Something is Flipping Our Lid

The tile grain grate in our back yard popped off again last night. One of the landscaping pins Sena used to secure it was bent and the other pin came out when the lid was flipped. The grate is always flipped upside down. Sena wondered if something might have pushed it up and over from inside the drain.

That would pretty much rule out Bigfoot, but something is flipping our lid.

It might be a rodent head-butting the grate from inside. Or it could still be a raccoon, picking it up with its fingers from above, either by the lip or the slots. We’ve never seen the culprit.

We have seven of these grates in our back yard but only one gets messed with. I’m not sure I want to spend $30 on a critter cam. You can order them through Walmart. They can run off several AA batteries. I suppose I could try to mount the camera to a support post under the sun room.  I’m still not sure if it would have the range to capture something several yards away. And they’re not available in the stores, not even in Fin and Feather. Local rental stores don’t carry them.

I searched the web for animal control service and it’s difficult to find. In most instances, there’s a professional you could hire for a minimum charge of $100-$500 or more—if you know what animal you want removed. Other options include the dog shelter or the police. The pros have an advertising strategy which naturally steer you to their own service.

We don’t even know what is flipping our lid.

Our options are limited.

We could try to duct tape things together. It’s not ideal and I’d probably get the tape all bunched up.

We could try getting a worm gear adjustable clamp that would fit around the pipe that the lid fits inside of and cinch it tight.

We could screw the lid to the pipe. That would probably solve the problem but we’d like to be able to remove it easily.

I could stay up all night with the yard light on and try to catch the critter in the act. That might lead to a more focused solution. It might also lead to me just nodding off in the chair, no matter how much coffee I drink. And if an extraterrestrial is involved, I might get abducted and then I’d be screwed, literally. That probing routine has got to be a violation of intergalactic law.

Get a critter cam and get a picture of the perpetrator.

Which of the options would you pick? Any other suggestions?

Update: We opted for the worm gear adjustable clamp. Sena found one at Menards that’s a little over 7 inches in diameter. It cinched down enough that I couldn’t lift off the lid. Let’s see if a critter can figure out how to knock that lid off now.

She found a few other things for me to do while I was out there: got rid of a couple of basketball-sized wasp nests using a blowtorch. After I rebuilt the house which burned to the ground, I had to check for Bigfoot turds in the yard and I slipped on one, cracked my sacroiliac, got it fixed at the ER and when I got back home, I had to throw some sod on a bare spot in the yard that was about as big as a football field but I persevered nevertheless and watered it down but got soaked to the skin and had to dry off by doing a few hundred wind sprints between Iowa City and Des Moines. Next up was to heft a few dozen bags of dirt and mulch to the back 40 where Sena’s building a city park; the Ferris wheel is on backorder—all this before dinner.

KCCK Hand-Battered Catfish Lore

I listen to the KCCK radio station (88.3) Big Mo Blues Show on most Friday nights and the host is John Heim, aka Big Mo. He always mentions a sponsor he calls May Reese hand-battered catfish. There are a couple of slogans which make it sound real.

“It’s better because it’s battered!”

“It’s packed with nitrates!”

“Coming soon to a river near you!”

Nobody but Big Mo ever advertises it and I’m not even sure I’m spelling “May Reese” correctly. In fact, I doubt there is such a person. But it’s fun to listen to Big Mo talk about May Reese’s hand-battered catfish.

Sena bought some breaded catfish nuggets from Hy-Vee, which is about as close to May Reese as we’re likely to get. They’re IQF, which means Individually Quick Frozen. Sena’s just slightly dubious about trying them. But she’s going to cook them, just because Big Mo talks about hand-battered catfish (better because it’s battered!”) and it’s mainly because I get a kick out of the legendary May Reese.

We can’t remember ever eating catfish.  When I was a kid, I used to fish for bullhead, which are in the same family as catfish. In fact, they are sometimes called bullhead catfish, which I didn’t even know until today when I looked it up on the web.

I fished for them in a creek in East Park in Mason City where I grew up. I would catch them and throw them back. They were almost always small and sometimes one would manage to squirm enough to sting me with the very sharp spine on its fins.

I never brought bullhead home because Mom made it abundantly clear she would never clean them.

I doubt Sena would ever cook hand-battered bullhead, even if you could find them IQF in the grocery store.

I’m not sure if bullhead would be “packed with nitrates” and I don’t think May Reese would hand batter them—unless she used a baseball bat.

