Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Mouse Wars Part 3 - One Gone


We now know for sure there are (or were) at least 2 mice - we saw them both today. They were in the middle of the living room, and appeared to be scrapping. I scared them away when I entered the room and they went behind the couch. #3 son got the small blue garbage can ready and we watched. One tried to make a dash in the direction of the door when #3 son dropped the can on top of it.

I grabbed a piece of poster board and slipped it carefully under the upside down can. We slowly flipped the can over and took it outside. There is a large field on the other side of a wooden fence about 150 feet away from the house. We tossed the mouse over the fence. Hopefully, it's not like a dog and able to find its way back.

We chased the other mouse around for a few minutes. It ran into the kitchen under the refrigerator. When I pulled the refrigerator out it ran over my foot back into the living room. We eventually lost it under the couch again.

The gap in the stairs is about to be sealed. This will eliminate another hiding place for them. Perhaps with the loss of hiding places we can successfully catch the ones which remain and get them outside. Our only other hope is that they will eat the poison. So far I think we've had a couple nibbles at it, but no sign of any actual deaths.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Mouse Wars Part 2 - The Mice Find Another Way


I appears, perhaps, the mice were not entering our apartment through the cracks in the back of the closet we found yesterday. The sneaky buggers were using the closet as a "way point" hiding place to get into the kitchen and/or the bird cage. It was a clever diversion, but one we won't fall for again.

Common wisdom tells us if we see one rodent, there are more. We think we have visual confirmation: a dark brown and a light brown mouse.

There is an alcove between the stairs and the closet in which we patched up the cracks yesterday. We saw a mouse sneak past the small Christmas tree we have set up in front of the alcove and then run around the corner into the kitchen. I followed, but I didn't see where in the kitchen it went. I suspect it followed the wall behind the trash can and the water dispenser, then under the refrigerator. 

Later, we saw what we suspect was another mouse sneak out from under the closet door and around the corner into the kitchen. I followed again, but it was too fast for me.

Upon closer inspection of the alcove and and stairs area we found a small gap between the bottom stair and the wall of the staircase. It's partially covered in carpet, so it was not easily seen while standing above it. This crack won't be as easy to patch as the cracks in the back of the closet. Here, we will probably need to wedge something in the crack to seal it. I'm thinking we could use a soft wood wedge, like those which come in a HAZMAT barrel patching kit.

In the meantime I did lay out some poison. I would still rather not kill it (them), but I don't see a way to catch them unharmed so I can release them outside. Perhaps if we can seal off all the entrances to our apartment, they'll go somewhere else. That would be fine with me. But, with the poor attention to detail which went into this place, there could be dozens of gaps and cracks around the walls. Today we'll concentrate around the alcove and the gap we found in the stairs. Afterwards, we'll have to deal with the situation as it presents itself.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Mouse Wars Begin

What we've suspected for the past few days was confirmed last night: we have a mouse in our apartment.

Our suspicions started with the faint sound of scratching under the stairs. It was later reinforced when we heard it again just a little louder somewhere behind the kitchen cabinets. Last night, we saw the varmint. It was sneaking out from under a closet door and ran around the corner into the kitchen.

We suspect it's getting food from the bottom of the bird cage. Sidney knocks food down off his feeder shelf onto the floor of the cage so he can scratch around (it's a big cage - about 4 feet wide, 3 feet deep and 5 feet tall). There is a gap where the bottom door meets the frame of the cage which is too small for Sidney to squeeze through, but wide enough for a mouse.

Now the question is: how do we get rid of it? I called our apartment management the other day and the most they would do for us is give us some poison bait, so we're pretty much on our own. Mice have a very important part to play in our ecosystem - outside - so I really would rather not kill it. Unfortunately, I don't know of a way to catch it live for release. Mice are very good at avoiding traps but terrible at avoiding poisons. I can't recall ever seeing a live catch trap for a mouse.

We pulled everything out of the closet we saw it come out of and found some cracks where the skirting board along the back wall meets the skirting boards which go along the side walls. (The builders didn't really pay attention to detail when they built this place). We filled the cracks with silicone caulk and inspected all the boxes in the closet for signs of nesting. After we put everything back in the closet, we heard some scratching under the stairs - where the cracks in the closet led. Perhaps we've sealed it in and it'll have to find another way out - preferably outside.

