Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Most Terrifying Rodent.

When Joe was visiting, he helped me catch a gopher that had been burrowing in my yard. It was a mighty battle of wits that ended with a live gopher - caught in a Macabee trap by the cheek - that was quickly silenced with a sharp snap to the head with a trowel.
That's not the terrifying rodent I'm talking about. There was nothing terrifying about the gopher. Neither is there anything terrifying about the one or two mice I've caught (in mousetraps) since living here. No, this is a story that will melt the skin from your bones, sure to become a staple terror story around campfires everywhere.

Sit back, get ready, and don't blame me if you experience lasting side effects after reading this.

Valerie and Cj are at girls camp all week. I took the week off to take care of the youngest three kids. Not having to work each day allows me the luxury of being able to stay up late working on various projects. On this particular night, I was trying to put together a home theater pc. I sat down on the floor in the living room and surrounded myself with a spare computer and a bunch of spare parts. I was reconfiguring the hardware and trying to install Linux.

It was about 12:30 am. I was sitting there in a pair if shorts, with bare feet. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a quick movement across the floor from the couch to the desk in the corner. I turned my head toward it just in time to see a brownish gray blur move into the shadows under the desk.

Oh great! Another mouse. At least Valerie isn't here to witness it and get grossed out. I walked - in my bare feet - over to the desk and peered underneath. I couldn't see anything. It was literally cornered, with only one way out, so I thought I'd try to catch him as he came out. I waited, but he never came out. I ran to my room to grab a flashlight. I layed my face down on the carpet so my left eye could see under the desk. Some of you might think that was crazy, but I'm really not afraid of mice. (remember I used to have pet mice when I was a kid). I shined the light under, but there was nothing there! He could have escaped while I was getting the light.

I went back to working on the computer. About fifteen minutes later, I caught another quick movement going from the desk to the back of the entertainment center. There were two things that struck me as weird. First, I know there was nothing under the desk, and second, it didn't move like a mouse. I can't explain it really, but it felt like it was a bit too fast and it seemed like it started and stopped instantly. Of course, I only caught it in the corner of my eye.

The flashlight was across the room, and I didn't want to lose him again, so I quickly walked over to the entertainment center without the light. I pushed a toy to the back wall with my bare foot to block one avenue of escape. I could see the shadowed shape of the mouse just four inches from my foot. It occurred to me that he might run right past the toy and over my bare foot, so I prepared myself to move if I had to. I tried to get a good look at the mouse, but it was just too dark. I stretched over and grabbed the nearby Ikea floor lamp (It's a "KROBY", the slightly more durable brother to the $8.00 "NOT" - just to keep the facts clear). I leaned the lamp toward me to shine some light in the dark crevice.

Before the light was fully there, the mouse moved away from me into a tangle of wires on the floor a few inches deeper behind the cabinet. Although I didn't have good light on it (I could only see a mouse-sized shadowed mass), I was sure that it moved very unmouselike.

It skittered. It skittered very fast.

The movement triggered some reflex deep in the most primitive part of my brain. I felt the warmth of adrenaline as it shot through my body. I leaped back from the wall, expertly dodging computer parts strewn around the floor, and landed in the center of the room - a full six feet from when I was standing an instant ago.

This happened before I had any conscious thought about what was going on. I stood there, a bit stunned, appreciating the distance I had just leaped and the fact that I had managed to avoid stepping on anything. Finally, my brain caught up an I realized that I was shaking a bit from the adrenaline, and then I wondered what had just happened. The mouse had moved away from me, yet I freaked out. Then my conscious brain registered the creepy skittering.

I shuddered. Literally.

I recognized the skittering. That mouse moved just like a - just like a - Ooooo! it gives me the creeps just thinking about it now.

It moved just like a SPIDER!

