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Category Archive: Peeves

Dec 29

Top reasons why it’s time for 2011 to end

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language.?And next year’s words await another voice.?– T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

For the past two years at the end of December, I shared with you my top ten reasons why I was ready for that year to end. And here we are again at the close of another calendar year that was filled with just as many jaw-dropping, ludicrous, important events or not so as the year before.

I imagine you are ready for the year to end, too.

It is always fun to look back, however, so here they are: my top ten reasons why it’s time for 2011 to end.

10. The 2011 designation I give to ‘too much of someone or something’ goes this year to the media circus surrounding two high-profile legal cases, Casey Anthony and Conrad Murray’s in particular.

Cardiologist Conrad Murray, convicted of killing Michael Jackson, is now being vilified to Hannibal Lector status, according to the New York Daily news. And meanwhile, Casey Anthony who has never been seen since she got off with a wrist slap in her murder trial, is now the subject of fun-filled parlor games, a Facebook page, and movie sure to come all asking the burning question “Where in the World is Casey Anthony.

9. The ‘Pits of a Sports Moment’—NFL lockout and NBA lockout.

8. One word—Bieber. Yes, Bieber wins this one-word distinction once again this year, but it is not his hair that put him in the headlines this time. No sirree, it is an alleged paternity suit from a groupie, although he still looks 12 to me.

7. Two words—Rally Squirrel. Actually, I love Rally Squirrel’s antics and look forward to him reappearing in 2012, perhaps in Kansas City this time?

6. Three words—This is a tossup between ‘Occupy Wall Street…or whatever’ and Charlie Sheen’s Tweets.

5. The ‘Fall from Grace’ winner this year goes to the ‘Not-So Fashionable Dead Dictators’ and the unfortunate loss of the comic relief their fashion choices once provided:

  • Kim Jong-Il – could be one of the most poorly dressed emperors on the planet. However, he never lost his swagger, always decked out with giant sunglasses, his signature brown jumpsuits and fav platform shoes.
  • Muammar Gadhafi—This dictator had some crazy and colorful clothes, hats and makeup, and I am sorry to say, his fashion statement will be sorely missed. He has been deemed, in some circles, the Lady Gaga of the evil dictator crowd.
  • Bin Laden – wore sheets and there really isn’t much else to say about that fashion statement.

4. Movies—the end of Harry Potter and the almost end of Twilight. However, 2011 could be deemed “The Year of the Movie Sequel” with these summer blockbusters hitting the silver screen: Scream 4, Pirates 4, Mission Impossible IV, Cars 2, Transformers 3, Spy Kids 4, Hangover 2, and my personal favorite Kung Fu Panda 2. I am tired of some of these but not Kung Fu Panda, huh uh.

3. Fashion—itty, bitty thin feathers clamped into hair to make hairdos look better? Enough said.

2. Food trends—although 2010 could be considered the year of the organic, 2011 has to be the gluten-free-everything year. Gluten-free labels are turning up on many foods that are already naturally gluten-free, such as coffee? So what is this all about? Gluten is being blamed for a host of maladies with some people saying going gluten-free has changed their lives for the better and others reporting no difference whatsoever. Guess we could say the jury is still out on this one. We will stay tuned.

1. My number one reason for wanting 2011 to end has to be Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the Kardashian hype, the wedding, the divorce, the family 3-D Christmas card, and their book ‘Kardashian Konfidential’. If you are not in the Kardashian know, simply search the Internet for “Who are the Kardashians” and you will find entertaining blogs with all the answers. One of these is my favorite because it gives a humorous answer to the burning questions, why are the Kardashian sisters famous and why have they been cluttering up my television?
What could possibly top all this in 2012, you may wonder? An election year perhaps? Hold onto your hats New Year’s Eve revelers, it could be quite a ride.
Happy New Year!

Jun 16

You can’t beat a raccoon at its own game

“If the weather is warming after a period of cold weather, people are going to see more raccoons.” – Gordon Batcheller, wildlife biologist

If there is one thing I learned after engaging in head-to-head warfare with raccoons in our back yard recently, it is this. You can’t beat a raccoon at its own game.

Do you ever lie in bed at night thinking, “I wish I could annoy raccoons as much as they do me?”

It’s pathetic, but lately, that is what I do and what many of my neighbors do as well.

It’s not so much that we don’t like the furry bear-like bandits with the cute little Zorro masks; we do, from afar.

Just not in our backyards.

Why, you ask?

Because after our city finished installing a new sewer line, the city fathers graciously sodded our backyards. We loved it, and apparently so did the raccoons.

At first I blamed the damaged turf we found each and every morning on skunks. They are known to dig small, shallow holes in lawns as they forage for grubs.

These were no small holes, however. Instead, we found our sod turned over into perfectly tight “carpet rolls” overnight, every night.

No skunk can do that, I decided. This is the craziest thing I ever saw, I grumbled, and began to research the situation. So did my neighbors.

