One Nervous Tick

It is not often that a blog opportunity just drops into my lap.  I by that I mean literally drops into my lap!  In case you did not get the chance to read my last post, I had my Macro glass out taking pictures of some metal shavings that were wrecking havoc on my whirlpool faucets.  As it turns out, during the afternoon before that picture was taken I was out working in the woods trying to clean up the brush from last year’s Operation Parkify.  I came in and decided to get the images created for the post (trust me, that steps takes far longer than the actual post text takes).  I finally got the camera, Macro glass and tripod all set up next to computer desk in order to capture the metal shavings.  As I was checking something on my computer I noticed something strange on wrist.  On closer investigation a controlled (and very manly) eeeesh was emitted.  Now, snakes do not bother me much, spiders fascinate me and bees/wasps will live another day unless they make a stupid decision to annoy me.  What does slightly raise the blood pressure is this!

I am not sure exactly what causes this concern, but it is likely due to the fact they are CREEPY looking and very difficult to actually kill.  Scratch that [hehehe clever pun], they are actually very easy to kill when you are trying to remove them once they have bedded down in the skin.

Based on some literature I read (actually, my brother may have given me the reference for it sometime back), ticks supposedly do not violate the prey until a number of hours after it lands on the host.  And yes, land is the appropriate verb since contrary to a common city dweller opinion, they do not have the ability to fly forcing them to fall from trees and such on their victims.  Needless to say, there was no way this Macro opportunity was going untested.  For some reason, (let’s call him) Vlad did not want to cooperate with the artiiiiist.  No problems, a quick reach for some paper provided a means to move it into the camera zone.  Vlad must have had a flashback of kids trying to burn its legs off with a magnifying glass because he did not want to sit still under the lens (what, you never did that when you were a kid? how about smacking lightening bugs with a Wiffle ball bat?  tearing wings off of flies?  nevermind 8^).  Anyway, the tight aperture of the Macro was not liking the movement with the low depth of field.

As you can see, the front legs and body are in focus, but the top legs were likely moving and past the depth of field.  Keep in mind this particular beast is all of 7mm long.  By my guess we are about 8x-9x magnification with this Macro shot.  Now, am I crazy or is this image not on the same level as demon spawn CLOWNS?  This was a trick question since nothing is in the same league as CLOWNS, but the jury will accept any comparison to moles or our current Congress members.

The annoying thing about Vlad and his species is how hard they are to see in the woods.  Having perfectly adapted to their natural surroundings, they are basically invisible to the naked eye when lurking between the tree bark and their feather weight raises no concerns when they successfully invade your personal space.  The stain on my computer desk is a little lighter than the hues in the woods, but you can see how it starts to blend in better (compared to the yellow paper in the background above)

The odd thing about ticks around here is they tend to attack a certain member of the family far more than the others.  In fact, that member does not even have to leave the house to get them.  If one of the others are out in the woods and forget to properly check their clothes when then come back in, it is a sure thing one of Vlad’s cousins will seek that member out and start feasting.  That member happens to be Rizzi, our youngest toy poodle.  Why you ask?  Well, he happens to be bright white and this is like streetlights to moths.  I can’t count the number of times we have had to pull ticks of him – once even on his eyebrow.  We do treat him regularly to help prevent this, but these sneaky pests always find a way past the defenses.

In closing, here are a couple super zoomed pictures.  Vlad wouldn’t keep still for a even a second so a lot of the detail shots came out a tad blurry.  This particular shot shows the tiny hairs along the bloody colored legs – try getting this image out of your head come bedtime, worse yet the new associations you will have with CLOWNS hehehehe.

I wish the shot came out better, but here is one of the tip of the foot.  It looks like a tiny scalpel.

Probably so it can dig into the flesh when it goes to bury its head deep into the epidermis to start sucking that juicy red nectar.  I am betting you just developed a phantom itch 8^)

Sweet dreams everyone!

