Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Rodent Incursion

We used to have pet rats.We haven't had them for over two years though.

Now we have vermin rats. First I noticed black things in the garage that I could immediately identify as rat poop. (Pet rats live in cages, not the garage.) Not a good sign.

At night, usually close to midnight, I would hear gnawing sounds from the direction of the garage.

By day I could see no obvious signs of nests in the garage.

Then we started hearing them in the ceiling above the master bedroom (which is on the first floor in our house). They were BETWEEN THE FLOORS. Ugh. Rodents chew on things and if they get into the walls they could start chewing up electrical things causing even more problems.

Our pest service guy was due to stop by in a couple of days --- we have regular service to keep the ants out --- and I called in advance to make sure he brought some traps to set.

He set two in the garage and one in the crawl space, baiting them with peanut butter. (Pops, who has a rodent problem of his own, shook his head and said salami is the best bait. He has caught at least 18 rats in his house in the last six or seven months so he should know.)

Nothing happened for the first few days. Then CPA Boy and Thor went to Oakland for a baseball game one night. I was reading in bed when I heard a trap snap. I guess days-old peanut butter was good enough for our vermin rodents.

Of COURSE it happened when I was home alone at night!

I texted the guys to let them know and CPA Boy texted back, "Wait for the other one". And yep, about 40 minutes later the other one snapped.

The guys checked when they got home and we had two dead rats in traps. (We decided, wisely, not to take pictures of any of this. You're welcome.)

CPA Boy reset the traps in the garage after removing the bodies. He mentioned putting the bodies in the freezer so we could show Pest Control Guy. I'm all, "You put those dead rats in my freezer and you're buying me a new freezer!" Pest Control Guy KNOWS what rats look like!

One of the garage traps snapped the next day and CPA Boy went to remove the rat from it.

THE RAT WAS STILL ALIVE!!

CPA Boy is still traumatized!

The rat was small enough to get in all the way before the trap snapped so it was stuck without having been injured. It ran off into a hole under the heater/water heater location.

We haven't heard any more gnawing or crawling noises since --- it's summer and they are happy to stay outside for now --- but they are still obviously able to get into the garage and the house walls.

We had an inspection to figure out where they were gaining entry and the guys are here today doing the work necessary to close it all up. They will also clean up all the rat poop.

We have a large jetted tub in the master bathroom. No one uses it because you can't use bubble bath in it (will gunk up the jets, apparently) and its size does not match the volume of our water heater so you really can't fill it up that much.

Anyway, on the side of the tub is a small door to get access to the jet works. During the inspection the guy opened it up and the volume of rodent poop was HUGE. The rodents were basically getting in the underside of the tub from the crawl space. GROSS. This is where the gnawing sounds that I thought were coming from the garage were actually coming from!

Meanwhile, because we had some electrical work done a couple of months ago, we had the non-functioning intercom system removed from the house. This has left holes in the walls of almost every room in the house. Since we knew the rodents were getting in between floors we thought they could access the walls too and might get into the main house area that way.

So we have attractively covered up each hole with copy paper and packing tape. If the paper is broken we will know if something came through. So far, nothing. Thank goodness.

Attractive wall coverup. (Waverly Wombat says "Hello!")

[These holes will be repaired once the rest of the electrical work is finished.]

We live next to a golf course that has closed. The owner has basically decided to let it go to seed rather than sell it to someone else. (It's a big local issue and our neighborhood is up in arms about it.) We also had a record rainy season this past winter and spring. The wild conditions of the golf course have meant the rodent population is booming. The rain meant they needed to find shelter indoors. Most homes in the neighborhood have been experiencing the same thing.

The rodent exclusion guy just said they got another big rat in the trap set under the house. I will be so glad when the invasion is over, both rodents and people crawling under the house. But mostly rodents.

Pet rats good.

Vermin rats bad!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Pretty, pretty, pretty!

Today I decided to post something and before I could do that a message popped up on Blogger that said new blog themes were available. Naturally I had to check them out.

  • A normal post will need to wait! 
  • It's time to redecorate!

I really didn't make many changes. I didn't end up changing the overall theme (or maybe I did as the font seems to have changed) but I did change the "background". Before today it was a bunch of hand-drawn black stars on white. Boring but serviceable, given that my overall favorite color theme is red, black and white.

