Monthly Archives: July 2009

It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Indulge me while I provide some background for this charming story of neighborliness.

We moved into our home over 5-1/2 years ago. One of the first things we noticed was the squirrel population. At any given time, you could count 15 to 20 squirrels in our back yard. It wasn’t long before we realized that our yard wasn’t the only place the squirrels were hanging out…they were making themselves mighty comfy in our attic as well.

Mr. Itsonlywords sealed the attic up, but it was the beginning of a feud between man and squirrel. The squirrels are Eastern Gray squirrels, a non-native, invasive species. They are out-competing our native squirrels. They raid their nests and kill the babies. Live trapped Eastern Grays are not to be released outside of their known range and, in addition, trapping and releasing, while it may seem like a humane option, often condemns the animals to a slow death.

After careful consideration, Mr. IOW purchased an air rifle. The air rifle looks like a “real” rifle, but shoots tiny lead pellets instead of bullets. Muzzle velocity is 1,200 feet per second, comparable to a .22 caliber rifle, but because the pellets are so light, the effective range is between 50 and 75 feet (based on personal observation). Since we live in a sub-division where each house sits on at least 2/3 acre, the air rifle seemed like a safe compromise.

Enter the neighbors. For the sake of their privacy, I’ll call them Mr. and Mrs. Granola. The Granolas live in the house immediately to the south of our property. Our first encounter with them was about 6 months after we’d moved into our home and well into Mr. Itsonlywords’ squirrel eradication project. It had apparently come to their attention that Mr. IOW was shooting the squirrels; they hand-delivered a book that outlined various ways to peacefully co-exist with various animals friends: raccoons, squirrels, deer, possums…rats! When I returned the book, I had the opportunity to chat with Mr. and Mrs. Granola and they told me that they were maintaining their yard as wildlife habitat (I thought they just didn’t like yard work!). When Mrs. Granola stepped outside, the reason for the large population came into focus. The squirrels swarmed around her ankles, obviously looking for handouts. And she did not disappoint! Out of her pocket came peanuts, pecans, walnuts; a veritable squirrel smorgasbord!

Once they realized that Mr. Itsonlywords wasn’t practicing peaceful co-existence, the Granolas tried a different approach; they hand-delivered a dead squirrel wrapped in a towel to our front porch. Mr. Itsonlywords is of Irish and Mexican descent and let me just say, he did not handle that well, although afterwards it did seem that the Granolas were resigned to the squirrel culling.

Until today. At around 10:00 a.m., we were treated to a visit from a Snohomish County Sheriff’s deputy, responding to a complaint that we were shooting squirrels.The deputy, a very nice young man, was not at all interested in the squirrels but he did ask to see the rifle that Mr. Itsonlywords was using to shoot them. They were apparently under the impression that we were using a .22 caliber rifle. Hmm, I wonder where they got that idea?

After the deputy left, Mr. Itsonlywords went over to talk to Mr. Granola who was outside having a smoke. (Off topic…if people must smoke, why do they have to smoke outside where it stinks up the whole neighborhood? Stink up your own house, I say!) I wasn’t close enough to overhear the conversation, but Mr. IOW told me afterward that Mr. Granola was unaware that the State of Washington considers the Eastern Grays to be an invasive species or that it’s legal to send them on to the gates of Dark Forest. Mr. Granola ended the conversation by asking, “Why can’t you just leave them alone?”

Good question, Mr. Granola. Why can’t you leave them alone?

The Granolas aren’t really interested in squirrels as wild animals any more than they’re interested in maintaining a “wildlife habitat” in their yard, which is 80% overgrown with Himalayan blackberries and English ivy, two other non-native invasive species which are classified as noxious weeds by the State of Washington. What they are interested in is treating wild animals as pets, as became painfully obvious while I watched Mrs. Granola feed the squirrels. They don’t really help the squirrels by doing this, as they’re merely helping to support an unnaturally large population. The squirrels are very bold around humans, which is for troublesome for humans as they can carry disease and troublesome for the squirrels, as it makes it ever so much easier to hurt them. (We’ve recently discovered that you can lure the squirrels closer by making the same “kissy” noises you might use to lure a dog. I wonder where they learned that?)

Beyond that, it’s very troubling to me that the Granolas would call the police to report a “crime” without having all the facts. They didn’t know the Eastern Grays are a non-native species. They didn’t know it wasn’t illegal to shoot them. The didn’t know that we weren’t using a .22 caliber rifle. Yet despite this lack of knowledge, they went ahead and made the call.

