Saturday, July 31, 2010

Border Patrol

I heard recently that a local beach is closed due to contamination from goose fecal matter. Eew… The problem is, of course, nature’s balance is out of whack... as usual. Civilization hates predators and loves grassy lawns. Geese agree.

It seems to me, that where geese and people at leisure overlap, it is a simple management issue. There is plenty of room for everyone. But maybe beaches, picnic areas and playgrounds shouldn’t be filled with geese since they poop so much.

"It takes approximately 7 minutes from consumption of grass and their roots to the excretion of droppings. A goose can produce droppings 25 times per day. An adult goose will produce 2 pounds of droppings per day, so 10 geese can produce up to 20 pounds of droppings in one day on one property." source

Think about it, geese only weigh 10-20 pounds. So they poop out their body weight everyday. They live about two dozen years. That means, over its lifetime, one goose squirts out a mountain of over 17,500 pounds of poo!

Heck, dogs only poop a few times a day and we have staff to clean up after us. We aren’t allowed on beaches, picnic areas and playgrounds so why should a bunch of geese have free range?

It isn't just the poop. Geese are darn crabby. Ever had a hissing gaggle come at you? Dogs would never get away acting like that. 

I think cities should get smart and hire some dogs to clear the beaches of geese. No, no, no – no carnage -- just some location management. A single dog could easily make a beach more trouble than it is worth to a flock of geese. And presto! No more goose poo.

Not that I am volunteering. I am no bird dog – birds are mostly invisible to me. And I am not stupid -- geese are almost as big as me and far meaner.

You got a squirrel problem? Then I am your gal. Just don’t expect me to just chase rodents. I will send them to squirrel heaven if I can. It’s not my fault. I was made this way. That’s centuries of hound breeding for you.

But herding dogs were made to chase but not catch and kill. Their prey drive stops far short of annihilation. They nip and prod and drive. They have even been bred to want to listen and please people. They are smart. They love to work. In fact, they aren’t really happy as simple house dogs. They need something to do.

So I say, let’s hire some herding dogs and their owners to patrol the beaches, picnic grounds and other areas where goose poo is unwelcome. The geese will move on soon enough. And the dogs would have a ball telling them to do so.

Like all great ideas, I am hardly the first one to think of it. A quick search of the interweb reveals there are, in fact, dozens companies are ready for hire.

My favorite is Shoo Geese! Border Patrol which employs a crack team guessed it...Border Collies. Tug and Louie, sporting official orange safety/flotation vests, promise results in six weeks. The solution is elegant. Harass the geese 2-3 times a day in an orderly manner and the geese simply move on to somewhere more peaceful. What could be more civilized than that?

Border Patrol Louie in the field

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Time to Clean Out the Fridge!

My Susan often complains about fuzzy leftovers in the back of the fridge but...

Thank you, Angela, for your photo of Sophie -- she's one cool cat! 
(See...I can be nice.)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Corpse Flower by any Other Name...

A corpse flower takes a decade to bloom and there is one opening up at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota.

You can visit it.  I wish I could. It sounds divine!

What do people say?
"They squinch up their faces and say the standard things you would say if you smelled a rotting animal carcass," said associate chemistry professor Brian O'Brien. "One person came real close to throwing up a few minutes ago, and another one wound up throwing up after leaving the room."
Give me a few minutes alone with a corpse flower. I would roll in it. And then I would be the envy of the dog park!


Friday, July 23, 2010

Fence Me In

Some folks are ticked that they are fencing the dog park up in Shoreview. The current users say the fence will change the character of the park. Because basically, they worry that now ANYBODY with a dog will come.

Battle Creek dog park social area

I've heard it before. We started going to Battle Creek dog park right before they fenced it. I heard the laments as Tree Trust youth pounded over a mile of posts and stretched the mesh to separate, divide, and civilize. Before, only dogs who were reliable off leash would brave the thirty acres. After, any dingbat could come and let Fido rip. And they do. And  it did change the character of the park. We certainly started going more often.