As I was scrolling through the possible backgrounds one caught my eye: it was a red surface with white, black and pink flowers all over it. So pretty! As my cursor hovered over it I could see the name of the background --- they all seem to have names --- and it was "Kelly, Kelly, Kelly". It was MEANT TO BE my blog background!

I might make more changes so be prepared. Let me know if things look weird or unreadable.

 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


And, hahaha, I was just proof-reading my entry and found these gems:
  • it was a read surface with white, black and pink flowers
  • a message pooped up on Blogger
    • hahahahahahaha!!!!
 Okay, Dear Readers, let's see some comments poop up on this entry!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Robert Osborne: An Important Influence in My Life

Robert Osborne, the face of Turner Classic Movies for its entire existence, passed away on Monday at the age of 84. He will be missed by many aficionados of film.

I was a huge fan of AMC back in the days when it was still a classic movie station - the late 1980s and 1990s --- and the movies were still uncut and commercial-free. It's hosts included Bob Dorian and Nick Clooney. It is entirely possible that I knew who Nick Clooney was before I had ever heard of his son George!

And then in 1994 TCM came along with Robert Osborne as host. I knew who he was because I had practically memorized his first book, Academy Awards Illustrated (published in 1965). The book had eight pages for every year. The first page was a general synopsis of the ceremony. Page two covered the best picture winner. Best Actor and Best Actress each had 2 pages with a full page photo on the left and a biography on the right. The final two pages had photos of the Supporting Actor and Actress winners along with a list of all the other nominees and winners.


Ha! Look how worn it is! This book originally belonged to my mother. I believe my brother Everest has his own copy now.

I began poring over it when I was in high school at a time when many of the early Oscar winners were old people who often appeared on the plethora of talk shows in those days.

  • Here are a few examples from my youth (aka the late 1960s and the 1970s):
    • I am almost positive I saw James Stewart on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" before I ever saw him in a movie. He used to read his poems for Johnny and the audience.
      • As a side note, when I first watched "It's a Wonderful Life" in the 1980s it was in public domain and cut to shreds to fit in commercials. It didn't even make sense anymore! Until I finally saw the uncut version I had no idea what a great actor James Stewart was, especially in the scene in Nick's bar where he asks God for help.
    • The first James Cagney movie I ever saw was "Ragtime" (1981) and he was already in his early 80s.
    • I couldn't have picked Greta Garbo out of a lineup then. She made her last film in 1941 and was more famous in the 1970s and 1980s for her appearances around New York City where she wanted to be "left alone", her most famous line from 1932's Best Picture winner "Grand Hotel". Her ghost is probably thankful she didn't live in a time of cell phone cameras.
    • I knew of  Bing Crosby as a singer and was aware of him and his family because they lived in the town next to ours in the mid-1970s. But I could not have told you he had won an Oscar for acting!
    • Greer Garson was the narrator for one of my favorite Christmas specials, "The Little Drummer Boy" and I had no idea who she was or what she looked like because it only featured her voice. 
    • I knew Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney from a different Christmas special, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". Fred looked like his animated character but Mickey didn't.
    • We all knew Judy Garland growing up because we watched "The Wizard of Oz" every annual telecast. And she had already died during my childhood so I only saw her as Dorothy.
    • I seemed to always be aware of Gene Kelly because his name is the same as mine. I liked to think I was named for him but I was not.
In combination with the Academy Awards book by Robert Osborne and the two classic movie channels, I began filling in the gaps of my knowledge. The gaps were canyons!

But now, thanks especially to Mr. Osborne, I know so much about classic film and there are still many films left to watch. I love the films of James Stewart, James Cagney, Greta Garbo, Mickey Rooney, Greer Garson, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and so many more: Jean Harlow, Fredric March, Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Marlene Dietrich, the Barrymores, Buster Keaton, Hattie McDaniel, Shirley Temple...the list is almost endless. It almost goes without saying that Maria Ouspenskaya belongs on the list!

But back to Academy Awards Illustrated: I read this book over and over again and I knew all the Oscar winners up until 1964! (I'm a little rusty now.) Many of the actors profiled in the book were still alive at the time of writing so it's an odd little time capsule. By 1965 the Oscars were only 37 years old. Next year they turn 90!

