Monday Jan 30, 2006

Rats

Rats

Yes, this is a story about rats, real rats.

So my wife and youngest daughter come running in to the house, visibly upset and both talking at the same time "Dad! You should have seen the mouse that was by our front door, it the was biggest mouse I had ever seen. And it was looking at us!". I calmly asked "How big was it?", to which they responded "It was huge!". I calmly asked again "How big was it, exactly?", to which they responded "It was huge!". Obviously this approach wasn't working, so I calmly asked "Show me with your hands how big it was.", and I was given a size more appropriate for a large possum. Gradually it came down to a size more appropiate to a rat or a large hamster. So I started to get somewhere, now I understand why they say eye witness testimony isn't worth much. I asked, "Did it have a long hairless tail?", and was told they didn't see one, apparently they seemed to have been locked into what the eyes were doing. They continued to call it the largest mouse they had ever seen, eventually labeling it Mousezilla. Why is it that people don't want to admit to a "rat", the name "mouse" must be a nicer label? Maybe because of Mickey? I wonder if Disney had come up with Ricky Rat instead of Mickey Mouse if it would be the other way around? Oh well... So I went outside and wasn't able to find a thing, so I made some comment about them seeing things and went back to reading my book. For the rest of the day I'd say "Oh look, it's Mousezilla!", and they would shreek, realize I was kidding, and then throw something at me.

A few days go by, and I'm told of another incident with Mousezilla crawling along the top of our fence next to the house. This time I'm told that I must do something about it, but they express concern that I might have to kill it, but they insist I do something about it. So I ask, "If I can't kill it, what am I supposed to do?". They don't have an answer, I ask if they know of any rat havens where I could take it, and I start getting dirty looks, but finally they say it's ok for me to kill it. But before I do anything, I tell them that it might be someone's pet, and maybe they should check with the neighbors and make sure someone hasn't lost their pet rat, or hamster, or small furry animal, or unusually hairy child (with the name Mousezilla?). A few days later I'm given a bag with some rat traps that the neighbors have donated to the cause, apparently they had a few rats too, nobody reported having any lost pets.

So I go to the Hardware store to get some more supplies to kill a rats, or what I assume to be a rat, given the poor description I had it could be a praire dog for all I know. There are sticky trays, expensive battery operated shock houses, plastic snap traps, and the old traditional wooden snap traps (like the neighbors gave me). I go the cheap route and get a couple more wooden snap traps. After a long few days and with no luck, and a few sprung traps (smart rats I guess), I was about to give up. Then we had some teenage girls come to visit my daughters, and the rat decided to come out for a visit. Such screaming you have never heard, probably scared Mousezilla to death (I wished). Once again I was given a "It was the biggest rat I've ever seen!" story, and the same poor description of the suspect creature, however in this case they were certain it was a rat. So I was convinced we did have a rat, so the traps were freshly baited and placed close to the scene of the crime. In addition, I put out some rat poison in the hopes of slowing down the smart rats so they might get caught in the trap. It worked, I caught a rat, then another. No where near the size of a possum or prarie dog, and actually kind of medium size rats. I had the primary rat witness ID the rat bodies, but she said "It seems so small, It looked much bigger when it was alive."

End of story, Mousezilla was history. I'm now the hero of the house. :\^)

I still hate ants more than rats.

Sunday Aug 21, 2005

Ants

Ants

Sometimes I think that I live on a big huge ant hill. Every year I get some kind of ant invasion and over the years I have tried all kinds of tactics to kill, control, and keep out the ants. It seems like every year they figure out a new way to get into the house. Who the hell is teaching these ants how to do this?

Now I do have some limitations on what I can do, whatever I do I need to be careful of my wife and kids, who are extremely sensitive to chemicals, and we have this silly little dog that... well what can I say... it's not an outdoor dog, and it gets sick easy. Once it found a bar of semi-sweet chocolate, ate the whole thing, looked horrible, and we had a $500 vet bill because chocolate was poisonous to dogs, especially semi-sweet, and for such a small dog, and such a big bar of chocolate, well, we almost didn't have a dog. Anyway, I can't just put out poison or spray the inside of the house, and anything outside needs to be done carefully.

