).

There are some very pensive seconds while you carefully, carefully pull your fingers back and hope the trap doesn’t decide to snap of its own accord. Which happens, occasionally.

It’s all in the technique. You hold the base of the trap in the palm of your hand and work the bar back with the other hand, latching it with the thumb of the first hand. Set the trigger with the free hand and Viola! Done. And safe.

The difference between a mouse trap and a RAT trap is most notably scale. That, and the damage done, not to the rodent du jour, but to your less than nimble and/or impaired, trap-setting fingers.

It’s like the difference between a mouse and a RAT. A mouse, for the most part, can be dealt with, or not, depending on the pressing matters of the day. They are usually nothing more than annoying.

RATS are dangerous, pestilence carrying, scaly-tailed, beady-eyed, sludge-dwelling, gutter varmints that bite. They need to be dealt with immediately, permanently and with extreme prejudice, preferably with FIRE or HOT LEAD (if aforementioned options can be responsibly deployed, which is usually not the case).

Step in the Victor RAT trap.

Build a better mouse (RAT) trap, and the world will beat a path to your door?

Why bother? The one’s we have work pretty damn good.

mouseratcomp


Flies…Flies!

Flies!

Flies!

Flies piss me off.

Sure, vicious green-heads and biting flies certainly top the list, as do the demon spawn black flies of the north woods. A cloud of gnats circling my head is most unwelcome. I would be hard pressed to put one above the other on my shitake list, sharing space, as they do, with the detested mosquito.

But so do house flies and mostly when they are in my house.

I have noted through careful (and sometimes altered) observation that outdoor aerial insect activity commences at about 40 degrees F (4.4 degrees Celcius/277.6 degrees Kelvin). Below that temperature their internal insect juices are too cold and viscous for flight, sort of like cheap hydraulic fluid or that grease the corner bodega cooks their french fries in.

At about that temperature, and usually in a beam of sunshine, the cold weather fliers come out. The cold weather flies are not nuisance flies. They are some kind of flight enabled insect or bug that doesn’t fly around my head endlessly. They seem to mostly be concerned only with their flight, which in the insect world is mostly about having sex. I would think eating might be high on their list, but there isn’t a whole lot around to eat at 40 degrees, so sex it is.

Motherfarking houseflies, however, re-animate at a higher temperature. Somewhere around 70 degrees or so (21.1C/294.3 K). I have noticed that it is a few degrees higher than their nuisence-mates, the detested stinkbug. Stinkbugs become active around 68 degrees, plus or minus.

'Sup?

‘Sup?

How could I possibly know such details about this shitake, you ask? Because my home was infested with stinkbugs at one time, then another. I normally keep the heat down to a miserly 62 (16.6 C/289.8 K) when the family is gone and bring it up to 68 at night. At this temperature very few, if any, stinkbugs make an appearance.

Oh, but put on a pot of water for pasta or fire up a couple of burners for side dishes and kitchen temperatures climb to a balmy 70 or so. Before you can say ‘grab a can of Raid’ there is one, then another, banging into the lights, bouncing off of the ceiling and disrupting the cadence of meal preparation. Who the fark knows where they come from, but they must squeeze out of the woodwork or something.

Flies, on the other hand, need a few more degrees and need it to hold at that temperature for a while. That is why they seem to come out during a warm spell, or at the end of winter.

At first only a few hearty souls come around. Plump, and/or hairy and capable of hunkering down somewhere in the house for the duration of the cold weather. Large enough to escape cobwebs or fend off the soft, easy-living household arachnid.

Some are small, nimble and require little in the way of sustenance to carry through the off season. Others obviously are living off accumulated fat and looking more or less like a small bumblebee.

Fortunately, the early emergent flies are a little slower than their mid- or late season brethren and thus are somewhat more susceptible to strikes, swats and flicks with fingers. And good thing, too. But they are an welcomed reminder of what is to come. Just the fact that I have to endure the curious buzzing of a early emergent housefly during meal preparation, or libation blending pisses me off.

The other day I cracked a small fly with a tea towel. The cat gave me a curious look, so I cracked the towel at him (just to keep him sharp) and flicked the expired fly carcass into his food dish as a warning against any future non-verbal comments.


A PSA from Mother Nature

Pleasant weather? Wait for it.

Weather watching is a part time hobby of mine. I like to study the movements of the jet stream, paths of storms, El Nino and his jealous sister, la Nina, which phase the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Icelandic low are in, how much of the great lakes are frozen over the course of winter, as well as other factors that all tie in together to produce our weather patterns. Yes, I consult the Farmer’s Almanac, as a guideline. I watch several different news and weather channels (and that is the extent of my television, unless there is a Pink Floyd documentary on).

I put no stock, whatsoever, in Groundhogs (they are usually wrong).

In weather, rarely is anything absolute. There are too many factors involved. Patterns are present, but these patterns are often so spread out over time that they go unnoticed by most.

I am also moved to predict, on or about Groundhog Day each year, how much longer we will be locked in the grips of frozen slop. This year I purposely avoided making said prediction because I didn’t have much to go on. The ground was frozen, and had been for months. There was heavy snow cover and few days of full sun, even fewer days above freezing. I didn’t see any of the natural signs I look for.