It must have felt that way as the West was "won" and the frontier closed. Each wave of "civilization" bringing more and more rules and laws and manners. Lots of eager folks arrived, adapted and tamed the once wild and wooly frontier. Those who couldn't bear to be fenced in simply moved on in search of freedom in untamed wilderness.

There is precious little wilderness left in this country. Any bozo can climb any mountain -- leaving behind his pesky pack of water, rain gear and common sense. He has a cell phone to call for a pick-up if the going gets rough! And anybody can let their dog loose in the confines of a fenced dog park.

You mostly see the newbies on weekends after waffle time. Often they are groups of friends or families who are thrilled to have a safe space for their dogs to stretch and delighted about the idea of doggie friends.

You can spot the newbies easily enough.
  • Newbies are often on high alert -- not sure if Rover will ditch them at the gate. 
  • Newbies don't really get the double gate airlock system or the etiquette of giving space to dogs in transition. 
  • Newbies keep the leash on after entering the dog park thinking it will give them a chance to warm up. 
  • Newbies don't bring poop bags and think nature will take care of it -- it's the woods! 
  • Newbies do bring treats thinking it will keep Bowser by their side. You can tell the treat bearers because of the large fan club that mobs them (OMG - I LOVE NEWBIES). 
  • Newbies bring Barfy's favorite ball and get cross when it goes communal. 
  • Newbies are uncomfortable with mud and water and mutter about baths. 
  • Newbies bring cute little bottles of water with fold down, personal sipping troughs. People: duck water tastes better. Enough said.
  • Newbies are uncomfortable with butt-sniffing and gods forbid Punky gets mounted! Bad dog? Please.
  • Newbies bring too-young pups and get angry when they get rolled and mouthed by the grown-ups. For the record, we'd never hurt a baby -- even when she uses those sharp little teeth on us!
  • Newbies infantalize their toy breeds by scooping them up in terror when the bigger dogs approach. Listen people, a dog is a dog - we'll work it out. 
  • Some rare newbies dress their dogs in clothes. Dog coats don't last long at the dog park - leave them in the car. The poodle in the cheerleader suit was wrong, wrong, wrong! And everyone watching, dog and human, was hoping it would get shredded ASAP. Poor poodle.
  • Newbies try to greet and pet every dog they meet. Tip: Like parents at a middle school dance, you are invisible!
  • Newbies bring toddlers and little kids who want to hug all the dogs. Seriously people, at the dog park, dog play rules apply. Dog play involves body-checking and lots of slobber. And no, you cannot pet me. I am busy.
  • Newbies even bring strollers with strapped-in sticky-sweet babies dusted in crackers (Let me help you with that...)
But are newbies the wrong kind of people? Of course not. They are just new. The quickest way to assimilate new people and teach them the social mores of the established group is to welcome and enfold them.

When we were new, my Susan watched and talked and watched some more. She learned the dog park rules and all the nuances of dog and owner behavior. She chatted, asked questions, and made mistakes. And dog people welcomed her. Now we are some of the Regulars.

Dog people at dog parks are much like dogs. They appreciate the pack. They find their place at the park and there is something for everyone. Some like to sit in chairs and chat in the social areas. Others throw the ball endlessly -- man and dog in never ceasing cycle. Many plug in, move fast and do double duty exercising. Others skirt the edges to find the space or time of day to roam the woods alone with their canine.

If people and their dogs are are completely unsocialized, they wouldn't come to a dog park in the first place. Or maybe just once. If your dog is not behaving, don't think folks won't tell you to get some control or go home.

Certainly an unfenced dog park attracts the owner elite whose dogs always come when called and never bolt after squirrels. They work hard to have good dogs. It is fun to find a compatible group of like-minded folks who know the rules and possess the skills. Black diamond skiers sure don't want the mountain smoothed down so the bunny hill folks can come ski with them.