I eventually bought an updated copy that continues up until 1976 but I haven't obsessed over that version like I have the original. Thus I am not as good at remembering Oscar winners from 1965 onward! Robert Osborne's later Oscar books changed formats and I didn't like them nearly as much as the original. In about 10 years I would imagine someone else will take up the mantle for the 100th anniversary of the Oscars.


I like how his author blurb comments on his work on the "legitimate stage". I'm not sure if that term is used much anymore because there really isn't a need to distinguish among vaudeville, burlesque and others. (Sorry for the sunshine spots on the photo!)

Thank you, Mr. Osborne. You influenced me to seek out classic films which have made my life culturally richer. Godspeed.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Smoke Stack

I grew up in a small suburb of New Orleans, Louisiana, called Chalmette. One of the biggest companies in town was Kaiser Aluminum, which had a plant located next to the Mississippi River.

I recently came across an article about the history of the plant written in 2002. Apparently, due to an expiring 30-year contract for natural gas at extremely cheap prices --- natural gas prices were high in the early 1980s? --- the plant was closed and dismantled rather than renegotiation of the contract or upgrading to use coal. Because aluminum smelting plants cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build it certainly seems that it was short-sighted of Kaiser to close the plant.

Here's the article from when they actually tore down the plant:


This Kaiser Aluminum plant originally opened in 1951. My Great-Uncle KN, who was married to my grandmother's youngest sister, worked there but I don't know when he started. We didn't move there from New Orleans until 1967 and KN's family had lived there for years by then. It's entirely possible they relocated around the time the plant opened. Their neighborhood was right across the highway from the plant and I wonder if he walked to work.

In keeping with the times, the plant (legally) emitted fumes from the smelting process. The smokestack, all that remains of the plant today, was added in 1956 to clean the emissions so perhaps the fumes weren't as bad for our health as we thought!

We never gave the smokestack much thought but it served as a weather vane, indicating which way the wind blew. It was replaced in 1976 with a different method for cleaning emissions --- regulations had changed --- and the smokestack stopped smoking. So perhaps the fumes were as bad for our health as we thought? We move away from Chalmette in 1974 but visited the area afterwards and I definitely remember the non-smoking smokestack.

You can't see the smokestack itself but you can see the plume
look like it's coming out the top of our old house around 1967

Times got tough for aluminum smelters in the early 1980s for various reasons and Kaiser closed the Chalmette plant for good in 1983. My great-uncle had passed away by then.

Here is a picture of the plant in 1953, pre-smokestack:


That is the mighty Mississippi River on the left. St. Bernard Highway is the road on the right side. Our neighborhood is the empty field just above right center on the other side of the highway. Our house and much of that neighborhood was built in the early to mid-1960s. 

Between the Kaiser Aluminum plant below and the ship dock above (the two diagonal white lines next on the river's right side) you can just see the Chalmette Battlefield and monument --- it is basically a smaller version of the Washington Monument in D.C. --- just below the docks. This area is where the Battle of New Orleans was fought in 1815.

The smokestack itself still stands as it has apparently come in handy as a cell phone tower.

And oil refineries have always been a big local industry thanks to proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River. If you look at Google Maps you can see all sorts of large oil refinery containers in the area, some of which leaked during Hurricane Katrina and caused extra difficulties. In August 1976 one of my cousins died in a Chalmette oil refinery explosion leaving a wife and 5-year-old daughter behind.

Just a random and obscure history lesson for you!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Book Club 2017

My friend Geneva and I were talking about classic books and how "maybe it was time to tackle something by Dickens". Geneva thought she might tackle Anthony Trollope's "Barchester Chronicles" instead, a series of 6 books, while I thought I might try Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

We're going to tackle both: Trollope in January AND Stevenson in February!

Geneva, a friend of mine from high school days, and I don't have tons of overlap in our book reading tastes but we do love a good chat together over tea about books!