But it couldn't be a spider! It was the size of a mouse, and dense. Not spindly like a daddy longlegs or a house spider. It was big. If I took one of the many daddy longlegs we have around here and stretched his legs flat, It would still be too small. Maybe a black widow? I think they get pretty big, right? (It turns out, they don't get as big as a mouse.) But this was definitely brown, not the sleek black of a black widow.
Black Widows are Too Small

I dashed into the kitchen, suddenly very aware of my bare feet and legs. My mind was racing for an explanation. I could feel creepy crawlies crawling all over my legs! It was my imagination of course, but I was hyper aware of every texture of the floor on my feet, every slight swirl of air around my ankles. Everything felt like a spider on my skin. I found what I come for. The flyswatter. I immediately thought of the crunch and inevitable goo that would result from a swat on a spider that big.

I shuddered. And tried not to gag.

It occurred to me that maybe it was a scorpion. That would be kinda cool. For some reason I'm not nearly as creeped out by scorpions. I know they can get pretty big, but I don't think they move as fast as this mouse did. My mind was racing to recall every nature show I had ever seen. What kind of spider would live in California and get that big? I could think of some big spiders in Australia and New Zealand, some in South America. The only one I could think of in the USA, is a tarantula, but they move very deliberately, very slowly, plus this mouse was smaller than a tarantula.

I slipped on my flip-flops which, oddly, made me feel much more protected from creepy crawlies. I grabbed the flash light in one hand, and held the flyswatter ready in the other. I approached the back of the entertainment center. Despite the massive protection of the flip-flops, I kept my feet away from the edge of the cabinet. I could see the shadow again right at the edge of the cables. I quickly shined the flashlight on the shadow - and began flinching - not sure whether to slap the shadow or jump away. Fight or flight?


I slapped the shadow. Once, twice. The third time I pushed hard, grinding it into the carpet. The body separated into two pieces. It had to be dead. I leaned down to get a better look at it. As I moved, the beam of the flashlight wandered a bit high, casting the carcass into shadow again. At that same moment, one of the two pieces lifted off the ground right toward my face.

And I found myself standing in the exact same spot as before - in the center of the room six feet away. I watched the shadow rise up from behind the cabinet and sort of swirl across the wall in a lazy loop before coming to rest on the carpet a foot from the wall.

That was neither mouse-like nor spider-like. In fact, it was more feather-like than anything.

I shined the light on it, and found a brownish-gray lump. It was a dust bunny!

There I was, working on a dusty computer that was filled with dust bunnies! I walked back to the back of the cabinet, and sure enough, the other half of the shadow was there on the carpet. One half of a dust bunny. As if to punctuate the situation, the air conditioner turned on and a quick burst of air sent the dust bunny skittering across the floor.

Talk about relief! My heart slowed down to a normal level and I plopped down in the middle of the room, in my bare feet and shorts, and resumed working on my computer. Even though I knew it was just a dust bunny, I still found myself flinching at everything. I still felt like spiders were crawling all over me. I was thirsty, but I had visions of drinking from my cup, gulping the water, until I would look into the tipped-up bottom just in time to see an enormous spider slip into my mouth.

I was pretty creeped out.

My cat, Zombie, walked over and plopped herself on my lap. I know it's stupid, 'cause what could a cat do anyway in the arena of protection, but I felt calmer with her there.

After awhile, Zombie, who I'd thought had been sleeping, bounded off my lap toward the entertainment center. She was chasing one half of the dust bunny (Hey I hadn't calmed down enough to clean it up yet! Sheesh!) which had skittered into the bottom shelf (which is at floor level) of the cabinet. We have a square, fabric-covered, cardboard box there that holds video games and diapers. Zombie was laying on her side reaching through the gap between the box and the cabinet wall, trying to catch the dust bunny. I thought I'd help her out, so I grabbed the box and pulled it a good two feet out of the cabinet onto the floor.

The box rested between me and Zombie who was now inside the dark cabinet trying to slap the dust bunny as the fans from the blue-ray player tossed it back and forth across the shelf floor. I leaned forward over the open-top box. My weight was on my right arm which rested slightly against the outer edge of the box, my hand protruded a few inches beyond the back of the box.

I know what you are thinking; "That's not a dust bunny that Zombie's playing with!". Well you're wrong. It was a dust bunny and I could see it clearly despite the darkness of the cabinet. Sorry to disappoint.