Precious Metals

Fresh off a four comment post (WOOT!), I figured it was time to get a service/product post out of the way.  That and it was a great opportunity to get the Macro glass back out.  Needless to say, this Macro realm is going to take some time to get adjusted too.  Thinking at this point, it is all about the tripod/monopod and possibly the wireless shutter or at worst case the old stand by shutter timer.  Honestly, easy hobbies bore me and this one looks like it will give me a lifetime of enjoyment.

You are probably wondering why there appears to be metal shavings hanging out on the left.  Could it be some colossal metal sculpture depicting the evolution of life from the moment of conception to the point they put you back in the ground (stare at awhile from bottom up, you’ll get what I mean and it will forever haunt you every time you see this picture)?  Maybe it is some civil war relics dug up during our trip out east a couple of years ago or perhaps simply some metal shavings that ended up costing me some green bills?  I’ll let you ponder that for a couple of minutes if nothing else to let you shake out some bad imagery.  If you picked ‘A’, I have some things I’d like to sell you.  If instead you immediately deduced this was a post about service and therefore selected option ‘C’ then pat yourself on the back.  These shavings are actually fingertip small and cost me about $100.  A number of weeks back, my wife decided to enjoy the whirlpool after a long agility show day.  Once filled, she tried to turn off the water but a small stream of cold water remained.  For the most part I’ve gain some proficiency in the carpentry thing, the brick/cement thing, basic mechanics and even wiring when the need arises.  There are two things I am definitely not good at – one being natural gas and the other being plumbing.  When I originally built my house, everything was electric because I could likely fix anything that went wrong and it didn’t have the threat of blowing up my house (note, since then the genset has been installed crushing my no gas plan).

So now it is late on a Sunday and we are staring at a stream of water destined to drain the well if left unresolved too long.  After some brain things inside my head, it occurred to me that it was not a crisis since I could simply close the shut-offs to the whirlpool and get it addressed before her next use.  This plan was relevant for about 5 minutes until a quick run downstairs brought awareness to the fact there were NO shutoffs on the whirlpool.  Couple that discovery with the fact there is a fully tiled elevated skirting along the two open sides of the whirlpool and you have some major suckage happening.  Last chance was to take off the Delta faucets and see if there was a washer I could temporarily tighten down to at least stop the flow.  Any guesses how that idea panned out…you’re right.  With no other options, I killed the main well shutoff and planned to open it up just long enough for our morning showers while we hunted down someone to fix it.  Lucking out, when we turned the water back on, the faucet was no longer leaking so we left the water on, got a hold of someone recommended by one of the builders we still talk to and tested our patience until that Friday when he could make it over to correct the situation.  I should point out, the job included fixing the leaks and putting in the missing shut off valves in case it ever happened again.  Long story short, the plumber successfully put the shut offs in and then started working on the faucet leaks.  Adding to my limited knowledge of plumbing, Delta now uses a cartridge concept which simply pulls out for easy replacement.  There is a spring that sits on top to engage the cartridge which allows the water to flow or more importantly shuts it off when the handles are turned.  The plumber pulls out the cartridge puts a new one in and has me turn the water back on.  Ack!  water still does not shut off.  Intrigued, the plumber turned the water back off, removed the cartridge and started probing into the faucet base.  Pretty soon he pulls out a few of the metal pieces above.  The odd thing he notices is that they appeared galvanized and thus was unsure of where they would have originated from.  Problem solved, faucet replaced and the water turned back on… not so fast… still leaks… water back off.  The faucet was removed again and sure enough more metal shavings and now the rest of them are in the tube having navigated their way through the rest of the innards.  This second attempt did the trick and the faucet officially works now.

I am still left wondering why those shavings ended up there.  I highly doubt it was luck of the draw from debris that made it in to the piping during the build phase over 3 years ago.  What is more believable is faulty faucet workmanship.  The assumption being the metal shavings were part of the faucet manufacturing process and they simply broke off over time.  I do not have the time to verify if there are galvanized components inside the faucet, but in any case, these little shavings cost me over $100.  That amount of money for the weight of those shavings put it in company with some pretty precious metals, however, it was putting at jeopardy the most precious commodity there is out in the country… WATER 8^)

By George, Is that Racism?

