Thursday, November 30, 2006

Psst, buddy, want a kestrel? Reader Alert: this post contains urine. Wait, that makes no sense, it's about urine.

If we could see UV would we be hungry or even more repulsed? In the type of coincidence that happens all the time in real life, but is so unbelievable in a blog, Sandra Tsing-Loh talked about vole pee recently during her science podcast from Caltech. Here's the transcript:
Pee Trail

Ever wonder how high-flying hunters like hawks spot their meals from so high in the sky? The mystery of Eagle Eyes has been solved, and it's....DIRTY.
At least for the common kestrel.

The kestrel's favorite food is the vole, a beak-watering cupcake-sized furball. They're like the Morton Salt girl. . . They leave a trail everywhere they go, to mark their territory.

A trail... of PEE.

Davide Csermely, from the University of Parma, Italy suspected the pee trail might come in handy to the hungry kestrel. See, piddle just happens to reflect ultraviolet light, and birds just happen to see UV.

To find out if kestrels see vole pee, Csermely released about 100 into an outdoor aviary with four different habitats: voles had tinkled in two; the others were sprinkled with water. Each was covered with a filter that either blocked UV or let it through.

The birds scanned pee-stained habitats the most, and focused on the one where UV was allowed to shine through.

Surprisingly, juveniles who'd never hunted were just as discerning as adults. Proves the birds are born with an eye for prey piddle.

Kestrel parents don't teach their young how or what to hunt, so being hardwired to tell vole urine from any old wet spot is critical...

And clever. As we like to say about kestrels: When it comes to vole pee, they're real whizzes.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why I became a Killer

From the Anchorage Daily News October 15, 2001

Inside, they can get into drawers, cupboards and other places you wouldn't imagine. Mice can jump straight up a good 12 inches. They can scale vertical surfaces if there's enough texture for a toehold. They can even swim.

Besides the droppings you can see, mice leave behind something you can't. It seems they have no bladder control. They ''go'' constantly, leaving a trail of urine across floors, countertops and cutting boards. This is how exterminators find them, using a black light to illuminate their travels and setting traps in the paths.

"Constant renunciation of temporal goods" is good for you

We saw Flushed Away a few weeks ago. A CG rat learns the value of friendship and of friends with ships. Then we watched Over the Hedge this weekend. A CG raccoon learns the value of friendship. In Cars, unsurprisingly, it's a car that learns that money can't happiness.

Jesus preached self denial and the futility of wealth. When he did, though, he was homeless and if not a drifter, then at least itinerant. Isn't it a little unseemly that the studios, run by some of the richest people in the world, are indoctrinating us in an unquestioning acceptance of our relative stations in life. To paraphrase Jonathon Edwards (the pop singer, not the "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" preacher) they've got cards they're not showing.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving Warmth Lasts All Weekend

Another cold day in this coldest November in sixteen years. I stayed warm wearing my new Sport Hill pants and underneath everything else, a thick layer of gravy.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Here's a line I'my trying out for the Christmas letter.
I've been spending a lot of time on my bike this year. Or money, you can write it either way since they're the same thing.


We ate so much yesterday that even the air seemed constricting. It's been so cold and dry that putting on my sweater is like wearing a Taser.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The sparkling cider forgotten on the porch to cool, exploded this evening. Since we have been eating for the last seven hours, it was inspiring.
I want to start collecting empty spaces.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Meeting Harry Potter

So, today I got home early enough to take my computer to the Mac store. The technician, a very young man from Bethel, waved his finger at the machine, muttered a spell, "Power Management Unit Reset" and sent us on our way.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Brother to the Wind

The wind was bitter today, and so was I. I don't know what the wind's problem was, but I had my reasons. First, of course, it was cold and windy.
But I was also suffused with a sense of futility left over from my long weekend. I had set some tasks for myself, but when I woke up Friday morning I was feeling queasy. By the afternoon, this feeling had intensified. It's enough to say that I eventually just curled back up in bed clutching a basin. By the way, it's not enough that the cat doesn't catch mice. When I got back in bed, "weak and weary", the cat snuggled up next to me and bit my arm.
Saturday, I was feeling well enough to move up to the recliner. Everyone went out, leaving me to my own devices (DVD player and cable remote).
Sunday, I felt well enough to tentatively begin my projects, but the power went off for several hours. There were two separate power failures in two separate neighborhoods, neighborhoods that have only one block in common. That's right.
When the power finally did come back on last night, my computer wouldn't; apparently the power supply was ruined.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Long Shadows at Noon

