Toilet Talk

My inner 13-year-old is always struggling to get out, so when I read this week’s reprint of the Slate article by Forrest Wickman entitled, “A Brief History of Toilet-Based Animal Attacks”, there was no hope of containing my adolescent id. What precipitated Slate’s revisiting of this subject were news reports of a five-foot-long boa that had slithered out of a San Diego toilet earlier this week, but what I especially enjoyed about Mr. Wickman’s article was the following Times of Israel news report:

A man’s penis was bitten by a snake hiding in a toilet on Friday. According to an article in the Times of Israel, the man was sitting on the john when he was bitten and then “ran from the room in horror.” The man was rushed to the hospital where he was treated for “minor injuries.”

Less you think that dangers of snakes in toilets lie only in warmer more tropic climes than yours, Garrison Keillor on his Prairie Home Companion radio show sometimes warns of the danger of snow snakes in the upper Midwest. To prevent these snow snakes from biting you from behind, he hawks a safety seat add-on accessory for your toilet. This safety seat is locked, when not in use, to prevent snow snakes from sneaking into your house through the plumbing. When it is in use, the user is suspended a full three feet above the water, for their protection. I bet that that makes quite a splash!

While snakes attacking from toilets may grab all of the headlines they are not the only animal that attacks from below. Rats are common enough in the toilet bowls of one Seattle-area sewer system that the local government has posted a four-step method for dispatching the rodents. Jay, being a Seattle-area water professional, can you shed any additional light on this problem? I know that you normally do drinking water, but maybe you have heard about this too?

  • Stay Calm!
  • Keep the lid down so that it is unable to jump out.
  • Squirt some liquid dish soap in the toilet to help break the surface tension of the water. The soap degreases the oils on the rat’s fur so it cannot stay afloat in the water.
  • Flush the toilet! The rat will usually go back down the drain the same way it came up. You may need to flush multiple times.

I think that Wickman has overlooked the real danger here, which are not animals, but man himself. We encountered one such danger lurking in our Little Tokyo hotel room, last October. Yes folks, I’ve been sitting on these pictures since then. This toilet frankly scared the you-know-what out of me. I’ve never used a toilet before that also used an electrical outlet. Fortunately, we did not have any backup problems, if you know what I mean. The cute safety warning cartoons on the inside of the toilet seat did nothing to assuage my fear. I really do not need to have by butt burnt, while sitting on the toilet seat. Finally, the control panel for this toilet was more complicated than my first car’s dashboard. Come-on folks this is not rocket science. I did experiment with it, but since I’m of the school that one should either sh!t or get off the pot, it just seemed like a big waste of time.

Always remember to look before you sit. Let’s be careful in there!

Team America – LA Style

Dan at the Los Angeles Gun Club

Dan at the Los Angeles Gun Club

This photo of Dan was taken by one of his friends when they visited the Los Angeles Gun Club’s range last weekend. It is located close to Dan’s studio. He was going for a Frenchman look with his attire, like Pepé Le Pew. Two visiting Austrians wanted to experience something American. So why not shoot something? They rented three guns, a Winchester that Dan is seen holding. This one was his favorite of the three. I’m thinking The Rifleman, but I’m sure that that is a TV references too old for Dan. The others were a revolver and an AR-15 that had been re-chambered to accept pistol rounds. Also in attendance was a couple that was no longer a couple. The woman chose a full torso target and aimed for a very sensitive spot near the bottom of the silhouette. She wanted to mess with her ex. According to Dan she had a tight grouping. Think Lorena Bobbitt goes to the gun range.

Also in LA news, even crowding out the Pope’s landmark deal between the US and Cuba this week, has been Sony’s, The Interview, debacle. Seth Rogen and James Franco have apparently come up emptier than a North Korean villager’s lunchbox with their assassination comedy about the rotund ruler Kim Jong-Un. According to a friend of Dan’s who saw the LA press screening of The Interview, it was a movie not worth banning.

America, F— Yeah!

Ebola

Obama Hugging Ebola Nurse - From Whitehouse.gov

Obama Hugging Ebola Nurse – From Whitehouse.gov

Living in America, you are more likely to marry Kim Kardashian than contract Ebola (three husbands versus two nurses). It seems that a week or so ago the nation was boiling over with Ebola fever. Now the president is hugging one of the two formerly infected nurses. Was this an act of bravery? Is it too soon now to joke about Ebola? Like, could any Ebola joke told now possibly go viral? Could anybody really tell a killer Ebola joke? I have a candidate for you.

Did you hear the joke about Ebola?
You probably won’t get it.

