Squirrels are Better than Birds

True story - when I lived in Seattle, I had a bird feeder hanging from a tree branch just outside my office window. But birds seldom used it, because squirrels kept raiding it. After a while, I decided that the squirrels were far more interesting than the birds, but I had to make it a challenge for them (and fun for me).

First I added one of the plastic semi-circular baffles to the feeder, which prevented the squirrels from climbing down from above. The squirrels learned to jump up from below the feeder using objects in my yard, so I moved the bird feeder a little higher, and then I watched with great amusement as the squirrels would continue to jump from the ground, but miss by a good distance. Then they would climb back up on the objects in my yard, and just stare at the feeder - as if to say, "Huh. That worked yesterday."

Then they learned that they could jump from the trunk of the tree and grab on with just one claw before crashing to the ground, but that was enough, and they resumed their raids. So I moved the feeder a little further out on the branch, and watched with great amusement as the squirrels would now fall far too short and hit the wall of my house with a dull thud. People would come in the office to talk to me and hear, "Clunk. ... Clunk. ... Clunk." They'd look at me quizzically, and I'd say, "Meh. It's just my squirrels."

After a while the squirrels learned that it wasn't going to work, so they'd climb the tree and just stare at the feeder, and I could tell that they were weighing every option available to them. Mind you, I kept refilling the feeder with store-bought squirrel food this entire time. Even though I was making life difficult for them, I was still trying to keep them well fed.

squirrel-stare-down

Eventually I noticed that the birds had returned, but by then I could not have cared less about them. Seeing birds on my feeder meant that my squirrels had been defeated, and my heart went out to them. After all, the squirrels had worked so hard for so long.

I decided to cut the squirrels a break, and I moved my feeder so that it was back in long distance jumping range for them. I never saw the birds again, but that didn't bother me at all - because almost every day from then on I saw a squirrel hanging on the feeder upside down by one claw. We'd make eye contact for a moment, and I knew they were grateful. Or annoyed. One can never be too sure with a squirrel.

The Wheels of Time Have Rolled Over Me

When we moved to the Seattle area, one of the selling points for our new home was the backyard. The back door of our house empties out onto two large, wooden decks which overlook a large greenbelt of towering evergreen and maple trees. When our son was younger, he and his friends would play paintball and other games in those woods for hours.

My son is currently in college, so he's moved on from such 'juvenile' pursuits as paintball; now a fresh crop of kids has taken over the timberland. This new batch of boys has replaced the paintball pistols of yesteryear with airsoft artillery; in the summer season, we hear them waging war till all hours. This has never bothered me at all - it's simply part of the experience of living near a cool stretch of forest.

But recently, a few of the boys were skirmishing through the thickets, and one of them was crouching low to avoid being seen by his pursuers as he took a running shortcut across my backyard. I happened to look out the window as this unfortunate event unfolded, and we had just laid fresh layer of bark throughout the yard. With this in mind, and before I had a chance to consider the consequences, I had opened the window and yelled, "Hey! Don't run through my backyard!"

And then it hit me - I had officially become Old Man McMurray; the antiquated ancient who lives on the hill and yells, "Hey, you youngsters get out of my yard!"

[Deep Sigh.] Sad smile

Is it time to buy a new guitar yet?

The Days Grow Shorter...

Back in the 1980s I was a big fan of the Canadian Power Trio named "Triumph." As far as arena rock was concerned, few bands could put on a show that was anywhere near as entertaining as a Triumph concert. It wasn't just about being a fan - there are any number of great bands out there who could put on a good show if you already liked them; but Triumph put on a killer show whether you liked them or not.

At the height of their popularity, Triumph recorded what was to become one of their greatest hits, which was a song that was titled "Fight the Good Fight." Many guitar players - myself included - spent a good deal of time learning that song, and I always enjoyed playing it live in the various rock bands that I played in throughout my teenage years.

As the first official day of Autumn is just around the corner here in Seattle, the opening lines to "Fight the Good Fight" seem to take on special meaning:

"The days grow shorter,
And the nights are getting long.
Feels like we're running out of time."

As I look out of my office window, that's exactly what I see:

Our short-lived Pacific Northwest Summer appears to have come to a close, and the clouds seem like they're here for the duration. The sun is setting a little earlier each day, and within a few months the choleric combination of miserable mists and depressing dusk will shorten the average day to six hours or less of daylight. And yet the most discouraging fact that I have to wrestle with today is the knowledge that the weather will be this way for the next nine months.

[I exhale a deep sigh...] Storm cloud

Three months from now is the Winter Solstice, at which time we will confront the shortest day of the year; after that, we will at least have the small consolation that each day will be a little longer than the last, but we still won't see much of the sun until sometime next June or July.

[I heave another deep sigh...] Storm cloud

I wonder how much a plane ticket to Hawaii would cost in January? Island with a palm tree