But suddenly Zombies demeanor changed! Instantly, she went from a playful kitten, to a predator on alert! She was crouched ready to pounce. She was facing me. Or rather, she was facing the box in front of me. You know, the one my arm was leaning against.

I chuckled.

I looked down at the box.

I froze! Solid! I was an idiot that didn't recognize what I was looking at. That went on for at least .0023 seconds - but it felt like an eternity! At .0024 seconds, I was off the floor, into the air, landing in what I'm sure was a Jack Bauer-worthy rolling crouch where I picked up the flyswatter.

My quick movement didn't distract Zombie one bit. While I was in the air, she pounced and made a full body tackle of my "mouse", ripping it off the back of the box where it had been hiding, one inch (Go look at a ruler right now so you can understand how small a distance one inch is. Go!), one inch! from my arm and hand.

Zombie and the "mouse" tumbled across the floor. Zombie stopped once she got back to her feet, but the 'mouse' was flung several more feet. It landed on it's feet and charged Zombie. It was at this time that I was able to think again. I took a good long look at the "mouse".

It wasn't a mouse at all.

It was a spider. Did you hear me!? I said a Spider! A spider that was big enough that I had mistaken it for a mouse! A wolf Spider to be exact.

I've seen wolf spiders hundreds of times in my life. The biggest one I've seen was probably a little bigger than a quarter. This was different!

Stop for a minute. Think about the biggest spider you have ever found in your house. How big was it really? (Spiders from foreign countries don't count killjoy!), now multiply that times three or four. Now you are at half the size of this spider!

Zombie and the spider wrestled in an epic battle. The spider spraying acid-venom at Zombie's throat. Zombie shooting laser death rays from her eyes. I had the flyswatter ready, but couldn't use it for fear of taking out Zombie by accident. In the end, my secret spec ops ninja training came through and I slapped the flyswatter down, a hair's breadth from Zombie's face, crushing the wolf spider.

It crunched. And Goo-ed. I gagged.

I carefully picked up the carcass (with about 50 Kleenexes), and placed it on a sheet of paper. It was a bit disappointing, because it had curled up all it's legs the way spiders do, so it didn't seem nearly as big as I thought. I grabbed some forceps and stretched out it's legs. They kept wanting to curl up, but I was able to take some pictures.

I hope you aren't eating right now.

Here he is next to an Oreo! Ok, so it's a small oreo, not a regular size one, but the spider is still bigger!

Here are a few other pictures to show the size.

My hand is a little more than an inch away from the spider here. That's further than it was before Zombie took him out!

Don't worry, I threw away the Oreo, the paper, the money, the ruler and my hand!

I still feel like spiders are crawling all over me!

I just hope I never meet this guy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spring Break

I don't get a spring break from work, but I took one anyway. I went to work on Monday - business as usual. On Tuesday, we took the kids to Point Reyes. Val posted some pictures on the family blog. What she didn't tell you is that it was soooo windy! The first beach we went to had signs posted everywhere warning people NOT to play in the water because of the dangerous current. I walked down to the water carrying Zoey. This was the first time I was frightened by the surf while standing a safe distance from it. The roar was insanely loud and the crashing waves seemed to be coming and going at the same time. White water from waves smacking each other was shooting a couple of feet over my head just a few meters from where I was standing. Zoey was terrified. I was afraid I broke her. She had never shown fear of the water before (which is terrifying to Val and me). Now she wouldn't even look at it.
Val and the other kids had plopped down next to the only windbreak they could find. It was a single log that provided a break from the wind if you layed down right next to it. The kids really wanted to play at the beach though, so we endured.

I noticed that the gravel on that beach (it was really not sandy at all) was polished smooth. The entire beach was a giant rock polisher.

A ranger came down and told us about Drakes beach on the other side of the point. That was so much better! The point blocked the wind completely so we could wander forever without being sand blasted. The surf was also much calmer. All the kids - except Zoey, who I broke - felt safe chasing the and dodging the surf. It was the calmest weather we've had at a NoCal beach!