Maybe We Need a Dose of Humor

Sena and I were listening to the Mike Waters morning radio show (KOKZ 105.7) this morning and his invitation to listeners was to call in and quote their favorite dumb question. One of the callers recited something which was actually a George Carlin joke. Neither one of us thought we heard it right, but it’s the same framework as the joke I found on the web (only the numbers were changed):

“If you’ve got 24 odds and ends on the table and 23 of them fall off, what’ve you got? An odd or an end?”

This is an example of his wordplay humor.

Carlin’s humor was also marked by satire on American culture and politics, the latter of which has gotten pretty rough. You’ll also find references on the web to Carlin’s past history of substance use, which reportedly included psychedelics.

That reminds me of an opinion piece published in the September issue of Current Psychiatry, by the journal’s editor, Henry A. Nasrallah, MD (From neuroplasticity to psychoplasticity: Psilocybin may reverse personality disorders and political fanaticism. Current Psychiatry. 2022 September, 21(9): 4-6 | doi: 10.12788/cp.0283).

I was a little surprised at Dr. Nasrallah’s enthusiastic endorsement of psilocybin for treatment of personality disorders and political extremism. He acknowledges the lack of any studies on the issue. In the last paragraph of his essay is a sweeping endorsement:

In the current political zeitgeist, could psychedelics such as psilocybin reduce or even eliminate political extremism and visceral hatred on all sides? It would be remarkable research to carry out to heal a politically divided populace. The dogma of untreatable personality disorders or hopelessly entrenched political extremism is on the chopping block, and psychedelics offer hope to splinter those beliefs by concurrently remodeling brain tissue (neuroplasticity) and rectifying the mindset (psychoplasticity).

While I’m not so sure about how effective psilocybin would be for this, I’m all for trying something to reduce the “visceral hatred on all sides.”

Maybe humor could be part of the solution. It doesn’t have to be exactly like that of George Carlin. Both parody and satire have been used by many writers for this.

I like the distinction between parody and satire in one article I found on the web. One recent example of satire (or parody; the distinction is sometimes hard to make since the story was listed as “Iowa Parodies”) was in the news and it apparently fooled at least a few people. It was about the Iowa football coaching staff. The title was “Brian Ferentz Promoted to University President To Avoid Having to Fire Him (Satire): The move was deemed ‘a way easier conversation than having him fired’ by the athletic director. It was written by Creighton M, posted September 5, 2022.

I think the story was originally printed without the word “Satire” in the title. I can’t recall seeing the heading “Iowa Parodies” either. A later version of the story added the word “Satire.”

The story might have been about nepotism in the hiring of Brian Ferentz (he’s the son of head coach Kirk Ferentz) as offensive coach. On the other hand, under Iowa law, it was not illegal to hire Brian Ferentz, who in any case reports to athletic director Gary Barta, not Kirk Ferentz.

I suspect the joke had more to do with negative public attitudes about the performance of the Iowa football offense early in the season.

Is it funny? I guess it depends on your perspective. The Iowa football coaching staff probably didn’t chuckle over it. But it more or less fits the definition of satire. It uses humor to expose flaws in the way we behave. And it avoids direct and nasty confrontation, which usually triggers antagonism rather than collaboration. Will it change the Iowa football program? I doubt it. They’re actually doing pretty good so far.

But satire as a strategy to inform and maybe change the public opinion will endure. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is one of my favorite books and it satirizes governments and the foolishness of people. I first learned about The Onion newspaper while we were in the process of relocating to Wisconsin (a short adventure). It satirizes the Associated Press news style.

One of the most uproarious examples of parody is a TV show which is no longer available on cable television but still offered on a streaming service (I think), Mountain Monsters. It’s a hilarious sendup of all the Bigfoot hunter shows.

The added benefit of parody and satire and other such forms of humor is that they are safer than psychedelics—unless your target was born without a funny bone.

Extraterrestrials Need Lentils Anonymous Program

Sena bought a bag of Spicy Sriracha Lentil Chips yesterday. They’re at the center of an extraterrestrial news flash on the web site of the company, The Daily Crave, which sells a lot of healthier snack food items. They’re mainly plant-based.