So when we hit a week straight of 40’s with a foray into the high 50’s in early March, I was surprised. Then again, I have seen long, cold, snowy winters before and recalled that they tended to break more sooner than later.

On my way back from the store last Sunday, I looked across a sun lit copse of trees alongside the highway. Sure enough, I saw buds pushing on quite a few trees. Not much, but enough to change the look of the tree tops from dead sticks to sort of fuzzy. Sort of.

Then rain, and a lot of it. Warm rain from the south. This is exactly the kind of thing that obliterates the snow and causes the emergence of spring peepers.

But not this time.

Small of body, big of voice

Small fog, loud peep(er)

Spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer, proper) are the harbinger of Spring for me. Folk lore says that if you hear peepers 3 nights in a row freezing weather is done with. For the most part, that seems to hold true. I listen carefully for their heralding chorus at this time of the year. So far, they have been silent.

Forecasts call for another week of 40’s and, although not the best temperature for frolicking out-of-doors, it still equates to melt. The snow cover is retreating quickly, exposing flattened shrubbery and landscaping that was compressed by mounds snow and ice for upwards of two months straight. At least they were shielded from the bitter cold.

Filthy mounds of snow, diminishing like glaciers with black lung disease, expose long forgotten items that didn’t escape the onslaught.

As I write this, we have come out the other side of another relatively warm rain system from the south. But the temperatures have dropped back down into the 30′ and the peepers have not made an appearance.

Sit tight, folks.


Groundhog Day 2015

Bite me!

Bite me!

It would seem that at least one groundhog had enough of being dragged out of hibernation and forced into making a prediction on the arrival of Spring. Some ‘town father’ (asshat) up in Wisconsin leaned in to hear what the fat weasel had to say for itself and promptly got bitten on the ear.

Score one for the rodent.

The mayor, clutching his damaged lobe, then proclaimed that Spring would be early this year. Keep in mind this is in Wisconsin, a northern-most state with the (mostly frozen) Lake Michigan snuggling up on its right side and Lake Superior giving it a headbutt.

Closer to home, Punxsutawney Phil, Pennsylvania’s celebrity ground weasel, indicated that there would be six more weeks of winter. In my backyard, there were no woodchuck sightings (and there damn well better not be).

So, in my own style, let me say a few things to the mayor (I realize that you may be hard of hearing, but I will refrain from using CAPS).

  • ¬†We don’t ‘listen’ to the groundhog. He predicts of his own accord.
  • If Pennsylvania is predicting six more weeks of winter, Wisconsin will certainly experience at least the same, if not more.
  • Spring will always arrive between the 20 and 22 of March, regardless of what your resident weasel-chuck predicts. Nothing short of a catastrophic asteroid strike on the earth will change that.
  • Don’t put your fat head near the fat rodent. He is every bit as grumpy as you would be if woken up from a peaceful slumber.

That will be all.


Rodents are like squash

A pile of friggin' squash

A pile of friggin’ squash

As is well documented here, rodents are not highly regarded. Not that they should be. After all, their gnawing, nesting, crawling around in dark places, pestilence carrying and general squeaky chitter-chatter are not endearing.

And let’s not get started on that tail.

On the hierarchical scale of things, rodents occupy the base levels. Somewhat above bugs; flying, stinging or otherwise, but quite lower than, say, a cute puppy or a furry kitten. Even a squawking bird is a rung or two higher.

Rodents are the mammalian equivalent of squash – they have their place in the grand scheme of things, but you would reach for a potato or the creamed spinach long before the roasted spaghetti squash.

One can easily see why rodents take the brunt of human dislike. No one wants a rodent around anymore than they want a steaming plate of poached pumpkin or baked Hubbard squash on the dinner table.

Rodents, just like pumpkins, squash or gourds, make great targets. I can recall several times when the Birdcrew would purchase a few select sized pumpkins specifically for that purpose. Squash holds up quite well to marble strikes, bullets and arrows. You can use them over and over again. When you’re done, you can smash them, thus getting out some inner aggression, or you can throw them into the fire. Few people (that I know of) would have a problem with either a squash or a rodent being on the receiving end of a projectile.

Just like squash, rodents are filled with yucky stuff. And they tend to linger – like that pumpkin that you leave on the front porch around Halloween. It slowly deflates into a leaking compost display until it needs to be picked up with a snow shovel. That, or you can wait until a hard freeze then chisel it off the step.

The mouse whacked by the trap in the garage will stay there until it starts to smell, or the wife screeches about it. By then it will be somewhat less plump than when it was first discovered.

Seems like there is always a rodent poking around somewhere – the mouse in the garage, the groundhog under the shed, chipmunks in the shrubbery, moles, voles and shrews in the backyard.

Rodents and squash come in all sorts of varieties. The better to fool you with. Acorn, butternut, Hubbard, turban, spaghetti, goose neck, pumpkin, green, yellow, summer, winter – all squash.

Rats, mice, squirrels, woodchucks, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, chipmunks, moles, voles, shrews, capybara – all rodents.

Can a squash kill a rodent? I think so. If you were to hit a mouse with, say, a 2 lb. butternut squash, I’d bet you would smoke it but good.


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