Any chance you have seen The Sixth Sense (and for the record, The Sexy Sixth Sense doesn’t count and you know who you are 8^)?  I only bring this particular question up because that is one of the few movies that caught me by surprise at the end.  I usually figure out plot twists early on in movies, which believe me, is mainly due to dumb scripts and not any self proclamation of my deduction skills.  This particular movie pulled it off and caused a pleasant jolt to the system when it happened.  As it turns out, a similar jolt occurred yesterday evening.  A friend of mine (aka gamer tag Pakage) had his large screen TV go on the fritz and I was helping him get it to American in order see if they could fix it.  During the drive across town, we were discussing their policy on repairs – for the curious, it is 70 bucks to look at it and if you decide to get it fixed, they apply that money to the repair bill.  Against my best defenses, some commercials had recently made their way through my defenses.  This I will blame on my wife or the remote being more than 10 feet away and I was too exhausted to make the reach.  One of those commercials was the new Sharp Quattron offering – this being a supposed revolution in TV visuals based on adding a fourth color to the standard 3 color RGB channels.  George Takei (okay, for you non-nerds, that would be Sulu from Star Trek) was hired by Sharp to pimp this new technology.  George proceeds to tell us how much better this new breakthrough is allowing everyone to experience colors never before seen on TV.  Of course, we are then subjected to George’s alternative lifestyle flare “Oh My” statement which is sure to alienate a segment of the marketspace.  I on the other hand wound not consider purchasing it on the grounds it is being endorsed by someone related to Star Trek (note to marketers – this includes any cast member … think Priceline).  Anyway, I was busy explaining this to my friend when he stopped me and asked “What did you say they added?”  Noting the inquisitive tone, I restated that they had added “a yellow channel to the standard red green blue”.  He started chuckling and it then the jolt hit.  Figure it out yet… no problem, I’ll wait a bit.. [Jeopardy Jingle] .. pens down please.  Let me put it together for greater emphasis.   Sharp added a yellow channel and picked Takei to market it.  Somehow this had went completely unnoticed when I was watching the commercial.  Contrast that with my friend Pak (his real name revealing his Korean heritage) noticed this IMMEDIATELY.  Internal questions immediately followed.  Did Sharp miss this connection?  Did they do it intentionally? Does it seem odd there is not a Liberal outcry?  and the last two interesting introspections “Am I a racist because it didn’t disturb me when I first saw it? .. or .. does this mean I am not racist because I didn’t put two and two together?  I personally do not see myself as negatively influenced by race (note to readers, SOCIALISM is not a race).  I think part of that feeling is I have had the pleasure of having close friends and interacting with others of different backgrounds, different preferences and from all parts of the world.  Now when it comes to Talpidae.. yeah, I hate them and their entire ancestry.

By the way, we actually went to check one of these TVs out while we were there – turns out they are not available and according to the salesman there, Mitsubishi has been 4 channeling it for some time now.  It also looks like there are a lot of discussions floating around the web whether this even provides any value unless the origins of the signal are still in 3 channel mode.  To be honest, it doesn’t really matter to me since I have no interest in replacing my current TVs – oh, and this goes for the stupid 3D TVs they are trying to push on consumers now.  Sure they are cool, but I spent $3K to not  have to wear glasses, why would I want to start wearing them again.. especially when I am trying to relax.

In summary, I am not sure if Sharp intentionally did this marketing blunder, but in these days of Code of Conducts, it is all about perceptions.  In my opinion, this was NOT a very Sharp decision.