For now we wait and watch.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Illegal To Be Annoying

City officials in Brighton, Michigan recently passed a law making it illegal to be annoying. It reads in part:"It shall be unlawful for a person to engage in a course of conduct or repeatedly commit acts that alarm or seriously annoy another person and that serve no legitimate purpose." The law was purposely written so that a police officer has the authority to determine what is annoying.

OK - now I'm annoyed. It's hard to understand what these folks were thinking. This gives the police some pretty extraordinary power to detain people based on their own opinion of what's annoying. This opens up the floodgates for people to be arrested and fined for picketing the city hall, for having a disagreement with a neighbor, or letting kids play touch football in the street. These may be "frivolous" examples, but that's where this kind of law can lead.

Bottom line: This type of law is unconstitutional. The good people in Brighton (and Royal Oak - where a similar law was passed) should be annoying their city leaders for passing this ridiculous law and demand it be repealed.

If you read the article linked below, you will also note the Brighton police chief used to work in Royal Oak and now works in Brighton. Coincidence? I think not.

Read the full story on Click On Detroit.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Short Twitter Survey

Recently, fellow tweeter Rick Osborne and I had a tweet-versation about how to best tweet blog postings and other kinds of promotions. I questioned him when he re-tweeted his own tweet about a blog posting on his site a number of times throughout the day.

He had good reasoning for posting as he did. He has several hundred followers who are spread in many different time zones. He was going under the assumption that his followers may only read the first page of tweets and therefore might miss the tweet about the blog posting.

When I go on Twitter, I go back and read all the new posts starting with where I left off during my last visit. My question to him was based on the assumption that most people use Twitter like I do, going back where one left off and reading all the tweets going forward. Under that assumption, repeated posts might be considered tweet spam.

I think we both have valid assumptions; but, since they are both based on how we do things I thought it would be a good idea to ask around and see how others read posts on Twitter. To that end, I've created the following survey to learn how others read posts in Twitter and what they might consider spam.

Please answer the following questions and help us learn about your Twitter habits. After a few days I'll share the results with everyone here. Please feel free to tweet this around your circle.



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Live Tweets From A Plane Crash

This morning I read an AP story by P. Solomon Banda about the plane crash of a Houston-bound Continental airliner where someone actually live-tweeted about the crash. You can read Mike Wilson's tweets here: http://twitter.com/2drinksbehind. I don't think I would have the presence of mind to even think about Twitter, but Mike even took a photo on his phone and posted it.

I don't know Mike, but I have to say: well done. I'm glad you made it out OK and thank you for sharing about your experience.

Background:

For those of you who don't "tweet" Twitter is a micro-blogging site. It's a place where people can post their thoughts and observations. It's called "micro" because each post has a strict limit of 140 characters. It's a great place to connect with friends and family throughout the day.

I highly recommend checking it out. If you want an interesting experience, click on the "Everyone" link and read the posts. What you will read are the last 20 tweets posted to the site. You get a very interesting perspective of the stream of consciousness of people around the world.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Whataburger Love in Michigan

My mom enjoys Whataburger. The only problem is, there are none in Michigan where she lives. So, she's limited to visiting when she comes to Texas for a visit.

For the past couple of years, I've thought about getting her some Whataburger merchandise on a gift-giving occasion. I didn't do it until this Christmas, though. I ordered her a Whataburger mouse pad, which looks like one of Whataburger's ketchup containers, and a Whataburger 50th anniversary coffee mug.

Little did I know that my step-dad was a "Whatafan" too. He appropriated the mouse pad. Now I hear they are racing to the kitchen in the morning so they can be first to grab the Whatamug.

I ordered him a whatamug this morning. I can't have those two acting like a couple of kids, can I?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ugly Scott

My friend Scott is anything but ugly. But, who am I to argue? Whatever he may call his blog, his point of view is unique, thought-provoking and entertaining all at the same time. I invite you to check him out at Ugly Scott.

I Have No Taste - Follow Up

I reported in an earlier post I was having trouble with my senses of smell and taste. You can read it here if you missed it.

I'm happy to report that since starting on the zinc and magnesium supplements my taste and smell are working rather well. I rarely get the burning smell which plagued me and I'm starting to taste things better.