If you have a social group you love, it is hard to open it up to the riff-raff. A loud mouth who only reads the Cliff Notes can ruin your book group. A crabby complainer can send your walking group running for cover. A toy-hoarder can throw off the most easy-going gathering of canines. And a surly dog/owner pair can certainly ruin a pleasant park outing.

But while it would be a hoot to run with a whole herd of Carmella clones, I appreciate my dog friends of all shapes and sizes. I love Emma and Colt and Ella and Turkey and Stella and Lucky. And I am pretty sure none of them would come if there wasn't a fence.

So go ahead, fence me in!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dog Books

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Who Cleared Hand Dryers for Take-Off?

After my last post about road noise, my blog pal Daughter Number Three wondered about the noisiness of hand dryers -- particularly the new jet-powered ones that make the skin on your hands look like you are blasting off for the moon. The one that fits the bill is the XLERATOR® which dries your hands in 10-15 seconds.

This l'il fella, at 90-100 dB(A) is almost as noisy as a jet fly-over!

Daughter Number Three was pretty sure it was at least 140 dB(A) or "threshold of pain." Not quite, but you have to wonder if they are taking pitch into account. Fingers on a chalk board aren't that loud but... And did they test it in an actual bathroom with tiles and metal stalls to ricochet those sound waves? 

It is hard to imagine how this product got past any test group at all. Whenever I wait outside a bathroom with an XLERATOR®, I watch people flee the premises with grimaces. 

Perhaps the XLERATOR® is actually designed to keep people from lingering in public restrooms. If people can barely stand going number one, it cuts down on the lines -- not to mention odors and toilet paper use. An added benefit: the noise assault would also discourage Sharpie-wielding folks decorating the stall walls. Sort of like playing classical music to drive away loitering youth.

During my search for decibel levels, I found the Noise Free America website. I am just not sure how I feel about being sandwiched between leaf blowers and muzak. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hey Asphalt!

My house is quieter lately. Yes, my boys are too often off at camp or off watching airplane shows. And yes, it is mighty quiet when the air conditioner is on and the windows are shut tight to ward off the 90's. But the real difference is the freeway.

Last weekend, they shut the eastbound stretch of the freeway that lies two blocks north of my house. I know this because there was an awful lot of grousing coming from the front seats during the pokey detour to the dog park. I gathered they were re-surfacing. According to my Susan and Dave: "It is about time."

Living right by the freeway apparently has some advantages beyond being near the on and off ramps for speedy travel. The freeway and the train tracks probably sheer fifty thousand bucks off the house prices. That's a lot of peanut butter!

If you can afford to not hear the freeway, you'll settle further away. But my people got a nice big house at a pretty young age because they can pretend the whoosh of the freeway is a surging river or a brisk wind in the treetops.

Freeway din aside, our little neighborhood really is a peaceful, forgotten island. We're also cut off by some busy city roads and we aren't on the way to anything else. If you don't live here, there's not much reason to wonder about our two blocks. The neighbors balance friendliness and mind-their-own-beeswax quite nicely. And I don't think it crosses many crooks' minds that folks with stuff live here.

We also have the train tracks on the next block. They don't blow their whistles much and it is a pleasant enough sound when they do. From my morning poop stop in the park, we often see the Amtrak passenger train heading to Chicago. I like the rhythmic clacking of the wheels.

When the flight path passes overhead about once a week, we learn what real noise is. I suppose you'd get used to it if you had to. But I dislike planes that low.

But come Monday morning after the re-surfacing, Susan opened her eyes and said, "Sure is quiet. Do you think asphalt is quieter than concrete?" And later that day, driving once again to the dog park, her suspicions were confirmed as we crossed the new asphalt/old concrete line and the hum of the tires kicked up in pitch and decibels. Eliminating the potholes, cracks and other noisy bumps also helped.

Not everyone is pleased about the asphalt. "Hey Asphalt" billboards along the 94 project (put up by team concrete) decry the asphalt choice and claim concrete lasts longer, is more economic and takes less maintenance.