Now, We’re On MY TIME … Here is YOUR Bill

I’m definitely getting some mileage out of that clock frame (recognize it?).  Anyway, this particular post deals with a situation that occurred a couple of days ago.  It isn’t often I have so many post possibilities just dropping in my lap – probably have material for next month’s quota already.  Unfortunately, this topic was not actually a good experience.  Some of you already know this observation per a lunchtime conversation, but I’ll go ahead and set the stage for the teeming millions out there who haven’t heard it yet.

My wife is cursed with cysts that grow from time to time on her scalp.  This appears to be a hereditary thing and very thankful my family side is normal.. I mean… don’t have to experience these lumpy annoyances.  Finally deciding it was time to remove the one on the top of her forehead (just into the hairline), Linda made an appointment with our doctor to get it removed.  The “our” part of that is fairly loose since I am constantly trying to convince myself to find someone else, but Linda has been with him for a long time and wants to stay with him.  One of the main reasons I have about had it with him is his inability to keep a schedule.  It is not uncommon to run an hour or so behind schedule (uncommon should probably be more like every time).  One of the reasons for this is the amount of time he spends with his patients.  He’ll actually take the time to hear all your concerns, symptoms, make sure you understand the prescriptions etc.  This is the part Linda likes and the honestly the part I can do without.  Me: Throat hurts, look down it, tell me if strep, if so give meds, goodbye.   Since this can take hours to get through, I tend to just go to a close prompt care and get it over with.  Over the years, I have a pretty good idea of when something isn’t right and when it is important enough to seek professional attention (which is rare beyond the muscular/tendon injuries from athletics in which case I have the local ortho-surgeons on speed dial).  I also strongly believe that spending any time in a waiting room puts you at about 500% more likely to catch something WORSE that what you came in to have looked at.  Thus the irksome schedule problem complaint and when you are fine but taking your wife it… I think you get the picture.  Let me get back on track.  Linda’s appointment was at 4:30pm.  Do to myself having an MRI on a knee the day before, I wanted to get a few things done to get caught back up at work.  This took me until 3:32, so I literally ran to my car and made the 30 minute trek home to pick her up.  I raced into the driveway, spent a minute dropping myself off and was back on the road for the 30 minute trek to the doctor’s office – oh, the country life!  For the record, we walked into the waiting room at 4:37pm (yes, I made sure I checked).  There were about 5 or 6 other patients in the room waiting to see the same doctor.

Quiz Time!  Take a guess as to what time Linda’s name was called to go through the waiting room door to begin the second wait cycle in the room?  longer… nope, longer…  guess again… give up?  Answer: at 7:30pm they called her name.

I am guessing for the record, I will be dead in about a week from the number of germs that permeated my defenses over that long of a period.  Thank god for the iTouch and endless games of Bejeweled and the latest Ann Coulter audio book.  the wait wasn’t without its interesting observations.  I had the opportunity to listen to two old ladies critic every article in the latest People magazine – they were visibly appalled by a nose ring being worn by one of the article subjects.  Then something strange started happening that I have yet to figure out a reasonable explanation – your comments are welcome.  The order of the events is a little sketchy because of fading in and out of wait hell, but near as can be strung together between Linda and I:

  • Two older ladies (they were together) finally get called to go to the exam room
  • Apparently something had happened earlier and a 20-something woman enters the waiting room, goes up to the check in desk and says “Another nurse told me to come back here”
  • Not sure when, but she ends up on the exam room side of the waiting room doors
  • All of a sudden I hear a commotion, the 20-something woman flies out of the exam room area, traverses through the waiting room area and slams open the entry door and storms out.  (note, it seemed to me she was dressed like a nurse, but Linda is unable to confirm)
  • A couple of minutes later, the head nurse comes out and proceeds to start hurriedly walking after her
  • Then the two old ladies come back out and apparently the older one is being sent directly to the emergency room.  (oops forgot, they were commenting on the fact this lady looked a little pale before she headed back to the room)
  • As they were making their way out of the waiting room, the doctor comes out and helps them get on their way and informs them he already has a room waiting for them at the hospital and to simply go to the emergency room to get checked in.
  • Then all hell starts breaking loose
  • A security guard ends up coming into the waiting room and proceeds back to the exam room area
  • About 10 minutes later he leaves, but as he passes through the exit door, I hear the doctor call out his name and a somewhere down the hall another door opens and the next thing I see is the doctor pass the doorway heading towards the security guard.
  • By this time, our stomachs were growling in pain so I (as the male) went off to kill us something for food.  Let me tell you, I kicked and kicked that vending machine until it coughed up something for us to eat.
  • As I was walking back past the catwalk I look out and there is our doctor, the security guard and the upset lady arguing in the middle of the parking lot.
  • By this time it was a quest to see when this lump was going to be set free and no way was I going to reschedule and start the wait cycle over.

