Chickens, rats, and a trap

The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. ~ Lily Tomlin

RatTrapWe had a growing rat problem, not in the coop … yet. But still, seeing 6 to 8 rats in the backyard, with the growing maze of tunnels, spurred me to do the needful. My lovely wife didn’t want to poison anything.

So we tried laying pavers to keep them from digging into the yard, filling the tunnels with rocks, cleaning up the bird feeders, even installing catch bags under them, etc. All did nothing to stop the growing mob of rats. We even have a feral cat that camps out in our backyard and a red-tailed hawk or two who monitor our lands. Well, we do live next to a wetland meadow.

RatTrap2Finally we asked our expert chicken-raising, farmer neighbors. Pete lent me a poison box (like this one) and some one-bite poison. The first night, no one touched the poison, so I put a little peanut butter on it. The next night the whole stick was gone. Within two weeks of continued poison placements we are down to just one rat, he’s huge. We call him Willard.

When we gave Pete back his box, I made a smaller version. I’m not sure what the interior pieces do, but I just copied his design. Pete is a more talented carpenter than me. He also threaded the poison onto some wires. That was just too fussy for me. This box, btw, is on the outside of my yard, not where the chickens can play with it. Here is the finished product made from wood recovered from the abandoned house that the county finally tore down. The stone on top is to keep the box from moving.

I am paranoid about my chickens or dawgs eating the dead rats. I am constantly searching for the dead rats. So far, I haven’t found any. Rats are scavenger cannibals – even when you trap, the rats eat the bodies caught in the trap. That’s why you only see dead rats if you check traps often, and sometimes then you only see the body part that was enclosed in the trap that they couldn’t eat. So we might never see a dead rat.

I feel relieved that the rat problem has been cut down to a dull roar. We will never be rat free, but we can manage the onslaught. One of the neighbors even thanked me for addressing the growing problem. Well, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

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2017 Predictions: The Rise of the Robots

“The Three Laws of Robotics:
1: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;
2: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law;
3: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Isaac Asimov, I, Robot

42-18778056I have, upon occasion, hazarded a few guesses about the future of our world such as this piece in 2010: Top Ten things that should have Disappeared This Decade.

So when a friend of mine recently started this conversation, I wanted to share it with my group of family/friends. Much to the dismay of his readers, he notes that “Automation and robotics will be presenting huge challenges to social and political structures during the coming decades.” I wonder if there is a growing fear that there will not be enough work for the middle class because of globalization and automation. Here is some grist for your mill; discuss.

Automation will, “in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world,” Hawking wrote. “The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive.”

He frames this economic anxiety as a reason for the rise in right-wing, populist politics in the West: “We are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing. It is no wonder then that they are searching for a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent.”

RobotRebellion2The Fourth Industrial Revolution is interacting with other socio-economic and demographic factors to create a perfect storm of business model change in all industries, resulting in major disruptions to labour markets. New categories of jobs will emerge, partly or wholly displacing others. The skill sets required in both old and new occupations will change in most industries and transform how and where people work.

It may also affect female and male workers differently and transform the dynamics of the industry gender gap. The Future of Jobs Report aims to unpack and provide specific information on the relative magnitude of these trends by industry and geography, and on the expected time horizon for their impact to be felt on job functions, employment levels and skills.

RobotRebellion3Those who fear the job-destroying impact of machines say this generation of technology is different because it is coming so fast. If older generations created tools for use by humans, such as sewing machines, the new forms of automation are imbued with artificial intelligence, capable of “machine learning” and of rapidly replacing humans in a broad swath of jobs, from manufacturing to services — even jobs that involve writing about robots. Concern about this disruptive advance has been stirred up by authorities such as Oxford University researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, who predicted in 2013 that nearly half of U.S. jobs would be at risk from automation in the next decade or two.

These alarms have sounded before, however. The Machine Intelligence Research Institute at the University of California at Berkeley has found that today, the average forecast for when artificial intelligence will arrive is about 20 years. But that was also the standard prediction in 1955. And often, humans find a way of working with their automated creations. After the introduction of supermarket scanners, the number of cashiers grew. Though legal-discovery software appeared to threaten the jobs of paralegals, their ranks increased, too. Now, many fear that self-driving trucks will displace millions of American truckers, but they may create more and better jobs for those who service those increasingly complex vehicles.

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Peace by Darren Motamedy ~ 2016


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Facebook will disable “ethnic affinity” targeting for housing, employment and credit-related ads — TechCrunch

It may be tough to remember given all the discussion about the role that Facebook’s News Feed may have played in getting Donald Trump elected, but the company was also criticized recently for its “ethnic affinity” ad targeting. Today, Facebook announced that it’s making some changes. The targeting allows advertisers to focus on users whose Facebook activity… Read…

via Facebook will disable “ethnic affinity” targeting for housing, employment and credit-related ads — TechCrunch

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My Conn C Soprano Saxophone

One day, over ten years ago, I purchased a Conn C soprano sax. My intent was to cover an oboe part in a local community band. Shortly after I purchased this instrument, the band found an oboe player.


Sarge, the World Wide Saxes founder and tech, said it was the hardest instrument he’d ever brought back to life. For example, he said the springs were like rusty cheetos! But he did an amazing job.




When I got the instrument back it was like new. I had the original mouthpiece and purchased a couple of new c soprano mouthpieces, I really wanted this instrument to work. But the inherent intonation was so bad.  I sadly realized that it would take a lot of time by a better musician than myself to use this instrument in an ensemble. So I sold this instrument at a loss and moved on.



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Merlin Williams: Woodwind Doubling on a Cruise Ship

My good friend Merlin speaks with authority about being a musician on a cruise ship. This video is an excellent education tool for those considering their own qualifications and wanting to know tips and tricks.

You are welcome.

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Muddy Yards and Dirty Shoes

You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it. ~ Denzel Washington

StonePathThree storms have deposited their rain filling our streams, retention ponds, and yards. As I walked across the yard, checking the chickens, plants, and such I was very thankful I had laid garden stones, paths through the muck.

I have been laying these paths and in some cases pivot points right before gates for a number of years. Hauling these stones is no easy work. But now, I have very little mud spots in my yard that had to be repaired every Spring.

I started by digging them in, but now-a-daze I just lay them in place and in less than a year they seat themselves at ground level rather nicely. I do have to trim the grass around them, but I actually enjoy doing that.

So the rains have come and will be in the Northwest for the next 7 months or so. But my shoes will be mostly mud free and my heart light. Enjoy.

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