Saturday, September 25, 2010

Conspiracy theory? I think not.

Today, as I was lying on my bed recuperating from a hard morning in the garden, I was struck by an online news article that sounded very odd. The headlines read, "Squirrel to blame for power outage." 

So, I'm thinking, "Really?" Visions of a fluffy-tailed rodent in a ski mask, dressed in black, slinking stealthily into the substation fill my brain. Tiny black gloves holding a miniature flashlight sweep the light beam across the room, making sure the coast is clear. Deciding which piece of critical equipment he can damage to affect the most power customers will take cunning expertise.

This got me questioning the whole idea of blame being placed on a rodent with the brain the size of a walnut. So, I did a little research. First, I found out a little more on their habits: "In the summer squirrels are most active two to three hours after sunrise, then they'll rest in the afternoon (no doubt planning their devious power-grid-stopping scheme). Resuming activity again two hours before sunset (to carry out said plans with precision-accuracy). The squirrel will retire to its nest well before dark,  and will rarely leave the nest in the dark (to further establish their alibis)". Yes, the parenthetical comments are mine, but read on.

Next, I thought maybe my imagination was getting a little out of hand so I decided to verify the credibility of this news article. What I discovered was shocking. In fact, the, um, facts were so overwhelming that I had to create an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of them all. What I discovered was that in the past nine days, in 10 different states and two Canadian Provinces, squirrels were responsible for power-outages affecting 56,530 people! Many of these occurrences even happened on the same day!

What I think we have here is an organized conspiracy among the order "Rodentia". These little guys are planning complex strategies to inconvenience thousands of humans, no doubt in order to deliver a little payback for the invention and deployment of "squirrel-proof" bird feeders. Sales of these feeders has increased every year. It is all in the facts.

Of course, a lot of these squirrel missions are fatal to the perpetrator. Yes, now they are little hairy martyrs for their followers. And how many followers are there? "There are over 365 species of squirrels in seven families."  I think this means that there are about one hundred billion. And this isn't the worst of it!  A squirrel's teeth grow continuously...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A raging war of might


I have a phobia. Spiders. Okay, it isn't the worst thing to be afraid of, and it isn't as though my whole life is dysfunctional around this disabling affliction, unlike someone else I know. But, yes, arachnophobia has ahold of me by its eight tiny little legs.

This fear of mine manifests itself in a couple of ways. Firstly, if there is a spider in the room, I can spot it. Chip in the paint? No, a spider. Dirt clod in the corner? No, a spider. My eyes are instantly riveted to the slow moving spot on the wall until a) I leave the room, or b) it is dead. Secondly, it produces in me such a rush of adrenalin that my brain ceases to function properly. While my brain is screaming random thoughts, the rest of my body cannot remember what it is supposed to do and motor skills flail and jerk in a frenzy of activity.

One night, deep in slumber, my daughter gently whispered in my ear, "Mom, there is a spider in my room." Instantly awake with my eyelids snapping to attention, I leapt out of bed, confused and dazed.

"What? What is the matter?" I asked, brain struggling to process the steps it needed to become fully conscious but hindered by the creeping sensation that it was awoken by something that had to do with a lot of articulated legs.

"There is a spider in my room, on the wall," my daughter repeats slowly and clearly, sensitive of my affliction. Oh, My Dear Lord. I stumbled across the hall and paused in her doorway. Gazing across her room strewn with clothing, books, and stuffed animals, I stood rooted to the carpeting.  There was only about one square foot of clear flooring surrounded by 99 square feet of spider-harboring habitat. And there, on the wall, at the foot of her bed was a 5 inch black, hairy, cane spider. I was transfixed with terror.

We both stood for a moment. Finally, my daughter looked in my panic-sticken face and said, "what should we do?"

Even though I knew that my role was to be one of hero, all I could think about was how I could seal her room off from mine. In the end, a pesticide bomb was placed in her room (she slept elsewhere) with a towel efficiently tucked under the door so that we all wouldn't perish along with the spider. It was found the next day, to confirm the kill, and everyone was happy.

I'm not proud of my selfish fears, but those who know me accept that this is who I am. But woe to the spider who crosses my path. Expect a fearsome end; this is a battle of the fittest. I may not be as agile, but I'm a hell of a lot bigger and I've got hysterical, adrenaline-fed reactions on my side.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Self taught genius?

This morning I ran into an acquaintance of mine at the grocery store. I politely inquired as to how her son was doing and she lamented that he couldn't find a job in the field that he was interested in; Fish & Game.

She explained that he was "self-taught", which in layman's terms means that he didn't go on to college. And there just weren't any jobs available that didn't involve an internship or some other stretch of time that equated to working without an income purely to enhance and validate your experience.

This got me thinking. It seems that gone are the specialized jobs that do not require extensive schooling. To even get a vocational job (a.k.a. Blue Collar) one has to get an Associate's Degree or some special credentials certifying that you have learned what needs to be learned.  Passing down specialized knowledge through generations of family is slowly ceasing to exist as technological innovation whizzes by at blinding speed; making the aforementioned historical gems obsolete before they even leave grandpa's lips.

On the other hand, this same technology is now available right at your fingertips. It is easier, now more than ever, to become a self-taught genius. Just Google it! You can be an expert at anything from quantum physics, to unplugging whatever is preventing your windshield wiper fluid from squirting onto your windshield. Just don't count on getting a job in your area of newfound expertise... there are plenty of other "professionals" out there and increasing by each click of the keyboard.