Eventually, they called Linda’s name (as previously noted, at 7:30pm), about 8:05, the doctor comes out and informs me that it was successfully removed, but had difficulty working around all her hair (which he was envious of) and put three stitches in it.  He also informed me that it looked like a standard cyst and therefore wasn’t going to bother to have it tested (I was in agreement).  About 15 minutes later, Linda comes out looking like a Zombie Mole had gotten to her brains.  There was a significant amount of blood and iodine embedded in her hair from the procedure and thinking it was going to bother me to look at, had spent time trying to wash it out in the sink.  We continue to argue about this, but for the official record, it’s the NEEDLES that bother me, not so much the blood …. unless it is mine in which case I am convinced I need every single drop of my own blood and tend to get a little anxious when it happens to be pouring out of me like a leaky drain.

So that’s the story folks – a 4 hour doctor appointment, old people complaining about the stylish choices of the younger generation, a crazy woman apparently wronged in some manner and a Zombie Mole attack.  The only thing left is to write up a bill for MY time to submit to the doctor for costing me an entire night of working on the bridge.

Snap, Digging Days are Over

Playtime is over my little demon claws.  In general, I am pretty lenient on the local wildlife.  As stated previously, I pretty much walked into their backyard, dug a hole and slapped a house on it and called it mine.  In payment for this land grab, I tend to let the wildlife have free run of the area.  This includes the deer who destroyed all my new evergreens I planted last year, the squirrels who constantly attack my bird feeders and the raccoons who like to dig up my mulch.  Sure, I’ll shoo them away, but they generally have the privilege of returning to the waiting paws/hoofs of their four legged companions.  However, I still have my limits.

Take for example the owner of this:

Do you have any idea how much damage this clawed paw can do?  In case you are new to this creature,  imagine if you will spending hour after hour after hour toiling away in the sun and rain to make your dwelling look as scenic as possible.  You spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars in materials and equipment to keep it in that shape for the 3 of the 4 seasons.  Then one day you wake up and it looks like the Chicago Bears held a scrimmage in your yard.   I maintain less than 2 acres of grass/landscaping of our 15.  The rest are left in their semi-natural woods state that animals are more than welcome to frolic in.  But no, the owner of this bastard appendage thinks he should be able to do whatever it wants wherever it wants:

Well, I have my limits and fortunately there are geniuses out in the free world (which is currently turning socialist, but that topic is for another time) that have studied this demon, learned their wicked ways and designed the most effective (and lethal) device to exact our revenge.  First a direct disclaimer, if you are a fan of PETA prepare to cry yourself to sleep (of course you can always ask your president to send another email to the Middle East asking them to using something other than donkeys to blow up our soldiers – nope, I haven’t forgotten nor ever will).

So what happens when my blood boils over, when my leniency is abused, when my hard work is destroyed without a hint of remorse.  Well, let me tell you, it makes a loud SNAPPING sound…. wait for it… wait for it..

This one (let’s call him Mort) isn’t going to make it home tonight.  Why isn’t Mort feeling so well anymore?  Answer: Mort decided it would be fun to shred my front yard and is suspected of tearing up my side and back yard as well.  I am also not talking about a single tunnel from one part of the woods to another.  No, this was a systematic and diabolical effort that essentially resulted in raised ground in every square foot of the impacted area.  So now the barrage of .. your fault, you didn’t kill the grubs, you didn’t put this down, you didn’t put that down, they are so cute, they are god’s creatures too, you’re evil yada yada yada.