There's a proverb that when a short man casts a long shadow, the sun is about to set. Here, in the Northern Hemisphere,
we're about 5 weeks from the Winter Solstice and in Anchorage our shadows are pretty long all day. We have about 7 hours of daylight now and still have about an hour and a half of daylight to lose before the solstice. I would have waited to use this title until then, but I was pretty sure I wouldn't remember it by then. More on that later.*

I'm not sure that the rules for good writing have ever been codified and numbered, but I would guess that rule number 1 is make your theme universal; "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." See, it's about the universe.

High on the list, too, would be make your characters larger than life. Think Cyclops for example. Here's a slight digression (as if this blog wasn't just an extended digression, although from what?) In the translation I read (and be honest, don't you just love Golden Books?) Ulysses tells Cyclops he is No-man, and we know that No-man is an island.

*No, wait, rule number 1 is write about what you know. I have received comments asking me to dish on SRH, but I don't remember anything like that. She was always an angel.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

EEK, I am become death

So, it turns out we have more than one mouse. I hadn't planned on spending my leisure time devising ways kill mice stuck on glue traps, but that's how it looks. What a coarsening, soul-deadening and I'm afraid, monotonous job it's going to be, too. I wouldn't use glue traps at all if the quick snap traps (or more accurately, feeding stations) worked, but they don't. I don't know why OSHA is even designing mouse traps.
After crushing them , putting them in vacuum seal bags, or making them listen to talk radio, I'm going to run out of ideas, too. Hopefully, there won't be too many more mice and this project can be brought to a mercifully quick conclusion.
All of this avoids entirely the question of why we are killing mice in the first place. If we're going to start killing every animal that uses our house for a bathroom, then we can start with animals that are easier to catch. Ellie fits the caption of a cartoon I saw recently. "I may be housebent, but I'll never be housebroken."

Spoiler Alert

Spoiler Alert: This might be in the Christmas letter.

Karen has been volunteering with a friend at a disadvantaged elementary school. They have an after school Bible Club. It's the ancient struggle; saving children's souls from the prince of this world and trying to keep the other adults from eating all the cookies.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I have personally seen my wife confront a bear to rescue her dog, and I know for a certain fact that she stood up to a ravening pit bull to save her daughters, so I was shocked when she called me in tears at work today to tell me that we had caught a mouse on a glue trap. She and Bernie were huddled on the couch with the TV turned up when I came home for lunch.
I pulled the plug on my mom; I wasn't going to blanch at disposing of a mouse. Okay, I blanched a little.

Later, Ellie found a glue trap and carried it around for awhile on the bottom of her foot.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Get Help

My daughter (I'm pretending that this is a blog that others, maybe even someone that isn't related to me, might read) went to talk to a counselor at UAA. He recommended a minor in nutrition.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

By the Way

I felt a lot of pressure today to think of something amusing. It was sort of irritating.


People seemed to get pretty worked up here about the election. I pointed out that this was an American, not a Bosnian election. When it's over, we'll all just live with the results until the next election. So, are we more at risk from terroists? Does it even matter? Absent an actual WMD, I bet more Americans will die in any given week from the consequences of their own choices regarding food, tobacco and alcohol than from the next attack.

Circus Act

We have a Rottweiller/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix staying with us this week. I could put my head in his mouth if I was totally sure of getting it back.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I haven't been updating this blog very often. Since this isn't a diary, I don't feel much pressure to update unless I have something that amuses or irritates me. I guess a lot of things irritate me, so okay, the rule is, it has to be irritating and amusing.

Housekeeping note, anyone can comment now, although how bored would you have to be to comment on a blog with only eight entries?