Turns out, the culprit was a raccoon.

Did you know that a raccoon’s hands are so nimble they can unlace a shoe, unlatch a cage and deftly retrieve coins as thin as dimes from your shirt pocket? A learned that online from “Fun Facts about Raccoons”.

Their little hands are so nimble, in fact, that they can lift and roll sod with the best of them.

Sounds as though raccoons are amazingly adaptable and have probably benefited more from the presence of humans than not.

They certainly have in our yard.

I say ‘they’ because we do not have just one raccoon but a nursery or gaze of raccoons, as groups of these critters are called.

Some say that after an especially harsh winter, raccoons are known to band together. Our backyard is living proof.

So much for the theory that Procyon Lotor (scientific name for raccoons) are territorial and that a female stays close to her den and a loner male marks a territory of 100 acres with no other males allowed.

The local animal control officer said we could have tens and tens of them up and down our nearby creek. He set cages and caught a few. I wonder if he will relocate them to our beautiful city lake area and golf course where they can continue making perfect sod carpet rolls to their hearts content along the fairways and greens.

What a great relocation program that would be for the raccoons, that is, but don’t tell the groundskeeper.

Meanwhile, the onslaught of raccoons did not subside much.

They are indeed living up to their nickname ‘bandits’, and you will never convince me they are not forming teams to overcome any obstacles we throw in their path.

We tried everything: strobe lights, loud music, plastic great horned owls and constant “rain” from lawn sprinklers.

Each time, advantage raccoon.

We lose, we give up.

Our dilemma brings to mind the 1980 movie Caddyshack in which one of the characters rigs the golf course with explosives to get rid of a pesky gopher. He succeeds in blowing up the course all right, but afterwards, the gopher emerges unharmed dancing to Kenny Loggins’ “I’m Alright”.

I have seen that movie in more ways than one.
Admittedly, we did not annoy the raccoons much, but as John Kelly of the Washington Post once quipped, “There are a lot of annoyed squirrels out there.”

Jun 02

It is positively buggy out there

“We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics.” –the late Bill Vaughan, Kansas City Star columnist

Had enough of bugs yet? Any cicada sightings?

I am already sick of bugs, however bug season in the Midwest is only just beginning, I am sorry to report.

Recently, I saw enough cicadas to last me for years.

Swarms of cicadas in the Missouri Ozarks, so many that they sometimes crunched under one’s feet. That is right, they crunch when you step on them.

This lovely outdoor spectacle is not quite as unsettling as when these prehistoric-looking creatures land on the back of your neck or settle into your hair.

Doesn’t this sound like a bad B-horror movie, “Return of the Giant Cicada”?

It was. I lived it, but part of what happened was my own fault.

It seemed like a great idea one evening to make smores over an open campfire. We do that a lot in the summer, but I must admit, this is the first time I roasted marshmallows in the midst of a cloud of arthropods. Most of the evening we spent picking scary giant bugs out of each other’s hair or out of our smores.

Cicadas landed on the marshmallows, got stuck in the melted Hershey bars, and were not at all afraid of the bonfire. A tall pole-light that stands nearby drew even more of these unpleasant invertebrates.

Shall we say it was a bad idea?

Despite consuming an occasional crunchy cicado that was stuck between graham crackers, some smores were consumed and enjoyed sans cicadas.

One online blogger, Good Medicine, suggested a way to eat them if you are so inclined: “Take and gut them, remove the wings and cover with honey, a good source for enriched protein (you have to eat the head, too) anyway, they are cheaper than $7.99 per pound center cut steak.”

And this is supposed to make me feel better?

As you might guess by now, cicadas are currently chief on my list of most-disliked insect invaders.

Granted, we were told for some time that the horde was coming during the month of May and to expect them. Broods by the millions were to emerge from the ground where they spent years waiting for their grand entrance.

So dramatic these nasty-looking creatures.

Entomology experts at the University of Missouri explain that it doesn’t take long for the nymphs to grow into giant brownish-black insects with six legs, large protruding red eyes, and transparent membranous wings.

A University of Missouri Extension report advises that the cicada nymphs attach themselves to trees, poles, and sides of houses with their claws. Then, according to Robert Barrett of the University of Missouri Department of Entomology, “The exoskeleton will split down the middle of the back and the adult will gradually pull itself free, leaving the cast skin attached to the substrate. The adults can live from five to six weeks.”

Incidentally, I haven’t mentioned their endless “singing” yet. Have you heard of the cicada love song, known to be the loudest song known in the insect world with some cicadas registering more than 100 decibels?

For me, this bothersome invasion of cicadas brings to mind what Ogden Nash once wrote about flies: “God in His wisdom made the fly. And then forgot to tell us why.”

I guess it could be worse though, such as an invasion of giant mosquitoes. Wasn’t it Andy Warhol who once said the mosquito was the state bird of New Jersey.

It is indeed positively buggy out there.

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