One other thing they didn’t know: while it’s not illegal to shoot the squirrels and it’s not illegal to fire the air rifle in our neighborhood, it is illegal to file a false report with the police. They get a pass on the first occurrence; I don’t think it’s likely they’ll be reporting us again.


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Where’s the Outrage, Senator?

Back in March, I blogged about Senator Patty Murray’s feigned outrage over the notorious performance bonuses paid at AIG, despite having voted for the bill that authorized them. Today, I learned of something that I thought should have provoked a similar reaction.

It seems that GM – the same GM that took, oh, oodles and oodles of taxpayer cash – spent $2,760,000 on lobbying in the second quarter. To be fair, that figure was down a whopping 1.4% from the first quarter, but that’s still over a million dollars more than AIG paid out in performance bonuses.

I thought that, certainly, such an egregious abuse of the taxpayers would elicit another call from Senator Murray to make us whole but so far…nothing. Now I don’t know about you, but I would vastly prefer that my tax dollars be spent to fulfill contractual obligations to AIG employees than handed over to lobbyists who spend it to influence senators, like Senator Murray, who are notably quiet on this issue today.

(H/T Jimmie at The Sundries Shack)

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Journalists Do Not Fail To Disappoint

Back in April, I blogged about a really shoddy piece of writing I’d seen on The Associated Press’s website.

Just last week, I bemoaned the demise of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, wondering if it’s absence was contributing to deteriorating standards at the Seattle Times.

Today, the AP is once again in my sights. Today, Bill Gates addressed the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual legislative summit in Philadelphia. Speaking on education, he advocated for rewarding effective teaching and developing better, universal measures of performance for students and teachers.

I mostly agree with Gates points on education, but near the end of the article, I came across this little gem.

In an interview later Tuesday with The Associated Press, Gates, 51, talked of the importance of improving the quality, quantity and searchability of online lectures, which he noted his own kids have used.

That number, 51, caught my eye, because just a few years ago, Bill Gates and I were the same age. On the extremely unlikely possibility that I was, er, wrong, I checked Wikipedia. Sure enough, Bill Gates was born October 28th, 1955. I freely admit that math is not my strong suit, but even I know that makes him 53 years old as I type this.

Ironic, don’t you think, that this reporter unconsciously highlights the need for the kinds of reforms Gates is proposing?

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Elected Officials Think The Public Is Too Stupid To Notice

From the Politico article, CBO deals another blow to House health plan:

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office dealt another blow to House Democrats on Friday night, saying their health care bill would increase the federal deficit by $239 billion over the next 10 years.

The projected shortfall means Democrats would need to find additional revenue or make deeper cuts to existing programs in order to meet their goal of paying for the $1 trillion bill.

But those projections don’t account for a $245 billion reduction in the deficit this legislation would create, if Democrats can also approve new balanced budget rules that would permanently address an annual shortfall in Medicare payments to physicians. Democrats may also defend the cost of their bill by pointing out that in the long run, under new accounting rules, the bill would generate a $6 billion surplus.

Congressional Democrats intend to change the accounting rules to make it appear as though their health care plan is a profit center rather than a money pit and they think you’re stupid enough to fall for it. Are you?


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Competition Is A Good Thing

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its last print edition on March 17th, 2009. Despite its being a liberal rag (and having been so for as long as I can remember), I was actually a bit teary about the paper’s demise. I have fond childhood memories of hot August afternoons spent down near the Stan Sayers pits on Lake Washington, watching the qualifying heats for the hydroplane races, the roar of the thunderboats punctuated by the cries of the newsboys. “Get your P-I…pa-puh!”

What didn’t occur to me last March, however, was how having competing dailies served to maintain the quality of each. This point was driven home for me today when I checked the Seattle Times website and saw what would surely qualify as one of the worst headlines imaginable: “Seattle reservoirs to be majorly re-done.”

Majorly. I understand, of course, that the newspaper business is rough and all the dailies are looking to cut costs in order to survive but I hadn’t thought the situation to be so dire that the editor had to bring in his 13-year-old daughter to write headlines.

To their credit, someone noticed that just maybe the headline wasn’t quite up to par, so when I checked back later this afternoon, it had been re-written: “Major do-over for Seattle reservoirs.” Obviously, to avoid hurting his daughter’s feelings, the editor asked her to re-write her own headline so now we have a do-over.

I understand that Seattle Public Utilities, who owns the reservoirs, is actually having to do over the waterproof coating on the covers but that’s not really the same as a do-over, now, is it?


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