The book for January is The Warden, book one in the "Barchester Chronicles". The "Barchester Chronicles", according to the Wikipedia article, "concern the dealings of the clergy and the gentry, and the political, amatory, and social maneuverings that go on among and between them."
  • Here's a blurb for the first book:
    • "The Warden" centers on Mr. Harding, a clergyman of great personal integrity who is nevertheless in possession of an income from a charity far in excess of the sum devoted to the purposes of the foundation. On discovering this, young John Bold turns his reforming zeal to exposing what he regards as an abuse of privilege, despite the fact that he is in love with Mr. Harding's daughter Eleanor.
For some of you this screams BOREDOM, I know! For some of us, it screams CLASSIC!  

[Special message to my CPA husband: It practically sounds like a book about an audit! Read it now!]

One thing about classic novels, they are all available for free or really cheap on e-book readers. Amazon had the entire 6-book set for free for Kindle. It's also available from Project Gutenberg for free. Your local library should also have copies if you prefer physical books. 

We will intersperse the Trollope books every other month with other classics still to be determined. (Stay tuned!)

If you would like to participate in one or more of the books, please do and consider sharing your opinion about the book in the comments. Guest posts (or a guest paragraph or guest sentence or guest thumbs up or down) are most welcome!

I will write up my usual review in the usual format but I will try to get some more information on the author posted too.

It's also totally okay if you start reading one of the book club selections and then decide the book is not for you. We use the term DNF: did not finish. Life is too short to read a book you aren't enjoying! (Unless you need to read it for a class, of course. Then you're stuck.)

Join us, won't you? 

[Also posting this on my book blog, Kelly's Book Channel]

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Toilet Paper: "Buddy, Can You Spare a Square?"

Years ago I read a novel by Margaret Atwood: Cat's Eye, published in 1988 so I probably read it around that time. It was Atwood's next book after The Handmaid's Tale which I had loved.

Cat's Eye, however, was a book I did not like AT ALL yet one part has always stuck with me: the father of one of the characters maintained a strict rule, allowing the use of only 3 squares of toilet paper per event.

It has been over 25 years since I read this book so it's possible my memory on this is faulty. But I didn't like the book so I never plan to go back and check. It had a disappointing ending so I did not read another Margaret Atwood novel (The Year of the Flood, which turned out to be book 2 in a three book series) until a few years ago. Except for The Handmaid's Tale, her books are not for me.

I also read a novel a few years back about the family of a polygamist and he had like 27 kids and he also restricted toilet paper use as 30+ people probably go through a LOT of TP. (The book was probably The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall.)

Is this a thing? Do other people restrict the use of toilet paper in their homes? I like to joke that toilet paper will be the currency of the apocalypse.

Not to get too descriptive, but even three squares seems like a puny amount, depending on the level of usage. A number one? Okay, barely, but a number two?! Only three squares is just crazy talk.

And what about feminine hygiene products? (What do other women do?) I always wrapped everything in TP so that it wasn't visible in the trash can. This generally takes more than three squares because no one needs to see used FHPs.

The character Elaine Benes on "Seinfeld" famously asked, "Can you spare a square?" in a public restroom. She is ignored and has to do without even a single square, much less three.

I did a quick search on "toilet paper restrictions" and it came up with a few gems:
  • The New York State lawmaker who restricts everyone to 6 rolls per month for their offices.
  • School bathrooms where users need to sign out the roll of toilet paper in the main office and return it when done. 
  • Several examples of restricted TP use as austerity measures. When the budget is cut the first thing to go is the toilet paper.
  • And, of course, when you visit national parks you may bury your poop but you need to carry out your used toilet paper. It's a fun souvenir for the scrapbook, right? Eeeew.
  • And this classic: a horror novel printed on toilet paper!
    • According to the website selling it:
      • "It will scare the shit out of you!"
      • "It will have you on the edge of your seat!"

Friday, August 26, 2016

Do we WANT to be Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda or Samantha?

If you don't know who those women in the title are, they are the four main characters of HBO's comedy show "Sex and the City" which aired from 1998 to 2004.

Carrie is a newspaper columnist, writing weekly about, you guessed it, sex and the city (Manhattan specifically). She meets a man in the first episode nicknamed "Mr. Big" and then obsesses about him for the entire series. Big is portrayed by Chris Noth, also a regular on "Law & Order" before SATC and "The Good Wife" after it. He is a very attractive man but his character is kind of an asshole so it gets frustrating that Carrie keeps after him for so very long.