Apparently, extraterrestrials are known to have a tendency to get addicted to lentils. What proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the website listing for The Daily Crave is directly below the website listing for the Reddit description of the Star Trek: Next Generation episode (S01E19) which details the sale of lentils to aliens. Lentils are a highly addictive drug to extraterrestrials, although they tend to bore me—and a lot of other snackers. Funny, I can’t find anything about it in the Wikipedia entry for that 1988 episode entitled “Coming of Age.” And I didn’t watch it.

Can you beat that? I love science!

The Daily Crave news item (“Crop Circles coincide with missing new snack displays”) on the website differs from what’s on our bag, which has the headline “Missing Snack Displays Blamed on Aliens.”

There’s also a Lentils meme for the Ancient Aliens hair guy, Giorgio Tsoukalos. It’s like almost all of the memes: a picture of him with his wild hair and a weird fake quote. This one has the word “Lentils” on it. What more proof do you need to support government funding of a Lentils Anonymous (LA) program for aliens?

On the other hand, you have to wonder whether dusting a little sriracha on lentil chips would make them taste zestier instead of just making me load them up with chip dip, a substance known to instantaneously transform humans into aliens.

There are also several flavors for Quinoa Chips (pronounced KEEN-wah). Quinoa is also very good for you. Contrary to popular belief, Himalayan Salt Quinoa Chips will not grow hair on your chest, according to many extraterrestrial scientists.

Noisy Alien in Computer Removed

Well, this afternoon the computer repair guy returned and fixed the computer in about 15 minutes. The noise was gone after he replaced the power supply unit, the fan of which was the source of the mini-helicopter noise.

Obviously, this was a case of extraterrestrial invasion.

Seriously, though, once we got past all of the stuff about software checking, the repair was very quick. It turns out you can’t check the condition of the power supply unit fan with software. The noise problem was solved the old-fashioned way.

Bigfoot Messing with Our Drain Tile Cap?

We have this yard drainage tile system in our back yard. We have a half-dozen drain tile round grates over all of the pipes. One of them keeps turning up flipped over next to the pipe. It’s happened 3 days in a row.

The grate just slips into the pipe. Water pressure isn’t forcing it out. We think it’s maybe some kind of animal, Bigfoot, or an extraterrestrial messing with it.

According to the lawn and garden installer who supervised the job of laying the drain tile and pipe grates, the problem is either too much water through the pipe or critters. We’ve had no rain for the last 3 days yet we’ve found the grate upside down next to the pipe each of the 3 days.

I thought of getting a trail camera (critter cam) to catch whatever might be happening. But I’d have to order it because local hardware stores don’t carry them. We live in a residential area, but it’s a wooded lot. We commonly see squirrels, deer, wild turkeys, and even raccoons in our back yard.

If Bigfoot is messing with us, I could catch it on critter cam. That would be awesome.

So, it’s not impossible that an animal could be flipping the drain tile grate. But why? It’s always got water in it, and probably bugs. I think it would be easier for a critter to find water in the woods and bugs are flying around everywhere and on the trees.

I don’t think a human would flip the grate off. But if we had a critter cam, I could record it. They’re pretty expensive. I doubt Sena would let me order one. She’s going to try using sod pins to tether the grate.

Update: Sena put a couple sod pins in the grate to help secure it in the ground. She put some dirt around it so if a critter is messing with it, it’ll leave evidence. The rods are crossed with string around them to—confuse the critter?

Jury-Rigged or Jerry-Rigged Broken Broom Handle Repair?

I was out using the manual edger around our lawn today. When I finished that and started sweeping up the grass cuttings, my broom snapped off at the brush cap. The pole is a thin steel shaft and the end that fit into the cap of the brush was rusted through.

After I finished sweeping using a push broom, I figured I’d have to buy another broom. Then I got curious about whether I could fix it. There are a couple of terms for repairs that might fit here.

Jury-rigging means a make-shift repair that works. Jerry-rigging is slightly different and refers to a repair that is not just home-made but carelessly done.

I checked the internet and found a YouTube which described a fix for my broken broom. It looked very similar. But I would have needed to go out to the hardware store and buy either a pipe-fitter or a hacksaw. The instructions also called for using a drill to make a pilot hole for a small screw.

I thought it would be cheaper and faster just to buy a new broom. But the more I thought about it, I got an idea for a temporary fix. One element of it is how you would fix a loose shaft in a push broom. You just turn it around and bang it into the floor and it jams the pole into the brush handle hole.

What I did first was to think of what tool I had which might help. Because the end of the handle that fits into the brush cap was rusted out, I used a pair of tin snips to trim off the loose rusty fragments. That took off about an inch of the shaft.

