Saturday, August 30, 2008

War on Ants...

Anyone who lives in the high desert is familiar with the never-ending war against ants in the house. A house – perhaps especially a house with pets – is chock full of things that ants cherish. It's not even necessarily the food that they're after – sometimes it's just water, even splashes accidentally left on the countertop. No matter how carefully we clean up after ourselves, there always seems to be an inviting target for the ants – and the intrepid little explorer ants always find it.

Debbie absolutely loathes the ants. Me, I'm not too excited by them. But I've been doing my husbandly duty for years, trying every way I can think of to battle them. A few years ago we had our first success with the discovery of a spray formulation you can buy by mail that actually works. With this chemical warfare weapon, we were able to greatly reduce the ants living in the yard surrounding our house. This also reduced the ants we saw in the house, as many of them came from somewhere in the yard.

But it didn't eliminate the ants in the house, no matter how diligently I sprayed around the house. Without a single ant visible for several yards around the house, we'd still see hordes of them attacking some choice morsel. Usually this happened in the morning, when I'd be shaken out of my sleepiness by a shriek of dismay and anger from Debbie.

I figured that these ants must be living inside the house somewhere, or perhaps under the house. There are plenty of places that ants could use to sneak in – tiny cracks in the slab, the little spaces between cabinetry and the wall, and so on. Over time we came to suspect that there might be a colony of ants living in the very skinny-but-broad space under our granite countertops, just over the wood that underlies them. We still think that might be the case.

The challenge with these interior ants is that we don't really want to use our chemical weaponry on them. I have actually used it in a few careful cases, such as behind wood or under waterproof carpet cushion, where the chemical would be isolated from us and our pets. But we certainly wouldn't want to use it in a place like our kitchen!

A few weeks ago, Debbie and I started trying another strategy: we began patiently following the ants to find out where they were taking their ill-gotten gains. Inevitably the trail of ants led to an ant portal of some kind. One of the first things we discovered is that the ants in the kitchen were nearly all disappearing under the front edge of our countertops, where there was a roughly 1 mm crack between the edge of the rock and the wood supports. So I took out my new favorite anti-ant weapon – a tube of silicone caulking – and sealed all of that up.

A day or two later, the ants were back. So we followed them again, and discovered another ant portal behind the dishwasher. We sealed that up with more silicone caulking. A couple of days later, they popped out of another hole, so we sealed that one up. And so on, and on, and on – but not quite endlessly. As we've sealed up more and more of our house (which I'm now beginning to think of as a seive!), the ants were clearly having more and more trouble finding a way out. We are starting to think they have the look of desperation about them. And their numbers are down – way, way, down. We might actually be winning this war, and the total cost so far is two tubes of silicone caulking (from the Jamul Hardware Store, of course) and a few hours of our time. It's even taking on a bit of the aspect of a game, as Debbie and I track the little bastards down to their latest portal.

I decided to write this post because of an experience this morning. When I got up to make my morning tea, I noticed about a dozen ants going after the droplets of water in the kitchen sink. I followed them back, as has become our habit, and discovered that their new portal was in the vinyl framework of one of the bay windows in our kitchen. The ants had discovered an almost impossibly tiny crack – one sheet of paper would go into it, but not two sheets – and somehow they were squeezing through this. I think they really must be desperate! Five minutes later, that crack was sealed up.

I think our war on ants is almost over, and I'm almost ready to declare victory...

Steyn on Palin...

The incomparable Mark Steyn has a piece today about McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, and absolutely nails it. A selection:
What other country in the developed world produces beauty queens who hunt caribou and serve up a terrific moose stew? As an immigrant, I'm not saying I came to the United States purely to meet chicks like that, but it was certainly high on my list of priorities. And for the gun-totin' Miss Wasilla then to go on to become Governor while having five kids makes it an even more uniquely American story. Next to her resume, a guy who's done nothing but serve in the phony-baloney job of "community organizer" and write multiple autobiographies looks like just another creepily self-absorbed lifelong member of the full-time political class that infests every advanced democracy.
I kinda like the whole naughty librarian vibe.
But do go read the whole thing!

Rain in Lawson Valley...

Not a whole lot, mind you -- just 2 mm (about 0.1 inch) as I write this. But the rocks are wet, the normally-black moss is bright green, the frogs are ecstatic, and it hasn't stopped yet...

Startup of the Week...

InformationWeek magazine is profiling the company I work for as the “Startup of the Week”. Here's the lead:
"I founded this company to atone for my sins," says Fred Luddy, CEO of His transgression? Developing expensive and cumbersome IT management software while at Peregrine. Service-now provides help desk, change and configuration management, discovery, and more via easy-to-deploy SaaS. Can you forgive him?
Go read the whole thing, and decide for yourself if you forgive Fred.

Sarah Palin...

A couple of months ago, when I first heard Sarah Palin's name mentioned as a possibility for the VP slot with McCain, I did as much reading as I could about her – as I'd never heard of her before. The more I read about her, the firmer my conclusion: that there was no way McCain would choose her as his running mate. It would simply be too risky: she's light on experience (though not as light as The One), she's a solid, traditional conservative (as opposed to whatever the heck McCain is), and she's completely untested on the national stage.

Much of what I read and saw on video clips I really liked. An article written about her last year includes this paragraph, which matches what I've learned:
Her rise is a great (and rare) story of how adherence to principle--especially to transparency and accountability in government--can produce political success. And by the way, Palin is a conservative who only last month vetoed 13 percent of the state's proposed budget for capital projects. The cuts, the Anchorage Daily News said, "may be the biggest single-year line-item veto total in state history."
She is the antithesis of the pork barrel politician (a disease shared in a completely bipartisan fashion), a refreshingly direct and honest politician. Being attractive doesn't hurt a darned thing, nor does having a charming family that could have been carved from an All-American novel. She hunts, fishes, works on the family fishing boat on weekends, has five children. She also has a great track record of executive leadership, both in private business and in public service. The lefties are ignoring her roles other than governor and mayor, but the simple truth is that her experience is arguably more relevant to the Presidency than is The One's experiences, which are entirely non-executive. There's a good reason why so many more Presidents have been Governors than have been Congressmen.

Do I have any faults to find? A few, and all of the non-scary variety. She's a fundamentalist Christian, and on many issues I disagree with them. For example, as governor she has indicated a willingness (short of advocacy, though) for creationism to be taught in public schools alongside evolution. I strongly disagree with that, though in terms of importance that issue pales before national security.

In general, though, I am basically charmed by her choice as McCain's running mate. I'm not at all sure that it will play out well for McCain. For instance, how will she do in a debate with Joe Biden? I've seen video of her being interviewed by a hostile journalist, and I was impressed with her speaking and debating skills – but does she have the depth of knowledge at the national and international level that would enable her to hold her own with Joe ("The Mouth") Biden? And of course the rabidly pro-Obama press pirahnas will be all over every little gaffe she makes – real or imagined, relevant or not.

I'm fascinated that McCain would choose the one mentioned candidate that I was almost certain he would not. However he got there, the fact that he's chosen a solidly conservative, relatively young, female, status quo-bucking running mate has got to be shaking up the opposition a bit.
And yes, an attractive female, wearing a skirt no less. The fact that the Republicans nominated a woman, and not the Democrats, is already rankling more than a few Hillary supporters (their blogs are full of bitter commentary on the topic).

An already interesting campaign, albeit bereft of interesting Presidential candidates, just got more interesting. And entertaining, I'm sure...