Team asphalt responds that asphalt is more environmental as it can be scraped up and reused. And lots of those folks say asphalt really is quieter. Apparently the Germans, master engineers that they are, make their road bases out of concrete and surface them with asphalt to tap the best qualities of both.

Honestly, I think we should let MNDOT decide what works best for our conditions. They think about this stuff more than I ever will... In fact, here are two dozen research projects about road surfaces MNDOT has going.

Minnesota's climate is pretty brutal for roads. What works in the more gentle climes might not work here. And the quietest asphalt has an open texture that reduces noise but might prove to be pothole paradise with all our freezing and thawing. MNDOT says:

"SMA and OGFC pavements have been used extensively in the southern United States with great success. However, far fewer states in cold climates have used these open-textured mixes. As a result little is know about the performance of open-textured mixes in cold climates. There is a fear that over the harsh winter the pavement will disintegrate due to sand and salt operations, freeze-thaw action, snow plowing operations, and the like. There is a need to conduct a controlled experiment in a northern state like Minnesota to determine the durability and performance of a pavement built for certain surface characteristics. MnROAD offers an experimental site where the risk can be taken to construct and monitor open-texture mixes in a cold environment."  

What Carmella knows: concrete or asphalt, the road noise isn't as bad as that freakin' vacuum at ten feet - which is close enough, thank you very much!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cloudy with a Chance of Squirrels

I love my backyard.
We have a black walnut tree.
Which means we have lots and lots of squirrels.

You might be wondering why 
I bother staring up at them,
scrambling twenty, thirty feet up.

What chance does a little brown dog have
at catching a squirrel high up in a walnut tree?

But every once in awhile,

So far, just one at a time.
But who's complaining?

I have been outside in squirrel showers
TWICE in two years.


And for me, those are odds 
worth looking up for.

Monday, July 12, 2010

...Doesn't Mean You Should

When Boy#1 read my entry Just Because You Can... he said cats scuba too. I really didn't believe him. But it is true. Sadly.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Scarry Pigs

Does anyone else find the whole pig barbecuing ribs image really disturbing?

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE to eat pork -- with or without barbecue sauce. But Famous Dave's® logo draws on something dark that makes my hackles rise. Maybe it is the flames, the crazed eyes or the salacious tongue but I don't think I want go there. 

I am really glad they do take out. 

Susan says it reminds her of a Richard Scarry scene. Pigs chopping, serving, eating or even riding in pork products were quite common in Scarry's early editions. 

Mrs. Butcher makes The Bates Motel look like a good night's sleep. Disturbing drawings like these  got cleaned up in later PC'd versions of Scarry's books. Mama pig purchased no meat at the grocery. Mama and Papa cooked side by side in the kitchen. 

But take a closer look at Baby Pig gazing wistfully at the bacon, frankfurters and chop. The text says:

"a piglet wants to work in the supermarket when she grows up"

There go my hackles again!

I am more comfortable with the Angry Trout Cafe. The fish is pissed. I would be too. But at least there isn't another trout on the other end of that line.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Watch Yourself

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Just Because You Can...

Doug Speirs of the Winnipeg Free Press says all there is to say about this one in his article, An idea that's truly all wet: Russians take lead in amphibious wiener dog arms race:

"I personally own a wiener dog and I can categorically state they are not designed for the undersea environment. I base this on our miniature wiener dog, Zoe, who refuses to set foot on the lawn to pee if, YIKES, the grass is even moderately wet."

"No, wiener dogs are clearly intended for what I would call 'the couch environment.'"

Walking Treats

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Storage Solution

Susan was shopping at Target the other day and came across the Juvenile Storage section.

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Wouldn't it be great to be able to put juveniles and their antics in off-season storage with snap on lids -- like holiday decorations or snow pants. But, if you live in a house like mine, you have to wonder if those bins are anywhere near big enough.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Wish List, Entry #21

Oh, yeah!

Or, for my organic, natural friends.

Apparently, I am not the first one to think of this!

Friday, July 2, 2010

That's Enough

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street