Crime Report

Axe Cop - Chop

Axe Cop – Chop

When I got home tonight, after working late today, Anne told me, “You left too early this morning. You missed all of the excitement.” According to news reports and neighbor’s eyewitness accounts at 7:30 this morning three young black men were burglarizing a home on the next block over, when a police officer pulled up to the house. KMOV posted a security camera photo of one of the individuals. The following is a summary of the subsequent events according to the KMOV news report:

According to police, the officer spotted a man walking out of the house carrying a safe. Police said that the man fled on foot. The officer said the other two suspects also fled, one escaped on foot, while the other got inside a white Subaru station wagon and drove away. According to police, another officer spotted the Subaru on a nearby street before the Subaru slowly reversed and stopped. Police said the officer thought the suspect was surrendering, so he got out of the patrol car. However, authorities said the suspect then drove towards the officer, missed him, but hit the driver’s side of the police car. The suspect then led police on a chase, but officers stopped chasing him because they deemed traffic conditions to be too dangerous to public safety for further pursuit.

I was already at work while all of this was transpiring, but Anne was still home. She first became aware of these events, when our next-door neighbor called her to warn her that he had just seen two men run down our driveway and into our backyard. Party Girl, the young women who lives behind us saw them scale the fence between our properties and then run down her driveway and into her street. From news reports it sounds like all three suspects are still at large. Our neighbor who works from home saw the police later in the day attempting to track the suspects with a bloodhound.

Several weeks ago, during our annual block party, a police captain showed up to do some community relations. I spoke with him and one of the messages that he was trying to get out to the public was that there was a gang of criminals that were burglarizing homes in the area. They would wait in their car until a homeowner left for work and then break in to the house. There are enough similarities between the officer’s story and today’s events to make me think that these are the same guys. At the block party he said that one eyewitness had thought of taking a picture, but didn’t. Now they have a photo.

Six Degrees of Seperation

In Sickness and In Health

In Sickness and In Health

I have been monitoring the steady drumbeat of news concerning the developing Ebola epidemic. It first started with reports from faraway West Africa. Tales full of people dying from one of the most horrible diseases imaginable. Family members contracting the illness after caring for their dying love ones and doctors and nurses also being infected and killed by the score. These were gruesome stories, but also stories that were also distant and removed. These were stories about places that I’ve never been to and about people who I’ve never met. Day-to-day concerns and problems closer to home always seemed to crowd out any concerns that I might have had about Ebola.

Then Ebola jumped the ocean. It first crossed the Atlantic in the form of an American doctor who had been treating Ebola patients in Africa and had himself become infected. He was flown home for treatment and eventually recovered, all without spreading the disease to anyone else. Ebola’s next crossing landed in Dallas, where an infected African man sought treatment at a hospital, but eventually died, but this time not before spreading the illness to another person. A nurse who had been treating the man contracted the disease. Today, I learned that a second nurse from that hospital has also caught Ebola.

This second nurse had been visiting loved ones in Cleveland, helping to plan a wedding. With a fever, she flew back to Dallas on Monday night. This afternoon, I was in a meeting with two engineers, both of whom had landed at DFW at 8 PM on Monday, when the nurse’s plane had also landed. They had both received an email alerting them to this situation. Now, DFW is a huge airport, comprising four full terminals. The nurse was on a different flight and a different airline than my coworkers. So, the likelihood that either of them could have contracted Ebola from her is extremely unlikely, even if they were in the same airport at the same time. In our meeting today, I never came into close proximity to either of the other guys. Still, there is one thing that I did catch from them and that is fear. When I came home tonight, I told Anne all of this, but still she kissed me, until death do us part, that’s love, that’s life.

What’s Your Vector Victor?

On last Friday morning, observers at the Saint Louis National Weather Service (NWS) noticed some fairly high radar returns moving south over southern Illinois and central Missouri. Even though the reflectivity levels of these clouds were on the order of a moderate rainstorm, weather was quickly discounted, because there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. For technical reasons, Birds were also ruled out. The above radar map accompanied the following rather technical NWS Facebook post on the phenomenon:

High differential reflectivity values as well as low correlation coefficient values indicate these are most likely biological in origin. High differential reflectivity indicates these are oblate [flattened] targets, and low correlation coefficient means the targets are changing shape. We think these targets are Monarch butterflies. A Monarch in flight would look oblate to the radar, and flapping wings would account for the changing shape. NWS Saint Louis wishes good luck and a safe journey to these amazing little creatures on their long journey south!

The cloud even resembles the shape of a butterfly. I recall seeing Monarchs in the yard on both Saturday and Sunday. The picture of one is from the previous weekend and was taken at the gardens. Organizations dedicated to the preservation of the Monarch have disagreed with the NWS interpretation of its radar data. These NGOs point out that the Monarch population has fallen from a billion individuals to only 33 million in recent years and that the Monarch is now considered endangered. Still, the timing is right for their annual migration south to Mexico, as was the altitude of the returns, about 6,000’ and for lack of any better theory; I’m inclined to believe that those clouds were orange.