Over the years I've tried to make peace with the ants, I try not to kill them outside unless they seem to be damaging my plants or trees, all I ask is that they stay outside. I haven't tried what my GrandMother used to do, she used to always keep a bowl of sugar outside for the ants, and some water. She never had ants in the house. Humm, maybe I should try that, treat them like pets or something. Nah, bad idea, I hate the damn things too much, how could I treat them like pets?

I've seen them come in around the buried sewer lines, showing up at the base of toilets inside the house, I had to go out in the yard and spray around the outside sewer connections. They weren't in the sewer lines, just using the empty spaces around the lines to get into the house, through the concrete foundations!

Of course I'm well beyond the obvious ways they have to get in, they don' just visibly crawl up the side of the house anymore, of course I keep the boundary of the house sprayed pretty well. But one year they climbed up into a bush, and where it was leaning up high on the house, got in around where I had sprayed. Needless to say I now keep my bushes trimmed and away from the house so they don't do that again.

Once I missed a spot where a pipe came up out of the ground and came into the house about four feet above the ground, they found that path. I had to make sure all ground connections to the house were blocked from then on.

One year they came in through the drainage system, up the downspouts and into the gutters, then into the attic. Now I spray a little in the drainage pipes each year.

Inside I discovered that most of the window sills and trim around the doors was never really sealed very well, so I'm often seen with a caulking gun in my hands walking around my house sealing up the ant interior entrances. This helps sometimes, but they usually find a new entrance to come in at.

I've also discovered they don't like chalk or powder, so sometimes when I see them I grab whatever powder is handy and create a circle of powder around their entrance into the house. Kind of like a voodoo curse thing, it usually works, except for the really evil ants. If they are coming out of the wall, you can use sidewalk chalk and draw a circle around the entrance. Of course between the foot powder all over the floor and the strange chalk drawings on the wall, you probably don't want to invite the local priest or minister to visit just then.

They also don't like loud sounds. Sometimes I bang on the walls to try and find where the most of them are, they get really disturbed and run around like crazy when you bang on their entrances. This allows me to concentrate my bug spray or baby powder attacks for maximum benefit. I haven't tried yelling at them, I wonder if they could hear me?

One year they discovered the electrical conduits, I had ants coming out of electrical plugs in the kitchen and bathrooms. At one point I had taken off some plug covers and squirted enough caulking compound into the wall that I had to really work at getting the plug cover to go back on. The next day they still came out of that same plug, so that was a waste of time.

Sometimes I'd use duct tape, roll it up long ways so you have a long sticky tube, with the sticky part out, and then you can stick this to the wall around their entrances. They can't walk over the sticky part of the duct tape. My wife didn't appreciate the duct tape decorations in the house, so I had to give up on that one.

And all the money! Yipes. Besides all the cost of duct tape, baby powder, bug spray, granules, baits, and ant stakes, one year the dog discovered the supposedly pet proof ant stakes, and actually ate through the metal and plastic. We had another $500 bill because of that.

This year I had a of a time figuring out how they came in, then it dawned on me, the Internet! That was it, I had noticed that sometimes while working away, an ant would be crawling on my keyboard. They had to be coming in through the Internet. I know, you're laughing at me, well just read on.

My house is a relatively new house and has CAT5 wiring from every room to the phone box outside the garage. I had used this wiring to provide ethernet plugs in all the rooms and hooked up a hub in the garage that went back to my study so everyone was connected to the router and cable modem.

So I went outside to where the phone box was on the outside of the house, reached in to pull a bush away from the wall (a serious oversight on my 'bushes close to the house' rules), and my hand was covered with ants. I had a nest of ants right there, and they had crawled up behind some conduit, up into the phone junction box, along the ethernet wiring, into the interior walls, and along the CAT5 cables into the house. It was like a blasted ant freeway for them!

So do not, I repeat, do not underestimate the intelligence of an ant.

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Various blogs on JDK development procedures, including building, build infrastructure, testing, and source maintenance.

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