Please remember, if you smell odd things which no one else does go see your doctor. Although rare, these sensations can be indicators of serious health conditions. It's nice to know, though, that if the odd smells are not from a serious health condition that treatment is available.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Beef and Blizzards in Deming

A friend of mine often insisted the World's best Dairy Queen was in Deming, New Mexico. Having never been to Deming, I didn't completely understand why. But, he insisted nonetheless, and was quite adamant about it. I remained neutral on the subject until I had a chance to stop there.

Deming was a small city (maybe it still is), on Interstate 10 between El Paso and Tucson. It's about 1/3 the way to Tucson, and about 2/3 the way to El Paso - depending on which direction you go. I was once on a four-day weekend and decided to drive to Tucson from El Paso to visit my friend. On my way, I had to stop to see what he was talking about.


View Larger Map

Coming from either direction, all the food places were on Pine Street, just south of the interstate. On the east side of town was the Dairy Queen, and on the west was the Arby's. Two of my favorite fast food places, what more could I ask for?

The Dairy Queen wasn't all that much different from the Dairy Queens found in Texas. I did find there were two things which made this DQ stand out: 1. it was in a great location to stop when travelling through the desert and 2. the people were very, very nice. 

When I got to Tucson, I had to tell my friend he was absolutely right about that Dairy Queen, it really was the World's best.

When my boys were small, even before #3 son was born, we loved to eat at Arby's. When we would drive there, I'd get them bouncing in the back seat (as much as one can bounce strapped into a child car seat or booster seat) yelling "Beef, beef, beef, beef, ... !" It was our favorite meal: Beef!

On another occasion, I was driving from Fort Huachuca, Arizona, to El Paso. My family had come to see me graduate from an Army school there and we were on our way back to visit my in-laws in El Paso until we flew back to Germany where we were stationed. During my six month stay at "The 'Chuc'" I drove to El Paso almost every weekend to visit my family. On those trips, I ate quite a few meals at that Arby's (and the World's greatest DQ). I was more than familiar with the road, and exactly how long it took to get to Deming going in either direction.

Heading west to El Paso, about 20 miles outside of Deming, the signs started to appear. They weren't large billboard signs, but smaller signs set just about eye-level, attached to the supports of the larger signs. The signs were shaped like the distinctive Arby's hat, and had the number of miles until the Deming Arby's printed on them. "20 miles to Arby's," "10 Miles to Arby's," "5 Miles to Arby's," (the anticipation is growing) "Arby's - Next Exit." We started bouncing and yelling at the first sign. For 20 minutes we were hollering out "Beef! Beef! Beef!" By the time we pulled into the parking lot we were in a carniverous frenzy and we'd worked up a big appetite.

There is one visit to that Arby's which really causes it to stand out in my memory.

On one of those weekend trips to El Paso, I was riding with an acquaintance who also had family in El Paso. We stopped at the Arby's (of course, I insisted). We got there about 5 minutes to 9:00 pm. I never lived in a small city like Deming, so it never occurred to me that they would be closing at 9. We walked in, ordered, and waited for our food. Then I heard someone back in the kitchen remark something like he'd just finished cleaning the fryer area. I asked, what time they closed? The person who took our order replied that they closed at 9.

Both of us tried to cancel our orders. We insisted, quite strongly, that they not mess everything up on our account. The workers in the place had already started preparing our order and insisted they would never turn away any customer before closing time. They even refused our request to change our "dine-in" order to a "to-go" one. I was very impressed by this, not so much because the entire crew chimed in agreeing that no customer should be turned away before nine, but more because there was not one real "adult" in the entire group. They all looked like high school kids, and most of them probably were. That really stuck in my head even after more than 10 years.

I don't have much call to drive through Deming any more. You can be sure, though, if I do I'll be having beef and Blizzards.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Four "Gotchas" In ASP.NET 3.5

I learned 4 things about developing ASP.NET applications in the 3.5 Framework today:

1. Importing/converting a .NET 2.0 user control may not work. You might have to create a new user control and copy the code from the 2.0 version control to paste it into the new one.

2. When you create a new web page, don't do the right-click, "Add" then "New Item" thing. You won't get to select a master page if you go that way. Instead, right-click on the master page and select "Add Content Page." Why they changed it from the old method I have no idea.

3. Web.Config files are a special issue. You might find it best to copy the code from an already-existing 3.5 app and paste it into your new web.config. (This will mostly apply to my colleagues since we share code and have settled on standardized web.config files for the most part.)