The next day, Wednesday, Val took the kids to a beach where we found out that I didn't break Zoey (again, see the family blog). I woke up before dawn and met up with the Priest Quorum for the High Adventure. We drove about 3 hours to the Merced River as it leaves Yosimite.
Remember when I was talking about white water crashing several feet over my head a few paragraphs ago? You can take the time to go back and review that part if you've forgotten. I'll wait...

Ok, well instead of being a few meters from it, this time we intentionally went right into it!

The water was snow melt, so it was unbelievably cold! We got to jump in anyway and float through one of the minor rapids. I didn't catch my breath for the entire swim. Boy was I happy to get back in the boat!

We drove home that evening and spent the night at the YM President's house. Next morning, we woke bright and early and drove up to Mt Diablo where we hiked a mile to an eroded trail. We spent the day bent over digging the dirt with fire fighting tools with cool names like "Mattock", "McLoud", and "Pulaski". We basically tore up the old trail and reformed it, making it the proper width, filling in the ruts, and giving it the proper slope. Eight hours later we went home.

I was exhausted and sore.

On Friday (click the link if you dare) I went to work as usual.

Luckily, I recovered over the next week, because the following Saturday, Val and I moved 2 1/2 cubic yards of decorative landscaping rock, and 3 cubic yards of topsoil from a pile in our driveway to various areas around our house and garden. I'll let Val tell you guys more about that on the family blog.

I'm so sore I can barely move my fingers to type.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Food-Stuffed Food

Let's face it: Food is Delicious.

That's it's purpose of existence: To taste good.

And certain flavors work well with others so that both taste better, and are more edible. I guess you could say "both are edified". You know what I mean; Bacon and eggs, fruit and cheese, sweet and salty, and of course, peanut butter and chocolate.

Actually, peanut butter and chocolate is a perfect example of what I wanted to share today. Long ago if people wanted to eat it, they would have to pick a chocolate bar right off the chocolate tree and dip it into the river of peanut butter - like chips and dip. Then one day, some genius thought about stuffing some peanut butter inside the chocolate and gave us Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

I think more foods should get stuffed into other foods.

The other day I made breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, sausage, bacon and eggs. I'd heard about a new way to prepare it so I gave it a try. I mostly cooked the bacon and sausage, then poured pancake batter over it. The result: Bacon or sausage-stuffed pancakes! They were so delicious! The pancakes cooked in the bacon grease. And so efficient!

A couple of weeks ago I ate at KFC. I got a "Double Down". Have you ever heard of it? It's simply a bacon and cheese sandwich, but in place of bread, they use two crispy chicken breasts. So Good! But hard to eat. You have to hold it by the wrapper and avoid eating the paper. Of course you could hold it by the chicken then just lick your fingers clean at the end, but after seeing that Doritos commercial where the guys grabs the other guy's hand and sucks the Dorito dust off them, I'm a bit paranoid. I wouldn't want some stranger sucking the residual double-down off my fingers.

I used to make what I called "The heart stopper". It's just a regular cheeseburger, but instead of buns, I used two grilled cheese sandwiches. Talk about delicious! Of course you often felt your arteries filling with plaque as you ate it - hence the name.

I guess my point is, we should be more daring with our food and simplify it by stuffing it inside a complimentary food.

Root beer-stuffed pizza anyone?

Monday, January 17, 2011


Beware. There are spoilers in this, so don't read it if you to want it to be spoiled!

You may remember last year when I summarized "New Moon" in 19 frames. Well, I just saw "Eclipse" and felt the need to summarize it as well. As before, I do this as a service to all those who have no desire to watch the movie, but might be curious. Also as before, my comments on the film are below the image.

In this one, Bella has traded self loathing for complete selfishness. She wants both boys. She wants both boys to want her. She wants what she wants with no regard for the feelings of anyone else. Once again, why would you want your main character to be so unappealing?
I'm looking forward to the next movie - where she dies! The story is much more entertaining after that.