Those Guys Again

All is not sweetness and light around the Backyard Bowl.

We put the food out for the cats, and we don’t particularly begrudge the occasional possum who drops by. They’re generally polite and usually only take a couple of mouthfulls of krunchiez.

Then there are the trash pandas.

They are not polite. They track mud in the water bowl. They empty the bowls and then shove them around looking for more food. And they’re arrogant. The stroll around and give us dirty looks as though they’re the property owners and we’re a bunch of ragged squatters. And the language they use! Well!

So it’s a great day when we catch them off guard and force them to tree themselves.


There was much rejoicing that day.

Corporate Malfeasance

Apparently this is the time of year when I get pissed off about advertising. Last week, it was* Organic Valley’s casual disregard for science, logic, and their customers’ intelligence.

* Still is, actually

Then there’s this piece of trash produced by Comcast:
Comcast camping ad (Click to enlarge for readability.)

I sat on this for a couple of weeks to give my ire a chance to subside. It hasn’t, so I’m going to vent a bit.

Comcast, with casual disregard for tradition, has co-opted a piece of childhood. Yeah, OK, I know they’re hardly unique in that, but I find this a particularly egregious example. Damn it, the backyard campout isn’t about watching movies. A computer has no place in a kid’s tent. The backyard campout is for looking at the stars, eating junk food, and telling time-honored scary stories. Oh, and hoping that those noises outside the tent are just the neighborhood raccoon, rather than the neighborhood psycho with hooks for hands*.

* Mind you, the raccoon’s claws are likely sharper than the psycho’s hooks, but the raccoon is much cuter. That excuses a lot of questionable behavior, right?

Look, I’m not questioning Comcast’s right to advertise the wonderful advantages of Wi-Fi in the backyard. I’m sure there are some, even if I can’t think of any off the top of my head. If they want to promote watching movies in the yard, how about connecting that laptop to a TV and showing the whole family gathered around it on the deck (every family has a deck in the backyard, don’t they?) Or show the kids using a tablet to look up information about a frog they’ve found in the yard. Obviously, I’m not going to make it in the ad industry, but the point stands: there are ways to show off their service without crushing a hallowed tradition under a steamroller.

But wait: the ad gets worse. Did you notice the text at the bottom? “…with a plan to create more than eight million hotspots across the nation.” That plan is to use their customers’ routers as hotspots. As Ars reported earlier this year, when Comcast sends customers new modems with built-in Wi-Fi routers, they’re sending them pre-configured with a public hotspot. Yes, customers can turn it off, but Comcast doesn’t go out of their way to advertise the feature or make it easy to turn off.

They do charge customers seven dollars a month to rent the modem/routers, though. That’s a pretty good deal for Comcast, getting their customers to subsidize expansion of Comcast’s hotspot network.

Comcast is currently pushing the new modem/routers on customers via paper mail and robocalls warning them that their “devices need to be upgraded in order to fully maximize our service offerings”. Isn’t that a nicely worded phrase? It suggests that the change is of direct benefit to the customer, when it’s actually all about a direct benefit to Comcast.

As the final touch, the letters warn customers who are using Comcast’s voice telephony that–unlike their current modem–the new modem/router will not include a backup battery. Unless the customer purchases a battery, they’ll lose phone service if the house’s power goes out. Read that again: the customer must buy a battery from Comcast for a device that they rent from Comcast in order to maintain the same level of service they have now.

I’m starting to froth at the mouth, so I’ll wrap up before someone calls Animal Control to report a rabies-infected koi in the neighborhood. No doubt they’ll think I caught it from the raccoons that invaded my backyard campout. You know the one: the only one in the whole community that didn’t show movies on a laptop.

Meet the Neighbors 04

I’ve said before that everyone is welcome at the backyard bowl as long as they behave themselves. Almost everyone does. Grey Tabby seems to keep the other cats in line, regulars and occasional visitors alike. The possum comes in quietly, eats, and leaves just as quietly.

Then there are these guys.


They’re loud, shove each other around, chase the cats, knock over the watering can, carry off the food bowl, get the water bowl all muddy. Nobody likes the raccoons.

No, let me amend that: they’re very cute. We like to watch them on the rare occasions when they’re being good. But they’re the reason we keep a loaded SuperSoaker next to the window that overlooks the bowls.

Yep, we’ve got weapons–big weapons–and we know how to use them. And the raccoons know that we know. It’s reached the point where all we have to do is open the window and they head for the hills. Of course, when they run they trip over each other, fall down, pop back up, and generally bumble around like windup toys. They’re almost as cute as kittens. Almost.

Big Fuzzy Medicine

The latest casualty of the US government shutdown: health care for raccoons.