4. When you publish, if Visual Studio insists on creating App_Code and App_Data files instead of compiling the files in those folders into a dll in the bin folder, right-click on the web root then click on "Convert To Web Application." That will change the build. This is another step added in that we didn't have to do before and one which makes no sense. If you try to run the app with those two files, the Framework kicks off an error telling you those folders are not allowed. Why even have an option where one can keep them?

I know some of you are out there wondering why I didn't know this before we went from VS2005 to VS2008. I find I learn things better by doing rather than just reading about it. Although the learning time might be longer, I'll retain the knowledge better and make up the time later.

Ambidextrous

I was at the bank the other day with my wife opening an account. The lady helping us was ambidextrous. I watched as she moused with her right hand and wrote with her left at the same time. I mentioned to my wife what a time-saver that would be for me if I could do that. It's like the lady I know who can write with both hands simultaneously - and have what she wrote in both hands be perfectly legible.

What a handy skill (no pun intended). (Well, maybe a little pun).

I wonder if I could practice enough to master left-handed mousing and right-handed writing. Maybe I'll try that some day.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Hilton Hot Water Update

The week after I returned from the Texas EMS Conference, I used the contact us form on www.hilton.com to complain about the hot water problem I had at the downtown Fort Worth Hilton. (You can read more about that here and here).

I wasn't expecting too much more than an apology, so when I received a reply the next day from a Guest Relations Specialist in Memphis giving me a reference number for my complaint it was a bit of a surprise. Later that same day, I received another email from the Front Office Manager of the Fort Worth Hilton offering me 5000 HHonors points.

Naturally, I took the 5000 points, but also stressed in my reply that I told them about my problem so they would fix the hot water situation. Hopefully they will follow up and make some changes.

My group will be attending next year's EMS Conference, again in Fort Worth. If we end up staying there I'm still going to check the hot water as soon as we check in.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Local Radio Disappears

I don't live in a big city, so my choice of radio stations is somewhat limited. This is exacerbated to a large degree because many of the local radio stations are owned by one large national company.

I like to listen to talk radio, especially when the talk is about local happenings. The local talk station (also owned by the big conglomerate) features syndicated shows most of the day, but the morning and evening drive time show were local hosts talking to local people about local events. That is, until this past week.

The morning guy was let go. Granted, he was only doing radio part time, so he'll land on his feet. The real bad thing is now we have to listen to The Wall Street Journal Report. My goodness that is a bad show. It's like CNN Headline News for radio, only worse. I had to turn it off the other day because it was driving me nuts. They play ESPN Radio at night and on weekends. I'm not that huge a sports fan, but at least the people on ESPN Radio are interesting and entertaining. That would have been a far better choice.

I emailed the radio station yesterday to express my displeasure and disappointment at their choice of programming. I went to their web site and sent an email to the address shown on their contact us page. A few minutes ago I got a reply - the email bounced. No such domain.

Why is it that we have to put up with so much schlock? It's all very disappointing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Please Help The Salvation Army

My sisters are in the process of kicking off a non-profit organization the purpose of which is to help raise money for other non-profit groups and to provide scholarships for those who wish to become firefighters to help pay their way through the fire academies. The group is called Chadderbox and is named for my brother-in-law, Chad Wessels, who was a firefighter killed in the line of duty a few years ago. Chad was the kind of guy who never met a stranger and liked to chat with everyone he met, thus the name "Chadderbox."

Much to my shame, their website at www.chadderbox.org is showing GoDaddy's domain parking page. Click on the link anyway, by the time you read this it might be up and running.

Thankfully, my lack of attention to the web site has not stopped me nor the other members of Chadderbox from fulfulling the mission to raise money for other non-profit organizations. 'Tis the season for the Salvation Army's kettle campaign and the Chadderbox folks have set a goal to raise $10,000 for the Salvation Army during the holiday season, and we need your help. Please consider donating to this worthy organization. I know how busy The Salvation Army was in Texas assisting those affected by hurricane Ike this past fall and I'm sure they'd like to be ready to help with disaster relief again when the time comes. Please click on the link below and give what you can. Thank you!

Personal fundraising widget for 2008 Red Kettle campaign

By the way, the web geek in me loves the Salvation Army's web site. It was very easy to set this campaign up, join, and create the widget which generates the link above. They are very web savvy. Hats off to them for making it easy and fun to help.