As for the other three, Miranda is a lawyer who is cynical about romance. She has an on-off relationship with Steve. Samantha runs her own public relations firm and enjoys lots of casual sex. Charlotte, who works at an art gallery, is a romantic who is searching for the perfect husband.

All of these women are white, wealthy and have no problem getting men to sleep with them. They are in their early 30s as the show starts except for Samantha who is about 10 years older. Carrie constantly pleads poverty but she lives in a fabulous Manhattan apartment, buys $400+ shoes regularly, drinks in bars constantly and eats in trendy restaurants every episode so she is "poor" compared to her friends but not poor compared to regular folks. All on the salary of someone who writes ONE article per week! No wonder everyone wanted to be Carrie!

I have been watching the show the last few weeks and I am through the 3rd season so far. I know how it all ends up (12-YEAR-OLD SPOILER ALERT: Carrie ends up with Mr. Big), it's not laugh out loud funny, and I'm more irritated by the women, especially Carrie.

There are several quizzes on the Internet that will tell you which character you are: in one I was a Charlotte, in another "you WISH you were a Carrie but alas, you are a Miranda".

Like it matters! As I watch I think I am temperamentally more of a Carrie --- obsessing over men was definitely a specialty of mine (somewhere my best friend Lady Chardonnay is snorting coffee through her nose as she reads this!) --- with a dash of Charlotte and Miranda, thus obsessive and romantic yet cynical. I don't seem to have much of Samantha in me but I find that she's the character I'm drawn to most as I watch in 2016. She is so comfortable with herself and her sex life that you have to admire her. Except for Samantha these women seem to define themselves only by the men in their lives.

At the time it was considered risque' how Samantha's sex life was portrayed and discussed but that was then. Now we have "Girls", another HBO comedy with 4 leads who are white women with little in the way of financial difficulties. But they are even more free with the sex talk and situations than SATC ever was! And of course lip service is paid to how broke or jobless they sometimes are but they manage just fine.

The differences between "Sex and the City" and "Girls" are that the first takes place mainly in Manhattan while the second is based in Brooklyn. The girls in "Girls" are in their mid-twenties instead of their early 30s. (I assume the next HBO show with 4 white women will be about teenagers in The Bronx, Queens or Staten Island about 10 years from now.)

The character I seem closer to in "Girls" is Hannah, the lead role. She wants to be a writer and she is considered chubby. There the similarities to me end. I am nothing like Carrie or Hannah in any ways that count --- my life couldn't be farther from a young, single woman's in New York City in any decade --- but I think one is drawn to them because they are the leads. Since we "play" the lead roles in our own lives so it would make sense to identify more closely to the lead in a TV show. I guess I am just as self-centered as those characters after all?!

So the point is this:
  • Which "Friends" character am I most like? 
    • Obsessive Monica! (The quiz agrees!) I'd add a bit of sarcastic Chandler too.
  • Which is your favorite Beatle?
    • In my childhood it was Paul, the cute one. Then it was John. Then it was George. Now I'm back to John again. Sorry, Ringo!
    • The quiz tells me I am most like Paul. Whatever that might mean!
  • Which "Girls" character are you?
    • According to the two quizzes I took I am either annoying Marnie or a combo of Hannah and Jessa.
  • Which Harry Potter character are you?
    • I would choose Hermione but the quiz said Bellatrix. Hmm...
  • Which "Game of Thrones" character are you?
    • I say Margaery but the quiz says Cersei. Hmm...
  • Which Middle Earth (Tolkien) character are you?
    • I say Hobbit; the quiz says Hobbit.
  • Which character from "Lord of the Rings" are you?
    • I choose Arwen, a beautiful elf who pines for Aragorn, but the quiz says Merry, a supporting Hobbit.
  • Which "Star Trek: The Next Generation" character are you?
    • I am definitely a Wesley, sayeth the quiz.
  • Which "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" character are you?
    • Quiz? Jadzia Dax.
  • Which "Star Trek: Voyager" character are you?
    • I am the captain now! Kathryn Janeway it is!
  • Which astrological sign are you? (Yes, there are quizzes for EVERYTHING!)
    • I am actually a Pisces and the quiz guessed Taurus or Pisces.

It's all ridiculous, isn't it?