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May 18, 2004

All things small, furry, and large of cheek

Had I known I'd be spending part of my day chasing several small rodents around my office, I might have paid closer attention to the article in today's New York Times on the use of Gambian giant pouched rats as mine-detecting service animals.

The local rodent manifestation was no fast-moving lone critter creating disturbance on a four-mouse scale. This was four mice, discovered nesting in a box in my office, four I could point to and count as if they had little rugby jerseys on, "mouse number one, mouse number two, mouse number three, and whoops, there goes number four, leaping out of the box and making a run for it."

Had I been more alert to the business opportunity, well, gnawing on my door, I would have given each one a tiny trumpet, an itsy-bitsy Sousa march score (maybe just the dogfight section of Stars and Stripes Forever), and a teensy picture of Dizzy Gillespie. I would have had all eight mouse cheeks pooched out in no time, and the cheek owners would have been off to Mozambique as gainfully-employed ordinance disposal experts before the week was out.

Instead, mouse one, mouse two, and mouse three are now free-range mice, roaming the office parking lot. Mouse four is still on the lam. Probably playing the blues harp somewhere, his cheeks unaltered.

Posted by Brenden at 11:53 PM | Comments (0)
May 17, 2004

When your suckers have divots, you know your time is nearly up

There's nothing that stirs the seas of passion quite like being poured from a plastic bag into your honey's, well, exhibit tank. From the AP via Yahoo News:

Love almost passed J-1 by. At 5 years of age and 52 pounds, he's reaching the end of the line for his species, the largest octopus in the world. J-1 is in a period of decline that occurs before octopus die. His skin is eroding. His suckers have divots.

"He's not as strong as he used to be," said aquarist Deanna Trobaugh.

With so little time left, J-1 wasn't going to let the sweet Aurora slip through his eight octopus arms. While she had to make the first move, he caught on quickly, especially for an octopus who was collected on a beach near Seldovia in 1999 when he was about the size of a quarter and has lived the bachelor life since.

To get the two together, aquarium staff put Aurora in a plastic bag and then gently poured her into J-1's 3,600-gallon exhibit tank. She sank to the bottom of the tank and then made the first move, going over to J-1, who was hanging on a rock wall.

She reached out an arm and touched him. Only then did he wake up to the fact he had company. Contact made, she went back to her corner of the tank. J-1, dispelling water from his siphon to get quickly across the tank, was in hot pursuit.
Posted by Brenden at 10:24 PM | Comments (0)

Yeeeowwwch!

Kurt Vonnegut in These Modern Times:

"One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us."

Not all of it is quite that cynical. Quoted here in order that we not forget it:

When you get to my age, if you get to my age, which is 81, and if you have reproduced, you will find yourself asking your own children, who are themselves middle-aged, what life is all about.

...I put my big question about life to my biological son Mark. Mark is a pediatrician, and author of a memoir, The Eden Express. It is about his crackup, straightjacket and padded cell stuff, from which he recovered sufficiently to graduate from Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: �Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.� So I pass that on to you. Write it down, and put it in your computer, so you can forget it.
Posted by Brenden at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)

Congratulations

...to the newly-married and about-to-be married couples in Cambridge and elsewhere in Massachusetts. In their honor I link to John Scalzi's "A quick note to about-to-be-married gays and lesbians," which includes:

I'll be married nine years next June 17th. During all that time, there hasn't been a single day where I haven't said "I love you" to my spouse—several times if at all possible. The two facts are related.

Other short phrases which also occasionally come in handy: "I'm sorry," "You're right," "I'll get that" and "Of course I'll go down to the freezer and get you some ice cream, even though it's 3am and you woke me from a dead sleep. There's nothing I'd rather do." Okay, so that last one is not that short. Think about all the times you're entirely unreasonable, and then go get the ice cream.

And the all-important:

Smashing wedding cake into each other's face is strictly amateur hour.
Posted by Brenden at 9:51 PM | Comments (0)
May 10, 2004

"Honest, officer, I found it just lying there in the middle of the street."

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

China's tearaway economic growth is becoming a physical danger to pedestrians and motorists worldwide, as thefts of manhole covers and drain gratings are attributed to the Chinese demand for scrap metal.

The surging Chinese appetite for steel to feed its construction boom has sent scrap iron prices up to $US300 ($AU400) a tonne in recent weeks from about $US70 only two years ago, making these humble municipal assets a more attractive target for thieves.

In Shanghai, more than 1500 manhole covers have disappeared since the beginning of February, causing eight serious accidents.

...In Milwaukee, in the US, thieves have swiped over 160 sewer grates and manhole covers so far this year, exposing pedestrians to falls into deep water or shafts over 10 metres deep. Each of the typical grates weighs about 68 kg, meaning that only 15 are required to make up a tonne.

In Aberdeen, Scottish police say some 130 drain gratings have gone, while in the English town of Gloucester, two men have been charged with stealing 40 grates and preparing to ship them to a smelter in south Wales.
Posted by Brenden at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)
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