I pushed the shaft into the brush cap, turned the broom upside down and jammed the shaft back into the cap. The broom was a little shorter but it was usable. And I didn’t have to run to the hardware store.

Now is that jury-rigging or jerry-rigging? Just like the two words probably derive from each other, the job was a little of both.

I’m still going to need a new broom because I’m not sure how long the fix is going to last.

Two Vaccine Jabs in One Arm or One in Each Arm?

There were headlines about whether it’s better to get the flu shot and the Covid-19 updated booster in one arm or one in each.

It doesn’t matter. Sena got both in one arm. Mine were split. I think it depended on the preference of the person giving the shots.

The main thing is that you consider getting them, at least. That part is up to you.

Computer Crisis Progress Report

The title of this post is supposedly about progress toward fixing my Dell computer, the one with a mini-helicopter noise in the tower. The Tech drove to my house yesterday from Ouad Cities. He had the parts the Agents ordered for fixing the noise in my PC tower.

The parts were wrong. He drove an hour to get here and was done in about 15 minutes. He looked and listened to the noise before and after removing the case cover. He knew right away it was not a software problem. He ordered the right part and now the next step is for him or another Tech to return on Monday to do the job.

There are Agents and Techs working for Dell. For 2-3 days, Agents pestered me with software shenanigans, even to the point of insisting I reset my PC. Agents never looked at my machine. I sent them the video of the PC and its racket. I’m not sure they listened to it.

I think the Dell Company pays Techs more money than it pays the Agents. That’s probably why Agents spend more time with customers, maybe distracting us with chores like PC resets.

But I’m trying to look on the bright side. The Agents are polite and trying to be helpful. They evidently know a lot about software, which can create problems for which they have a long list of suggestions. The Techs know how computers actually work as machines.

It’s a little like the difference between a couple of the reality TV shows (though the analogy is not exact). Compare the heavy wrecker operators (the tow truck guys) on the shows Highway Thru Hell and Heavy Rescue 401 to the Bigfoot researchers on the show Expedition Bigfoot.

The tow truck guys focus on getting the Canadian highways open and do it with their hands, hooks, chains, and heavy trucks. They have to know something about the physics of the job. It looks real.

The Bigfoot researchers know a lot about Bigfoot lore and what little science there is about it. The only Bigfoot you’ll ever see on the show is a doll the size of GI Joe pinned on a researcher’s backpack.

Keep looking up. You don’t want Bigfoot to drop out of a tree on you.

Look on the Bright Side

Yesterday was the first day of Autumn. Happy Autumn! Was that too cheerful? You know, I used to watch the show Monty Python’s Flying Circus years ago. I thought it was outrageously funny.

What reminded me of the show was Sena telling me that on Wednesday night, a member of the Flying Circus cast, Eric Idle, was on The Masked Singer, one of her favorite shows. I didn’t watch it. He was Hedgehog and sang the Beatles number, “Love Me Do.” Eric said something about how you should look on the happy side of life. He mentioned there was song with that title.

We looked it up and found “Look on the Bright Side of Life.” It’s a catchy tune and reminded me of Monty Python’s Flying Circus attitude. I guess Eric Idle wrote the song and sang it on The Life of Brian.

While the song seemingly is about looking steadily on the bright side of life, it has that slightly edgy, ironic attitude to it which was typical of the Flying Circus.

While some think that the Covid-19 pandemic is over (not mentioning names), there’s probably a more balanced way of looking at that and other challenges in life. The PennStateExtension published an article on June 12, 2020, “Realistic and Optimistic: Managing Mindset in Challenging Times,” by Suzanna Windon, Ph. D, Assistant Professor, Youth and Adult Leadership, and Mariah Stollar, Former Part-Time Research Assistant, Penn State University.

Their list of ways to look on the bright side while being mindful of potential pitfalls attributable to things like overweening pride and fantasy are good to remember in these trying times (see original article by the authors for full details):

  • Practice mindfulness. 
  • Observe and adjust your patterns of thinking.
  • Believe in yourself, but do not underestimate challenges. 
  • Look forward to the future, but be realistic things may not quickly change. 
  • Keep yourself informed, but limit media intake.
  • Reflect on messages you are sending to employees, volunteers, and loved ones. ” 

    In other words, look on the bright side but don’t kid yourself.

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