The Chattanoogan reports that a planned drop of oral rabies vaccine in Tennessee has been suspended due to the furlough of government employees. The vaccine air drop had been planned to protect area raccoons from the spread of rabies.

Raccoons are disproportionately from low-income families. Most work in unregulated industries which do not even pay minimum wage. That makes health insurance unaffordable for the majority of Procyonid Americans. Worse yet, raccoons as a class are not eligible for ACA coverage, so they have to rely on government-provided free services such as the indefinitely-delayed vaccine.

Hopefully the shutdown will end soon and the raccoons can get their vaccinations in time to prevent rabies from spreading through the community and into the surrounding human, feline, and canine communities.

Meanwhile, funding for medical research to improve the health of small, fuzzy creatures focuses on felines. Note, for example, a recent study done in the UK on stress levels in cats which shows that being patted elevates feline stress levels. Seriously: the researchers claim that no cats actually enjoy being patted, and those most willing to tolerate being stroked showed the highest levels of distress and stress hormones.

So remember, next time your faithful feline companion jumps up in your lap, meowing pitifully, don’t pat her! She definitely doesn’t want to be stroked, and cuddling her will just rile her up…

My guess would be that the study didn’t adequately control for the stress induced by the blood draws necessary for stress hormone testing. Maybe I’m wrong though, in which case somebody should make sure the results of the study get communicated to Brooklyn, NY, where — as Gawker reports — a cat has taken over Park Slope, terrorizing the residents. The cat wears a belled collar, so it’s certainly a pet rather than feral, though whether it’s an outdoor pet or a stray is currently unknown.

The notion that it has been driven insane by an excess of pettings and ear skritches and is attacking other cats and hissing at humans in a quest for revenge has a certain appeal. However, it may actually be following in a tradition of cats terrorizing New York neighborhoods that dates back more than half a century. A reliable report from 1946 recounts the tale of a cat that terrorized all of Jackson Heights. From humble beginnings, Rhubarb rose slowly in power, first taking over Jackson Heights, stealing golf and tennis balls and attacking women and dogs, then using his celebrity to become first the heir and then the owner of a baseball team and a multinational corporation.

Keep an eye on MLB’s winter meetings, folks. If we hear that the Mets have a new owner, one with four legs and a tail with a peculiar curve to it, we’ll know that Life is once again imitating Art.

Procyonid Prejudice

How impolite and politically incorrect can you get?

KOMO TV (Seattle) has posted this video on their website. You may have seen the original video posted elsewhere; KOMO’s take on it is, IMNSHO, highly offensive.

They imply that raccoons are lowly thieves, just waiting for an opportunity to make off with whatever food they can get their paws on. Consequently, they say, you should never leave food out for your cats because it only encourages the raccoons villainy.

Um, a couple of points here.

First, raccoons are no more inclined to theft than cats. Anyone who shares a house with a cat can share stories of their furry companion sneaking onto the counter or table and making off with the turkey, roast beef, corn bread, or lemon cake. So let’s not demonize the raccoons, OK?

Second, what are those cats doing outside anyway? It’s well-established that indoor-only cats live longer and stay healthier than outdoor or indoor/outdoor cats. Keep them inside and feed them inside. Not only will they not have to compete with the raccoons, but you can eat the cats’ food yourself when they run off with your dinner.

Third, I don’t see anything in the video that even suggests that that’s a “cats only” bowl. I won’t get into the ugly side of such species-ist “separate but equal” treatment here (though I’ll note that our outside bowl welcomes all visitors, be they feline, procyonid, didelphimorphine, or even galliform (no, not gallifreyan–not that we would turn one away, but we suspect they’d be more likely to knock on the front door and ask for tea). If you insist that the food be reserved for the cats, then mark it as such. Good luck keeping the other-species activists on the outside of the red velvet ropes, though, unless you hire a bouncer.

Fourth and finally, note that the raccoon is willing to share. She takes a handful (pardon me, “pawful”) of food for herself and carries it over to the other side of the carport to eat. Do you see the cats being so considerate? No. Come to that, have you ever seen a cat being that considerate? I certainly haven’t. Note that in this morning’s post ‘Nuki and Yuki are eating from separate bowls. Over and over again, we see the members of our group try to monopolize the food bowl, only sharing when they’re bodily shoved away.

Now consider: is the raccoon’s behaviour that of the mindless thug portrayed by KOMO TV? I think not.

(One final note, if only to protect me from liability: don’t try to pat or hand-feed the raccoons that show up at your bowl. They may not be the evil-minded monsters KOMO portrays them as, but they are wild animals, and they do have strong jaws, sharp teeth, and sharp claws. Knowing they’ll wash your hand before eating it is likely to be of limited consolation.)