Take me, for example. I decided to become a bonsai expert. "This should be easy", I thought. "All the information I need is at my disposal", I mused. Two short years later, I realized I am still missing one critical element to make the desired miniature outcome: talent. Yes, you can be self-taught, and you can even be a genius. But if the talent isn't there, all you are is informed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Out With The Old

Why is it that when we are ten, we can sleep on the floor and stay up all night at slumber parties? But when we are 52, we need back-supported, ultra plush, mega pillow-topped, form-fitting mattresses before we enjoy a solid night of blissful sleep?  According to M. Alter, the main reason we become less flexible as we get older is a result of certain changes that take place in our connective tissues. As we age, our bodies gradually dehydrate to some extent. It is believed that "stretching stimulates the production or retention of lubricants between the connective tissue fibers, thus preventing the formation of adhesions." In other words, as we age, we become shriveled old prunes.

That is why, last week, I bought a new bed. Oh, there were warning signs that my torture-contraption-bed-of-pain (TCBP) was the cause of my rapidly debilitating back ache. Twice I had to stay at hotels where my spinal pain mysteriously and gratefully disappeared after only one night. After my last trip to the mainland (where I luxuriated in a king-size bed of wonder and comfort) I returned to find that after only two nights back on my TCBP, I was crippled with pain and could not even stand upright. I was shuffling around like my 95 year old grandmother, unable to reach the upper shelves in my kitchen or walk without my face contorted with pain.

First, I went to the "mattress store" where I thought that at least I could lie down on the sample beds to take them for a "test drive". Much to my horror, the price tag of $1,200 was not for the entire bedroom set (headboard, footboard, mattress, boxspring, and side table). No, this was the sale price of the mattress alone! Yowzers! The saleswomen patiently explained to me the nuances of mattress shopping and the importance of the spring count. All I felt was the cold plastic on my bare legs and no pillow under my head. Not an overall great experience for my body or my pocketbook.

So, I took the course of least resistance and went to Costco where I could supply myself with a matching mattress and boxpring of high quality that even had an extra bit of "memory foam" to aid in my peaceful slumber.

Now, I am all tucked in on top of my 14" mattress, the old bed is waiting for it's next victim in the guest room, the bunk-bed is waiting in the wings to provide ongoing convenience and joy to some future Craig's List parents, and everyone is happy.  Except for maybe the extortionists who run the mattress store downtown.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The not so soothing sound of silence

Ah, the peaceful night-time comfort sounds of cows bellowing, cats fighting, dogs barking, roosters crowing, and crickets, uh, cricketing, once again soothe me into gentle slumber. The wind rustling in the swaying palms is a gentle symphony. It is Mother Nature's White Noise and it shouts with clarity and volume in my neck of the woods.

Recently, while visiting family in Oregon, I was lying in bed wondering why I couldn't fall asleep. Ah! It was too quiet. I slid out of bed and crept to the window, opening it wide, expecting the unleash the nightsounds into the confines of my bedroom. Alas, the only comforting noise I heard was the distant clackity clack of a train rumbling through town, followed by the blast of the horn echoing eerily across the lake. But after it had passed...silence.

It made me realize that I didn't appreciate what I had at home. Something that could distract my brain from the continual and persistent ringing in my ears that has afflicted me for going on 30 years. 

The theme song from an ancient TV show keeps rattling about my head: Green acres is the place for me, farm livin' is the life for me. Country spreadin' out so far and wide. Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside". I can still picture Eddy Albert and Ava Gabor in their dilapidated farm house...

Okay, I may not be completely a country girl. I only want to hear the animals, not take care of them or smell them. I barely keep my houseplants alive. But there is something extremely comforting about letting those nature sounds lull you to sleep at night. It makes you more a part of it, more in tune with it. So, good night, Bessie. Sorry your udder is full or your little calf has been taken away from you, or perhaps you need a mate. In any case, thank you for the midnight serenade!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bring on the New

I've been busy today playing a new game I like to call "Catching the Water Flying in Through the Windows".

My 86 year old mother lives in a house that is 71 years old (only three owners), and last week she decided that it was time to paint it. Okay, this is a good decision. She is contemplating selling it and it is looking a little war-torn due to recent neglect. 

However, due to the fact that most of the windows are single glaze, multi-paned, and made during the Great Depression, they let in as much of the elements as they do light. So, as you can imagine, when 3,500 psi of water is directed at them in a frenzy of cleaning energy, a fair bit of that nasty, dirty, spider-laden slush comes shooting through to the inside. And I was there to catch it.

You can picture it: I am mouthing to the handy-man outside on the precariously stretched ladder, "stick to one window at a time!" But he is thinking, naturally, that it would be better to spray from the top of the set of windows to the bottom, back and forth, with an inserted wiggle of up and down. What this means to me is that I am frantically trying to match his movements pushing rags up against the windows to stop the deluge, simultaneously trying to dodge the bits of gunk flying toward me. A bit like that hit-the-mole-with-a-mallet game at arcades, but slightly messier.  And only he has the raincoat and waders on...

Everything is beautiful now and, to his credit, he did a thorough job. No wet masses of pine-needles or soggy plant matter litter the yard or walkways.  Just a clean house sparkling in the summer sun waiting for a fresh coat of paint.

And, on the inside, every window shines clear again. Years of cobwebs have been wiped away, spider poop and dust now only a memory. Reflecting on the day, I sit and ponder the expression that I hear so often, "They sure don't make things like they used to" and wonder, "What the hell?"  It's a good thing!