What do I have to say to those city dwellers?  Actually nothing, I prefer pictures instead:

Kind of peaceful isn’t it?  Just hanging there enjoying the pretty day, reflecting on all good things in life … wishing it had stayed in the 13 other acres of wooded bliss.  Oh, and as far as the “cute” camps out there.  Exactly what is cute about this beast.  Sure it is has a soft and fluffy pelt, but I have to think Mort was accidentally stepped on during Creation Day.  That is probably what flattened out the front paws so bad.  Couple that with a hideous rat face and you pretty much have your fill of nightmare fodder.  Still not buying it, try this:

Granted, if god is a mole, I am going to be experiencing the “real” global warming in the future.  However, for now, I am willing to take my chances and continue to battle against the horde.  One this is for sure, I will continue to use the most lethal tool in my arsenal.

To the makers of this trap, I raise my glass and salute.  You have truly mastered this animal in much the same way Raid has been owning the nervous system of wasps and bees.   Tonight I will lay my head on my pillow and dream of grass between my toes and vibrant greens surrounding my little dwelling.

Wait a minute!!!! did I remember Rule #2…….oh crap, I think I forgot the double tap…now I’ll have…

ZOMBIE MOLES!

Honey, get the 9 – it’s gonna be a long long night.

A Shot In The Face of Fear – Yep, I PANICKED

That, my friend, is the result of FEAR!

Linda and I were up an agility show in Wisconsin last weekend.  Part of the bribe to actually get me to go with her was the opportunity to head back to the Chain O Lakes Park in Spring Grove.  Well, that and the chance to stop at my favorite chocolate store in Richmond IL.  8+ hours of waiting around to watch my dogs run for a total of about 4 minutes each.  Yes, their chocolate is THAT  good – especially the dark chocolate covered pineapple- yum.  As a shout out to my littlest dog, congratulations to Kerby (and Linda) on making their TACH II Agility Title at the show.

When we made it to the park, we immediately spotted a couple of swans enjoying a swim.  After about 100 shots of them (blog foreshadowing), we packed up and started to head out of the park.  Less than a mile from the exit, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye.  On closer inspection, I still was not able to tell exactly what it was, but it was moving in the weeds and figured I’d just go have a look-see.  Linda double back and dropped me off while she tried to find a place to pull off.  My suspicions were confirmed, it was a Sandhill Crane walking in the fall weed stalks.

It was rather amazing how well it was actually camouflaged among the fall coloring.  Unfortunately, the red on the head allowed me to zero in on it once the movement was vectored.  If you recall, the last encounter with these large birds was from pretty far away on the Yellowstone trip.  Here, the distance was less than 40 feet away giving a better perspective on just how huge these birds are.  Not only was I fortunate to see this feathered beauty….

there was actually TWO of them.  Based by the coloring, it looks like a male and female, but I need to verify that with the field guides.  I was actually struggling to get the shots I wanted.  They were very aware of my presence and continued to walk back and forth and every once in awhile adding some distance.  As they did this, they would pass behind the weed stalks driving my glass autofocus nuts.  Manual focus did not help much either as they refused to stop in one spot for more than a second or two to check out something on the ground or shoot me a glaring eye.  I continued to try and close the distance to help alleviate the focus issue and both the mono and tripods were in the car – mental note, at least grab the mono the next time I rush off into the woods.

So, you are probably wondering about the whole PANIC thing.  Well, it eventually dawned on me that I really did not know anything about these birds I was openly stalking.  Couple that with the fact I was totally alone and nursing a badly torn lower quad so if they had any cheetah friends I was a gonner.   Hit the jump if you want to see what happened.

Continue reading A Shot In The Face of Fear – Yep, I PANICKED